Chesapeake Energy stumbled Tuesday in a dust-up with some of its northwest Oklahoma City neighbors and a creative attorney.
The energy giant asked the Oklahoma City Council to force its neighbors to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars toward street improvements that would largely benefit Chesapeake.
“Here’s Chesapeake owning 90 percent of the property and wanting the little guy to pick up 40 percent of the cost,” said attorney Eric Groves.
Retained by Clements Foods Co., Groves collected enough objections to persuade the council to deny Chesapeake’s petition for a “street improvement assessment district.”
That’s a technical term for building or upgrading a street and sending residents the bill.
The council’s vote to deny Chesapeake’s request was unanimous. No one from Chesapeake was available for comment Tuesday night.
According to estimates prepared by the city’s Public Works Department, improvements sought by Chesapeake between NW 67 Street and Wilshire Boulevard, along Hudson and Harvey avenues, would have cost nearly $1.6 million.
Clements Foods is a longtime area property owner and purveyor of the familiar Garden Club brands.
The city’s assessment schedule showed Clements would have been assessed $65,281.94 for two parcels it owns within the proposed district.
Most of the other smaller landowners were looking at bills of $32,640.97. In the case of one landowner, that was about five times the assessed value of her land, according to a chart Groves put together.
Entities affiliated with Chesapeake would have been assessed around $1.1 million.
Groves took advantage of a provision in state law stating that the district “shall not be created” if a majority of landowners protest its creation in writing.
As a public hearing began on Chesapeake’s proposal Tuesday morning, Groves told the city council he had filed protests by nine of 17 affected landowners with the city clerk’s office on Monday.
He suggested that filing effectively ended the debate before it could begin.
“It cannot be heard on its merits,” Groves told the council. “The district cannot be born.”
In an interview later, Groves said Clements has a long-established warehouse and distribution center near NW 67 Street and what would be Harvey. Hudson and Harvey show up as dirt or gravel tracks, or non-existent, in satellite views of the area. He suggested Chesapeake could get access via NW 71 Street and the Broadway Extension Service Road.
“We thought it was not a good idea to open Harvey and allow traffic to come into an already congested area,” Groves said.