Turkey Mountain update: A bad mall plan’s details are revealed, and it still looks pretty bad

A more detailed plan of Simon Group's plan for an outlet mall at Turkey Mountain. Note just one entry and exit on a two lane road (traffic nightmares), and at the bottom of the map, you'll see that the site butts right up to a ravine. No thanks.

A more detailed plan of Simon Group’s plan for an outlet mall at Turkey Mountain. Note just one entry and exit on a two-lane road (traffic nightmares), and at the bottom of the map, you’ll see that the site butts right up to a ravine. No thanks.

The latest news on what’s happening with the outlet mall on Turkey Mountain is twofold: it’s not unexpected, but it’s also very revealing.

The Simon Group recently submitted more detailed plans for its proposed Premium Outlets project that it wants to build on the west side of Turkey Mountain. The site is on a privately held parcel next to the Westside YMCA and undeveloped wild land that is part of the greater Turkey Mountain area.

Simon is promising jobs and shopping. What it wants is permission to build right on top of one of the last urban green spaces left in the city, and they’ll be asking for help from the city in the form of a tax increment finance district designation, which is basically a temporary subsidy funded by you and me so they can make the needed infrastructure improvements.

If you’ve read past posts on this topic before, you know I’m not in favor of building an outlet mall there. To recap my reasoning:

The site is a bad place for a mall. The roads leading to the site are just two lanes wide, they’re very hilly, and feature a couple of sharp turns as 61st Street turns into Elwood. Traffic in that area is already bad and will grow worse by several magnitudes if a shopping center goes up there. Widening those roads will be a nightmare to people already living nearby, and it will only get worse if and when that mall opens.

A multi-billion dollar company like Simon shouldn’t be asking for taxpayer money to build an outlet mall on such a bad site. TIF districts can be good, particularly if they end up paying off in the long run. But given how bad this site is, and how much money Simon has, approving this plan AND handing over taxpayer money is just wrong.

No matter how it’s built, an outlet mall cannot be a good neighbor. Representatives from the Westside YMCA have already gone on record with KJRH-TV that they have concerns about what a mall right on top of them would mean in terms of YMCA camper experience and erosion (I’ll get into that point in a minute). And I’ve already mentioned what’s in store for the residents living nearby if Simon moves in.

A collection of 80 stores, lots of cars and a huge parking lot presents serious drainage and pollution concerns. The proposed mall site is on a flat space with a steep dropoff into a ravine that drains into Mooser Creek, a diverse and fragile ecosystem of which all of Turkey Mountain is connected. The mall site would present rainwater runoff concerns in the form of erosion and upstream pollution from all those cars and trash dumpsters. And given how much trash already blows around, the outlet mall would only add to that problem. Simon contends it can angle parking lot lighting away from the rest of Turkey Mountain, but no matter what they do, light pollution will be present.

Wild land and a commercial shopping development are not compatible. It’s already been established that the River Parks Authority and the Kaiser Family Foundation – the two main stakeholders on Turkey Mountain – have no plans to do anything but keep the urban wilderness area wild. Wildlife in the area already deal with a fairly compressed environment, and taking a big chunk of that away would only stress those populations more.

The outlet mall at Turkey Mountain would degrade quality of life for Tulsa. Notice I didn’t say an outlet mall on its own is a bad thing. But rather an outlet mall in that location would degrade a real asset for the city, an area with more than 40 miles of wooded trails for hikers, cyclists, runners, geocachers and equestrians. Individuals and families go there to experience nature on its terms without having to drive out of the city. As it exists, the greater Turkey Mountain area is a prime site for people to get outside, exercise and get in tune with nature like no other place in the city. Plopping a mall on a chunk of that land would degrade the experience.

ON TO THE NEWS…

Simon’s more detailed proposal as submitted to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission reveals a few interesting notes. For starters, it still includes just one entry and exit, a problem given the amount of traffic one might expect at a large retail center, and magnified when you’re talking about a two-lane road feeding it.

The edge of the development will butt right up against a steep dropoff into a drainage area to the east, so those erosion and drainage issues are very real. I’d hoped that they’d at least put some distance between the mall and the ravine, but their drawings show that is not the case.

Simon suggested that they might be willing to include some sort of trail, if feasible, into their plans. So they’re throwing us a bone. Sort of.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If this mall proposal bothers you, there are some things you can do. So here are my suggestions:

Email the mayor’s office and each of the members of the Tulsa City Council. Respectfully and concisely let them know how you feel, and why you don’t want an outlet mall at that location. You might be reminded that it’s private property, but you still have a say in how and if projects like this are approved or denied. Contact the mayor here, and find contacts for the city council here.

If you haven’t already done so, sign the electronic petition. There are more than 6,900 signatures on it now. Add to that number here.

Attend future meetings of the Planning Commission and, if it gets that far, the Tulsa City Council, when this development is being discussed. The more faces these people see and voices they hear, the more city officials will listen. On Thursday, Feb. 19, the Planning Review Committee, immediately following the 1:30 p.m. TAC meeting, will meet at 2 West 2nd Street, 8th Floor, in the Large Conference Room of the Williams Tower II Building in downtown Tulsa. No comment is taken at this meeting, but a large, silent crowd will make an impression. And then  during  a follow-up meeting, zoning changes and corridor plans will be reviewed March 18 at 1:30 p.m.,  175 East 2nd Street, 2nd Level, One Technology Center, in the Tulsa City Council Chambers. They will take public comment at that meeting. Be at those meetings if you can.

