Tulsa Barred Owl Supporters Upset With Duplex Demolition

Wednesday, October 19th 2016, 5:14 pm
By: Joseph Holloway

Crews are demolishing two duplexes near 36th Place and New Haven to build a parking lot for a nearby church.

It's a move meeting opposition from some neighbors, who say they weren't expecting the demolition so soon and are worried about how the changes will affect barred owls that live in the neighborhood.

"I got a text from a neighbor saying they're going ahead and doing it now," neighbor Jennifer Harmon said.

Neighbors say contractors showed up Wednesday morning to level the duplexes and remove several trees.

10/13/2016 Related Story: Tulsa City Councilors Deny Appeal From Midtown Owl Supporters

But Harmon, the Sonoma Midtown Neighborhood Association president, said she was told the property wouldn't be demolished until the 31st.

She said it takes away safety for owls and comfort for neighbors.

"Having lower utility bills, the shade helps neighbors retain their property value. The trees helped the water run off because this is a flood plain," Harmon said.

Leadership from the Midtown's Church of Latter-Day Saints said there's not enough parking in the current lot and members have to park on the street.

Church leaders said they brought in an arborist to survey the land and were told the project wouldn't present a serious threat to owls and that they would relocate.

But neighbor Mike McBee said that doesn't mean owls should be chased away.

"Three out of five days a week, there was an owl across the power line watching me. It was relaxing," he said.

Members of the neighborhood association said they want the city council to hear them out, in hopes of stopping the parking lot.

But after Wednesday, Harmon said much of the damage has already been done.

"The lay of the land has officially been changed," she said.

The Church of Latter-Day Saints released a full statement, saying:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been part of this neighborhood for many years. We value our relationships, but we also have a need to provide increased parking for our members. Our previous application for a parking lot exception was withdrawn after questions over site drainage, parking set back, and concerns over the fledgling barred owls.

After allowing the barred owls the needed time to fledge, and prior to the nesting season, the trees on the parking lot were safely removed. A landscaping plan has been designed that replaces twice the number of trees that were removed and exceeds city landscaping requirements. We continue to developed a solution for site drainage requirements and have removed parking stalls to meet city set back standards. We have completed the utility disconnects in preparation for demolition of the two duplexes that is currently underway. After completion of the demolition, the site will be sodded and maintained as a vacant lot.

The Church met again with neighbors Tuesday night who wanted repurpose building materials from the demolition. Church contractors worked late into the evening moving sandstone boulders and reusable materials to a staging location for safe removal by neighbors.

The Church encourages neighbors to accept an opportunity to meet with the Church and discuss plans to construct a parking addition. The Church hopes that common ground can be found prior to applying to the Board of Adjustment for a Parking Exception.”

We also called the City of Tulsa about this situation, but no one has returned our calls.