A proposed ordinance change in Claremore monopolized much of this week's council agenda and drew a crowd of citizens.
Several community members appeared in the meeting and one by one told the council exactly what they thought of an ordinance governing the construction and location of duplexes in town.
Bob McCuistion was first to step up to the podium and in his three minute time told the council:
"I've been a small business owner in Claremore for 27 years. I've lived in my house for 31 years, across from the old Westside School. It was a nice place to live at one point. But duplexes have been added. There was supposed to be eight and there are 10. Duplexes are out of control in Claremore. My property value has gone way down. I think we should look at a long term plan and prevent some of these duplexes. I don't think there's any foresight. I've been here long enough to see Claremore grow, and I have no problem with that. But I think we need to have a little more insight.”
Jim Smith had similar thoughts:
"I'm not against duplexes, I think they're great. I just don't want them in my neighborhood right across the street from me. I think we've had a shotgun approach to building them everywhere. I live in Old Town, I've lived there for 42 years. I'd just like the council to check the zoning and give us a plan that we can see."
Sharon Egleston said she has lived in Claremore nearly all her life and shares the same views:
"I've seen housing additions grow and I can tell you the first one in Claremore from then on. The duplexes are nice, they're attractive and I appreciate that. We've lived in our house for about 40 years. When the house was passed on to us it was with some great stipulations on what we can do with it. And this is where I want to live the rest of my life. But I am concerned in Old Town some of the streets are really narrow. And now we have a lot of people parking, because of those duplexes, on these very narrow streets. I'm worried about the safety. But what I'm really, really concerned about is — I care about Claremore not for right now, not for five years from now. I care about Claremore 20 years ago and after I'm gone. We have these duplexes and right now they are pretty as can be, but what about 15 to 20 years from now when people have gone in and out, what are they going to look like and what is that going to do to Old Town in Claremore? You guys are going to decide what Claremore is going to be like."
Brent Day provided the council with a different perspective:
"I'm on the same team as everyone here. I care about Claremore just like they do. Several years ago the city did a comprehensive plan and it reads that duplexes and single family homes go hand in hand. Also, there's been a lot of areas where I've wanted to build duplexes, but it doesn't fit so I don't even bring the application in. I think everything that I've done, I've tried to do as best I can. I think the ordinance we're talking about is trying to blanket anything that is zoned RN in Claremore, we're not going to allow duplexes. You can build a single family or you can build a 10-, 12-, 24-unit apartment complex. We all know that's not the solution. My request is to table it for a couple weeks and have an open meeting so I can listen to their side of the story and they can listen to my side of the story. I want people to know I do care about Claremore. There are other options of where I could do business, but I want to do it here."
Barbara Poole approached the podium next:
"I live down the street from Bob. We formerly had the Westside School across the street from us. Last year, or year before last, a builder came in and said he wanted to build seven duplexes, but he squeezed in 10. Let me tell you, they only built one-car garages on each one and only a single driveway. So here we've got 10 duplexes, 20 families living in one block, most with two cars. They can only put one car in the driveway, so that means there's approximately 15-20 cars that are out on the street when people are home and on the weekend. The street is very narrow and was not meant for that traffic. We had a wonderful little neighborhood and this has completely ruined it. There's probably nothing we can do about that now. But what we can do is look towards the future and don't ruin everybody else's neighborhoods. I'm not against duplexes. I'm against them not putting adequate parking. I just don't want to see you ruin everybody else's neighborhood like ours has been."
Like Day, Brent Green is a builder and developer with a slightly different perspective:
"I have a duplex that I rent out so I have an interest. Listening to all these people, I understand some people don't want duplexes next to their home or in their neighborhood. They have concerns about traffic which is part of a growing city. You have to have a place for people to live. The thing I'm against is, it allows triplex, quadplex and apartment buildings, but not duplexes. So what do we have against duplexes? We need housing in the city. Like Brent said, we have a comprehensive zoning plan that allows duplexes. If we pass the ordinance, builders will have to get a special exception, which is an extra 45 days and $800 to $1,000 extra over what they already had a right to do in the first place. Not to allow multi-family zoning in multi-zoning areas doesn't seem to make sense. From my standpoint, a builders standpoint, we're building houses and duplexes because people are demanding them. There is a market demand for duplexes, so we provide duplexes. When there's a market demand for housing and not duplexes, we'll quit building duplexes and build houses. People say they don't like the way duplexes look. I drove around the city and didn't find one duplex that wasn't mowed and painted and taken care of. But I found lots of houses that are run down and dilapidated. I ask that we look at the real world evidence that's out there. We need to create inclusive, affordable housing in the city and duplexes are the way to do that, so I ask that you pass this ordinance."
The last citizen who signed up to address the council was John Cary, representing the Rogers County Historical Society and Claremore Museum of History. To the dialogue, Cary added:
"Both organizations strongly support this agenda item and ask that you vote in favor of it. The historical society owns the Belvidere Mansion, which was built in 1907 and is on the national register of historical places. The Claremore Museum of History is in the old city library which is over 80 years old. Both buildings are within a block of each other and are in a large neighborhood of historic homes and buildings. Both organizations support the preservation and character of this historic area. Both organizations want to be able to comment on, and object to, any proposed multi-family construction in this historic area to make sure the area's character is preserved. So we strongly support it and ask for your positive vote."
After the citizens were able to speak their minds, the council was called on to discuss the proposed ordinance change.
Read the council's discussion in the Tuesday edition of the Claremore Daily Progress.