Find ways to volunteer. There are periodic cleanup and trail maintenance days out at Turkey Mountain, so be looking for opportunities to join such efforts. Also, consider joining the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition, which is actively advocating for preserving and promoting Turkey Mountain as well as organizing activities like those cleanup days, among other things.

Keep using the trails, and spread the word to people you know how great it is. Many people still don’t know much about Turkey Mountain, and they won’t care about a place they don’t know or ever see. This tide is swinging the other way now, and for the better. But the more people who care about Turkey Mountain, the more city leaders will take their points of view into consideration.

Stay tuned, get active, and I’ll see you out on the trails.

Bob Doucette

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Turkey Mountain update: A bad mall plan’s details are revealed, and it still looks pretty bad

  1. I think this mall will be built, but I’m glad you and others keep fighting. I added next week’s city of Tulsa Planning Review Cmte Meeting to my calender. I’ll have to take off work, but will try to be present. What we have at Turkey Mountain is rare for a city this size. I only know of one other city with a wild area that close to downtown that is large, and that is Discovery Park in Seattle. We must keep all we can with Turkey Mountain.

    I work in stream monitoring and wetland assessments. I’m glad you touched on the erosion problems that will happen. I do believe this mall is will be built and if that does indeed happen the next step I’d like to see is is to hammer Simon malls to build with low impact developement (LID) for all of the storm water management designs. There should be bioswales to absorb parking lot runoff before that water ever leaves the parking lot; rain gardens strategically placed to absorb and slow runoff water; trees in the parking lot rather than acres of nonpervious pavement. We’re not there yet and hopefully Simon will back out of this mall deal.

    Is the city of Tulsa going to widen 61st and add traffic lights? If not, this is a disaster waiting to happen.

  2. Reblogged this on CreekWaterWoman and commented:
    I think this mall will be built, but I’m glad you and others keep fighting. I added next week’s city of Tulsa Planning Review Cmte Meeting to my calender. I’ll have to take off work, but will try to be present. What we have at Turkey Mountain is rare for a city this size. I only know of one other city with a wild area that close to downtown that is large, and that is Discovery Park in Seattle. We must keep all we can with Turkey Mountain.

    I work in stream monitoring and wetland assessments. I’m glad you touched on the erosion problems that will happen. I do believe this mall is will be built and if that does indeed happen the next step I’d like to see is is to hammer Simon malls to build with low impact development (LID) for all of the storm water management designs. There should be bioswales to absorb parking lot runoff before that water ever leaves the parking lot; rain gardens strategically placed to absorb and slow runoff water; trees in the parking lot rather than acres of nonpervious pavement. We’re not there yet and hopefully Simon will back out of this mall deal.

    Is the city of Tulsa going to widen 61st and add traffic lights? If not, this is a disaster waiting to happen.

  3. Pingback: Blog: ProactiveOutside – A bad mall plan’s details are revealed, and it still looks pretty bad | Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition

  4. As a city councilman (in Carthage, MO), I recommend you place emphasis on the committee meeting, AND write or call your city council. If this passes committee, you have much less chance of changing the council’s mind. Don’t be irate. Calmly present your argument and ask what other information you can provide them to ensure their support in this matter (or what sort of information might compel them to change their mind).

    Here are your city councilors (and a link to find out which district you’re in) http://www.tulsacouncil.org/councilors/councilors-home.aspx

  5. Let’s just boycott all Simon Malls nation-wide. Aren’t must of us buying our stuff on line these days anyway?
    Every strip mall has several cheap shoe stores, tanning, nails or hair salons. How many do we need?
    The guy who owns New Balance is trying to build a hotel on the water front in Salem Mass. He is getting money from the state also, even though the state officially discourages development of this type on the water front.
    Money talks. Ask the Kock brothers.

    • Ideally, I’d like to see a deal where everyone wins — property owners can sell and make money, Simon can build their mall and make money, and the plot of land in question can be allowed to go wild. Short of that, I don’t want to see Simon’s plan come to fruition here. It’s a bad idea.

  6. I came across this extensive report on Mooser Creek. Probably, you are aware of the report, but just in case you haven’t seen or read it I’m posting a link so you can download it. I’m in the process of reading the report. This report is the result of a study regarding the Mooser Creek watershed, Tulsa stormwater management and the possibility of a ‘Greenway’ for the Mooser Creek Watershed. It may be a good tool in the fight against the mall. Here is the link, http://www.rdflanagan.com/Mooser/Mooser.pdf

    Additionally, I’m sharing a link with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s volunteer water monitoring program, Blue Thumb. This link is for Tulsa County, and there are 3 reports with the results of the volunteer monitoring from two different sites on Mooser Creek. These reports were written by volunteers and aren’t as professional as the other study, but I do know that Blue Thumb Program produces good data. They also have a quality assurance program for the methodology of their water collection events and their volunteers are trained in those methods and retested on a routine schedule. Here is the link to Blue Thumb reports for Tulsa County. http://www.bluethumbok.com/tulsa-county.html

    Who knows, maybe this information can be of use. I wasn’t able to be at the meeting last week, but there is a meeting coming up at the end of this month, correct? I do want to stay current with information on how things progress with the mall. Take Care.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s