Oklahoma City, at the center of a legislative brouhaha over what to do about abandoned properties, is sending seven people next week to training in Boston to learn how to put blighted and abandoned properties back into productive use.
Now that’s some city planning training I can’t wait to hear about.
The delegation includes Nels Petersen, president of the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors, who also is chairman of the Oklahoma Association of Realtors Government Affairs Committee. The training will be Tuesday-Friday through Boston’s Community Progress Leadership Institute.
The Oklahoma Association of Realtors “is very supportive of a leader from the real estate profession being invited to contribute to this conversation and looks forward to seeing the results,” said Matt Robison, vice president for government affairs for the trade group.
Interesting, because the Oklahoma Association of Realtors opposes what Oklahoma City has recently done to deal with vacant and abandoned properties.
The trade group came out hard for House Bill 2620, by Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville, which would erase the city’s pride and joy when it comes to the issue — a property registry — and ban all cities from such data collection and regulation.
“The city’s goal is to create a multi-pronged program that identifies abandoned properties so that efforts can be made toward rehabilitation, redevelopment or demolition,” the city said in a press release about the special training.
The Realtors want to lop off the first prong. The Martin bill banning such registries seems to be its top priority this legislative session.
The Realtors want to replace registries with a plan more to their liking: HB 3363, by Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City.
The Echols bill would create guidelines for cities to determine if an abandoned building is a public nuisance, notification of the owner and a hearing, assessments against the property, procedures for municipal liens on property for abatement measures taken for public protection, and other items.
Oklahoma City leaders point to a 2013 study that found more than 12,000 vacant and abandoned buildings in Oklahoma City. The study found that such properties can reduce the value of nearby homes by 12 to 29 percent. Read the study here: tinyurl.com/Property Study.
The city study and ordinance creating the registry apparently got Oklahoma City the invitation to the training. Other cities sending delegations are Wilmington, Del.; Springfield, Mass.; Battle Creek, Mich.; Detroit; Jackson, Miss.; Huntington, W.Va.; and Milwaukee.
In addition to Petersen, others from Oklahoma City participating are City Council Members Meg Salyer and Larry McAtee, County Assessor Leonard Sullivan, commercial property broker Jim Parrack of Price Edwards & Co., City Planner Matt Gabrielson and Municipal Counselor Laura Codopony.
“When these eight teams enter the … classroom on the first day, their stories will illuminate how blight is impacting communities across the United States,” said Tamar Shapiro, president and CEO of the Center for Community Progress, host of the institute. “And when they head back home, there will be a new chapter to write: how they’re part of a national movement to reclaim our communities, a movement that is forging new connections and sparking fresh ideas.”
In Oklahoma City, it could be a rewrite.