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  • Writer's pictureCourt Newkirk

Unintended Consequences: County Zoning Chat

Most of us are familiar with the cliché of “Unintended Consequences.” For those who are not familiar with this saying it simply means: “decisions made with the best of intentions have now reached the tipping point where an unforeseen negative effect is going to start affecting our lives.”

A quick example: The storm water drain in front of your house has needed cleaning for years, but you just didn’t get around to cleaning it out. Your decision was to take no action. Now you get a major storm and instead of the water just backing up in your yard, it backs up into your house causing damage that simply could have been avoided with a rake and a little effort. Unintended Consequences.

Development comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of the recent developments in the Okmulgee area include: Medical Marijuana Grow and Processing Facilities, Animal Processing, Chicken Grow Houses, etc. All are legal and legitimate businesses in Oklahoma and Okmulgee County.

Herein lies the rub:

We now have a situation in Okmulgee County. Social media has had several threads where people are questioning why the Medical Marijuana Grow Facilities have been allowed to purchase family farms, build major barns, and soak up a lot of the available electric energy. There have also been comments asking and or complaining that a major beef processing plant was allowed to be constructed on Highway 75. More complaints that a family’s farm has a new neighbor who plans on building a chicken grow facility next door, with all the odor and water pollution problems chicken farms can cause if not constructed and maintained properly. Note: not all chicken farms are poorly managed from an ecological standpoint.

The City of Glenpool is marching south towards Okmulgee County. Is Glenpool going to put all the businesses it doesn’t want in their town down here in Okmulgee County? How could they do this? By way of City zoning? Glenpool’s long range business plan is to annex property on Highway 75 into Okmulgee County. You say, they can’t do that, they’re in Tulsa County. Guess again, not only can they, they will. For example just look at the amount of the City of Broken Arrow that is in Wagoner County.

How can the County and Cities in our area let this happen? By making the decision to do nothing about business development via zoning. We are seeing the unintended consequences. The subject of county zoning has been brought up here many, many times over the decades. The uniform cry has always been, “you’re not going to tell me if I can or can’t build a new barn.” The local leaders who have brought up County zoning never have, to my knowledge, wanted to tell anyone what they can or can’t build on their property. But there is such a thing as good development planning and then there is doing nothing. Well, we now know what doing nothing does for the growth of the County. Doing nothing was a deliberate decision, we must now live with that decision. Or do we?

Highway 75 is and will continue to be an economic driver for Okmulgee County. Over 23,000 vehicles drive through every day. Ever wonder what our local sales tax collections might look like if we attracted some new development on Highway 75?

It’s not too late.

We could put a coalition of towns on Highway 75 together and ask the County to let us vote on some form of limited area county zoning. What the form ends up being, the coalition needs to decide. Or even take the dive into the future and look at full county zoning. If my memory serves me correctly there are six counties in OK that have zoning right now. Some of those are just as rural as Okmulgee County. The BIG hurdle to overcome are the two statewide organizations that fight county zoning in every way they can. Well, now it’s about our quality of life, it’s about protecting the investment your family has made in land and equipment. It’s time for modern business practices and planning for a bright economic future for all of us. Call your County Commissioner today and say, it’s time to put a County Coalition together and protect our future, ask for a county wide vote on zoning. It can be done in a way to protect the farms and ranches. This just might help build a brighter (economic) future for all of Okmulgee County.

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