By Stacy Martin, The City Sentinel
Thousands of Edmond residents oppose two proposed developments in their city – an apartment complex at I-35 and Memorial and a 22 acre, mixed-use development adjacent to Hafer Park.
Their complaints include poor infrastructure planning, school overcrowding, traffic problems, crime and other headaches.
Matt Thomas, a civil litigator, signed the citizens’ referendum petition regarding the development near Hafer Park, saying it “just isn’t a good fit” for that location. He also signed one against the I-35 and Memorial project. He said not only are Edmond’s elected officials wrongly ignoring the overwhelming tide of opposition, they should not be deciding the issues at all. Two Edmond City Councilors are in the real estate business, including David Chapman and Josh Moore, and that troubles Thomas.
“I don’t believe developers should be regulating developments,” he said.” I don’t suspect or have any evidence of wrongdoing. I just think there’s an inherent conflict of interest. Personally, I’m not OK with it.”
His position is nothing new; Thomas was a candidate for city council in 2019. When he was running for office, he opposed having developers on the city council.
Paula Burkes wrote in a Facebook post in mid-July “Case and Associates and Sooner Investments are bullying petitioners who signed referendums to roll back the rezoning at I-35/Memorial and Hafer park. That’s called voter intimidation, overreach and invasion of privacy.”
Edmond resident Laura Martin said that she received a call from a Tulsa number, which is where Case and Associates is based. The young lady identified herself then asked Martin if she signed the I-35/Memorial development petition in error, confusing it with the Hafer Park proposal.
I told her I signed both of them,” Martin said. “I considered it voter intimidation.”
Residents are also upset because developers have invaded their privacy.
Judy Pike was one of the people contacted by Sooner Investments, which currently owns the Hafer land.
“I did not answer the phone but I got a voicemail and I was extremely upset because it was my cell phone number and I do not give out my cell phone number to unknown individuals or unknown businesses,” Pike said in a message to The City Sentinel.
Another resident who declined to be identified said Edmond apartment complexes tend to become crime magnets for drug dealers and other lawbreakers,
Patrice Douglas is an attorney who was hired by Edmond’s Tall Oaks IV neighborhood, whose residents live near the I-35 and Memorial project. She said they believe there is a pollution problem on the site of that project. Additionally, the I-35 Service Road dead-ends at Memorial near the area. School overcrowding is also a concern.
Douglas, who was mayor of Edmond from 2009 to 2011, took their concerns to the Edmond Planning Commission and lost. She took it to the City Council and lost there as well. Finally, they mounted a drive to get a petition signed and succeeded in getting the required signatures.
Now that has been threatened by Case and Associates attorney Todd McKinnis’ lawsuit protesting the citizens’ referendum petition, alleging voters were confused between the I-35 project and the Hafer Park Project.
“I’m saddened that this action was taken and it is trying to cast a negative cloud over what the 4,200 residents want. It says at the top of the (signature) page what it’s for. I guess he’s accusing the citizens of Edmond of not being able to read,’’ Douglas said.
Brenda Barwick, who has lived in Edmond for over 10 years, opposes the Hafer Park development.
“Have these people ever driven on Bryant at any time of day?” she said. “They do development first, then infrastructure as an after-thought. It’s just a poor approach to planning how you want to grow and develop a city. Edmond always puts the cart before the horse.”
As an example of poor planning, Barwick cited the abundance of two-lane roads with no shoulders across the city. Residents have nowhere to pull over safely if they have a flat or other vehicle issue. Walkers, joggers and bikers take their lives into their hands when taking these roads, she said.
Barwick lives in a home on 2.5 acres a mile east of I-35. She travels the outskirts of Edmond when going home, avoiding the city’s many two-lane roads and the congestion in the corridor near Hafer.
Another resident who asked not to be identified said she signed both petitions opposing the proposed projects.
She said she believes the apartment complex on I-35 would result in traffic problems, school overcrowding and noise pollution. She lives about three miles north.
About the Hafer development, she is in opposition, saying “It’s gorgeous and I don’t want it disturbed. We frequent that park.”
She said she was called by Case and Associates, but did not feel bullied or intimidated by the questions the caller asked.
Beth Crounse said she played a lead role in the Hafer citizens’ referendum petition, but signed the I-35/Memorial one as well.
“We had people come out in droves,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many people thought their voices weren’t being heard. There’s a lot of concern about the development that’s going on in the city of Edmond right now.
“All of a sudden there’s some people in this city that seem to not want people to vote. I don’t know why you would be afraid, why wouldn’t you want residents of the town that are going to live with whatever project it is, why wouldn’t you want them to have a say in it? I think the people on the council in Edmond forget they’re elected to listen to people.”