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Supreme Court justices' home-building plan denied

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A local zoning commission has denied the plans of two state Supreme Court justices to build town homes in a neighborhood near the state Capitol.

The Capitol Medical Center Improvement and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Friday to deny permits to justices Joseph Watt and Yvonne Kauger. But the justices said there are questions about the commission's jurisdiction in the case and that they might build the town homes without the permits.

Watt has proposed building three town homes on two lots that he owns, while Kauger's plans are to build a town-home style duplex on her property.

``They are committed to building something real nice,'' developer Bert Bellanger said. ``They are committed to living there. We'll come up with something, I think, that walks a fine line to where it is a win-win.''

During the commission's meeting, legal counsel from the state Attorney General's office said it's not clear whether a permit for multifamily housing would be required for duplexes. The neighborhood's legal definition of multifamily housing is a building that houses three or more families.

If no permit is required, the justices could build duplexes on their property.

``I believe the indication was that we could (do that),'' Kauger said, ``and that's what I was trying to build today.''

About 40 residents of the area attended the meeting. They said they would welcome the justices living in the neighborhood, but they don't want multiple-family homes in an area of mostly single-family houses.

``Our main issue has been and is to maintain the historical character of our neighborhood,'' resident Joe Clytus said. ``I don't think there has ever been a doubt that the applicants would be good neighbors.''

Another neighbor, Ronald Hutson, said he wanted the justices to live in the neighborhood, ``but I want them to be our neighbors under the same conditions as anyone else.''
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