By Conrad Dudderar
The Yukon City Council has upheld the planning commission’s denial to rezone property for industrial use along historic Route 66.
The council, at its July 20th meeting, voted 5-0 to deny an appeal filed after the commission’s April 12 decision.
The applicant, Williams Family Investments LLC, had sought City of Yukon approval to rezone a 57.25-acre property on the north side of SH-66 east of Cimarron Road from A (agriculture) to I-2 (heavy industrial).
The council agreed unanimously to reject the appeal after hearing from neighbors concerned about large truck traffic and a proposed soil mining operation – which requires a conditional use permit.
The tract of land is between SH-66 and the Union Pacific Railroad, and less than one-half mile from Interstate 40.
“That’s where you would expect to find industrial,” said attorney David M. Box, representing the applicant. “That’s where cities would benefit from having industrial users.”
Box told council members the current agricultural zoning is “out of conformance” with Yukon’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Referring to the land use map, he said the site is designated as “employment land” for possible future employers and industrial operators.
“All cities need these types of users in their city to be successful,” the attorney reasoned.
“We believe this to present a wonderful opportunity for the City of Yukon to utilize that industrial property (and) provide a tax base here in Yukon that will be able to utilize that railroad.”
City staff recommended approval of this proposal because it conforms with the Comprehensive Plan, Box noted. Property to the south (in Oklahoma City limits) also is zoned industrial.
Ward 3 City Council Member Donna Yanda asked what would take place on the property if the zoning request was granted.
“We don’t know,” Box replied.
The applicant first must rezone the property before the site could be marketed to any potential “end user”.
Since the property has a large crest in the middle, the applicant would have to receive a mining permit to remove dirt and level the ground for a “pad-ready” site.
Civil engineer Jason Spencer, of Crafton Tull & Associates, told the council it could “be anywhere from a year to two years to remove that dirt off of there.”
But that doesn’t mean they must mine it, attorney Box quickly added.
“No matter what we do, there is going to have to be some element of earth-moving to get a pad ready to put a building on it,” he said.
“The ability to mine the dirt is because we would want to sell it. That’s a separate use the planning commission would have to consider at another time.”
But dirt-moving is a major concern for people living in the area, Mayor Shelli Selby added.
“I had dirt moved behind my house and it was a horrible experience,” Selby said. “It didn’t last long, but I can see their concern.”
Box said there are no homes “immediately adjacent” to the subject site.
STOP THE NUISANCE
Yukon’s Jack D. McCurdy II, who lives on the south side of W Highway 66 across from the property, spoke against the rezoning as a “homeowner who’s going to be affected by this project.”
Other neighboring property owners attended the meeting to oppose the proposal, concerned about the nuisance it could create and increased heavy truck traffic it would bring.
“They can dance around it all the want to,” McCurdy said of the applicant. “They want to change the zoning to put in a mine. That’s what they do. Go a mile west, a mile south – you can see what they’re going to do to the land. They’ve been mining it for years out there. That’s what they intend.”
He referred to problems with semi-trucks coming from an existing nearby dirt-mining operation that creates large balls of dust.
“That’s what’s going to be coming out of that piece of property 25 to 30 times a day,” McCurdy told council members. “Our cars, our houses, everything we own – is going to be covered with this dust.”
If dirt mining is allowed on the subject property, McCurdy warned there will be 70-foot semis traveling regularly down the road “over a blind hill” and turning into a 30-foot “cut-out” to enter.
“So, you’re going to create a huge traffic hazard on a blind hill coming up from Cimarron. And you’re going to have these trucks taking up every inch of the road, making this turn into this place so they can get in there to get their dirt.”
McCurdy predicted this activity would further destroy curb cuts along SH-66.
After the dirt mining concludes, he predicted, the applicant would sell or rent the property to the “highest bidder.”
McCurdy made another prediction – that it would ultimately become an “oilfield junkyard” cluttered with equipment laying around.
“Drive a mile west of this location, and you see what’s coming to this piece of property,” he added.
“We as homeowners in this area bought this land to get out of the city, to have some solitude and to not have to look at nuisance right across the street, right behind or to the side of our houses. … We have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of our homes and our properties.”
The lifelong Yukon resident doesn’t believe this proposal would generate any income for the City of Yukon. McCurdy told council members he twice read Yukon’s 180-page Comprehensive Plan.
“I can’t imagine, under any circumstances, that the drafters of that Comprehensive Plan – or the people who approved that Comprehensive Plan – would ever envision this type of business activity being conducted in the city limits of Yukon,” he said.
“Do you really want the Oklahoma Tourism and Travel brochure to say, ‘Visit historic Route 66. In Catoosa, you get to see the Blue Whale. In Yukon, you get to see the oilfield junkyard’? Is that really what we want? We’re a better city than that.”