Midtown Residents Ready To Take On McMansions

Tuesday, October 16th 2007, 10:58 pm
By: News On 6

Some local homeowners say making way for future homes is taking away their neighborhood's history. They're launching a campaign to stop new construction in midtown Tulsa. The News On 6’s Ashli Sims reports some residents want to tame the teardown. The question is: should current homeowners have a say in what type of new homes are built in their neighborhood? Some of Tulsa’s midtown residents say they should, but don't.

"The house was totally run down. I mean. We were afraid, when it went up for sale someone was going to buy it and tear it down,” said Barbara VanHanken, a 30 year resident of midtown Tulsa.

Barbara VanHanken says her fears turned out to be unfounded. The new owners returned their 1930's-era home to its original glory. But, she says not many new residents in the area are looking to do that.

"It wasn't until these two things happened a year and a half ago that we got alarmed,” said midtown resident Barbara VanHanken.

She says what's alarming is developers moving in, tearing down the old, splitting up lots and squeezing in so-called McMansions.

"We've been here all these years. We've invested all of this money in our homes, in our yards, and our trees. And so, we thought we were safe,” said midtown resident Barbara VanHanken.

The neighbors put up signs to protest the changes they say disrupt their neighborhood's charm and character. That got them sued by the developer. Now they're fighting back, borrowing an idea from the Oklahoma City suburb of Nichols Hills.

That community launched a temporary moratorium on building while it worked on a comprehensive plan to prevent land overcrowding. Barbara VanHanken says they want Tulsa's city council to do the same.

"There is a problem here and we need to do something now about it. And by using a temporary moratorium it's a way of putting a little pressure on the system to pay attention to what's happening within the midtown area,” said midtown resident Barbara VanHanken.

She's not against new construction in midtown, pointing to a relatively new home down the street from her house.

"They did such a beautiful job of fitting it into the neighborhood. There was nothing that was said about it,” said midtown resident Barbara VanHanken. "If it's done correctly, you don't... it doesn't stand out. You don't really see it,” she added.

VanHanken says in addition to the temporary moratorium on new construction in midtown, she wants the City of Tulsa to establish conservation districts. Such a move would allow neighborhoods to establish guidelines for new construction.

The developer in that neighborhood has refused to talk to the News on 6 in the past, because of ongoing litigation. But, some do argue developers are building McMansions in midtown because people are buying them.

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