Urban development or urban wildlife? Wetlands near Oklahoma City’s Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge debated
This was an interesting story that appeared in Monday’s Oklahoman. Be sure to read the story pasted below, but the bottom line is this: Resident who live near the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma City are concerned over a proposed apartment complex that would be built near the refuge and would likely consume a wetlands area just to the west of it.
This is an oft-repeated conflict: business development vs. natural environments. The man proposing the complex owns the land and it is zoned for such a project. But natural wetlands are a valuable (they help clean natural water sources and provide habitat for wildlife) and diminishing resource. The people who live in the area like having a natural setting to look at and prefer it to a block of apartments.
So what do you think? Read the story here and comment here in the blog or e-mail me at email@example.com
– Bob Doucette
DEVELOPER HOPES TO BUILD GROCERY STORE, SMALL SHOPS, 300 APARTMENTS
Residents near wetlands leery of owner’s plans
By Michael Baker
Jean Braun moved into Stonebridge Lake Estates in July after being captivated by the natural beauty of the area just north of Lake Overholser.
The transplant from the Washington, D.C., area was attracted by the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, trails around the lake and the wooded neighborhoods.
“It’s one of the last sort of urban wilderness areas,” she said. “They’ve kept it beautifully wild.”
Braun and other area residents worry their oasis in Oklahoma City faces the prospect of becoming a mirage because of a planned residential and commercial development just across NW 39 Expressway — traveled as Route 66 by those not from around here.
Residents worry about traffic, crime and the destruction of the natural habitat if the high-density Route 66 Landing — with more than 300 apartments — is built on the other side of The Mother Road.
“My major concern is the destruction of the habitat out here,” she said. “Once it’s gone it will be gone forever.”
Developer Ken McGee said his plans are much more in line with the area than what the current zoning would allow, such as a mega shopping center with a large box-store anchor tenant.
“I think once they see all the ponds and the trees and the way that we’re going to be able to make that development look, I think they’ll be proud of it,” said McGee, the majority property owner with McGee Investments. “There’s a significant difference in what we’ve been able to protect and take care of compared to the old plan.”
Near the refuge
McGee’s 60 acres lie between Morgan Road and the Kilpatrick Turnpike. The land is a mix of pasture and woods, crossed by a stream. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory shows a forested freshwater wetland area near the middle of the property.
To many area residents, the land fits in with the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, which is less than a mile to the east. The refuge is home to deer, beaver and many types of birds, and is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, hiking and fishing.
“We are concerned about the pollution, the chemicals, the runoff, the traffic, the humans,” said Lynda Bahr, a resident on the east shore of Lake Overholser. “What does that do to the wildlife?”
Except for the wooded area around the stream, McGee’s acres are mostly pasture. Kilpatrick makes it accessible from just about anywhere in the metro area. Route 66 gives the property access from the east and west. Yukon is directly west and Bethany and Warr Acres are just east. Southern Nazarene University is just down the street.
There is a void for a grocery store and limited competition for quality apartments, McGee said.
He filed a request with the Oklahoma City Planning Commission on Friday to add a residential element to the current commercial zoning.
McGee’s plans include a neighborhood grocery store and small shops on half the property. On about 25 acres would be 300 to 375 apartment units, divided into eight to 12 units per two-story building. A common area with a pond, stream and trees runs through the middle — where the wetland is designated — and divides the commercial from residential.
‘A natural barrier’
“With the wetlands and that greenbelt, the ponds area, it’s really creating a natural barrier between the two, which I think is going to be a beautiful thing once we get it completed,” he said. The existing zoning does not protect the wetlands area.
Oklahoma City Councilman Gary Marrs, who represents area residents, said under current zoning building could begin.
“It’s zoned commercial and he could put all that commercial there now without having to put anything in front of the planning commission,” Marrs said.
Not all residents he’s talked to are opposed to the plans, Marrs said.
“I’ve had a few of them that have contacted me that think it’s a great idea,” he said. “They don’t think it’s going to hurt at all. There are some benefits coming along with it but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out.”