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Controversy on Proposed Turley "halfway house"

First, the information: People are then invited to post questions and comments in the comment section.

There will be a second meeting (first was 5-9) to be held tonight, 6 p.m. including dinner, Thurs. May 10, 2007 with a dinner and presentation by the people proposing the new "halfway house." The invitation reads: "Progressive Rehabilitation Services, LLC (PRS) has invited family and interested neighbors to attend an informal meeting at the Cornerstone Freewill Baptist Church at 7770 North Whirlpool Drive. The meeting is scheduled for 6:00 PM and will last til approximately 8:00 PM. They will be serving a barbecue dinner and discussing the plans for the old Cornerstone church facility at 1825 E 66th St North. Cornerstone Freewill Baptist Church 274-3918, Progressive Rehabilitation Services 743-0288 to confirm attendance.
Steve Chamberlain CEO, PRS
Matthew S Crum Executive Director, PRS
Phillip White, President PRS
Rev. Curtis Linton, Advisory Board, PRS"

This relates to a request to the Tulsa County Board of Adjustment that at its Tuesday, May 15, 1:30 p.m. meeting in the Aaronson Auditorium of the Central Library Downtown, 400 Civic Center, it approve a special exception to permit a halfway house in an AG (agricultural?) district (Section 310) at the former Cornerstone church location. For more information call INCOG offices at 918-584-7526. Applicant is Stephen A. Schuller, an attorney.

There is local opposition to this proposal. A petition drive has been started by some residents near the facility and other residents. The petition is available at various locations in Turley, including "a third place" community center. (As coordinator of the center, I would be glad to have both pro and anti petitions available for people). Those opposed cite objections of no access to public transportation for the residents, that the AG zoning is actually O"Brien Park and recreation area, that nearby families include those with children and the elderly, that the facility would put an added strain on the volunteer fire department and area law enforcement already overburdened, and that the existing structures are not designed to support a multi-residential facility.

One flyer opposing the project circulated without any author attribution mentions there will be 99 residents in the facility with up to 300 possible in expansion. This was confirmed at Wednesday's meeting.

It was stated that the church that currently leases the building has it through October and has the right of first refusal on whether or not to purchase the building and property which has been listed in the $750,000 and above price range.


Ron said...

This issue, which has many facets and pros and cons, has not been known by Turley residents for long, and wasn't mentioned at all at the latest Turley Community Association meeting and reception that featured a talk by the new County Commissioner for our District, John Smaligo,

As the Board of Adjustment meeting falls during the daytime working hours, there should be more opportunity for people to discuss and think about the pros and cons before any action is taken. Also, the meeting tonight is sponsored not by a neutral body but by the project supporters and the church hoping to use its old space in this way.

A meeting sponsored by the Community Association in the evening, such as at one of the regular monthly meetings, and at a neutral site such as O'Brien Park would be the best bet for proceeding.

No where has there been information given publicly yet, but we hope tonight will be, about the population characteristics for the halfway house.

I will post more about why I am generally inclined to support halfway houses and their work in reducing our overcrowded prison population, and the work they do in transforming lives, but why I also think they should not be placed in "out of sight/out of mind" places but for the good of the residents and the overall community they should be in "in sight/in mind" places--such as downtown, midtown, and Owasso, for example.

Community values trump property values to me, but property values do contribute to the overall rising of the community, and there is legitimate concern about what the halfway house will do to property values in this area, which are endangered already and struggling to re-emerge as the community re-emerges.

It is a convenient location to have a halfway house; but that may be one of its fundamental problems; conscience should come into play in these matters. Especially in avoding a rush-to-judgment when rumors fly because no one has taken a deliberate and planned information campaign for the public.

I hope the news media will be able to do some digging, reporting, and maybe we can use this opportunity, no matter how it comes out, to build more community bonds among residents (how many of the project supporters live in Turley?) and to see, as Benjamin Franklin said, "if we don't hang together we will hang separately."

I live pretty close to the Turley Correctional Center, and I know some in the community opposed it and still oppose it, but I have had no problems with it, and think it does good. I wish there were more community connections between the Center and the Turley community, and this is something to be built up; because we do have the correctional center already, someone else might be able to benefit somewhere else in the Tulsa area from such a good project.

More to come. More news will be coming from the meeting tonight. This should be a several month information campaign and discussion and not one of a few weeks.

Ron said...

At the meeting last night (5-9) handouts were given by the promoters of the halfway house regarding safety and security issues as well as brief backgrounds on those who were going to be responsible for the operation.

As to population characteristics, it was stated that no registered sex offenders would be admitted to the facility.

Studies were mentioned that halfway houses don't lower property values; however, it seems it must be said, that not all neighborhoods can be treated the same and one-size-study doesn't fit all. For example, in an area that is borderline for property values already, such as Turley, the presence of a halfway house might have more of a tipping point than it would in other areas--such as in Owasso or parts of Tulsa where the impact could be better absorbed.

It was mentioned that there would be an offer made to be a substation of the Sheriff's Office, but no guarantees were alluded to by Sheriff or the project backers.

It was mentioned that the facility would approach MTTA bus about putting in a bus stop at the facility, though it isn't a certainty.

There were apologies given for the late notice of the meeting, and the prior lack of information. There seems to be an unawareness of how such a facility in an area such as ours has more of an impact than on just those immediate residents living in the legal notice area. There seemed to be no understanding that there was a Turley Community Association or of efforts underway to incorporate Turley as a city or that it would be helpful to hold more advance information sessions. This is an oversight but also a red flag for how the operators view their relationship with the Turley community. If, or when, it is approved, I hope this leads to the facility undertaking an intentional effort to put time and volunteer resources and money into the Turley area.

It was mentioned that they would bring in several million dollars to the community but it was vague on how that would breakdown; would all shopping be done in Turley stores or would, as one opponent suggested, they do their buying in Owasso or Tulsa? If it is through employment, how many jobs will there be that aren't already filled and what will the range of those positions be, and how many Turley residents will qualify?

Is the operation going to be a "faith-based" funding initiative?

What effect or change would there have been if Turley were already incorporated? How would that have affected the process of the application? That is a good question for exploring.

The benefit of the facility, beyond what it might bring to the Cornerstone church financially, is the benefit that all halfway houses bring, which are substantial. No dispute there. The question is location. And balance. If the Turley area already had investments being made in commercial, real estate, and other types of social services and agencies, then it could more easily embrace the start up of such a halfway house in the area. Without those things to counter-balance the halfway house, Turley's image continues to be jeopardized, which then jeopardizes the very kind of investment needed.

I have always opposed the attitude of NIMBY--not in my back yard. As I said I live near the Correctional Center and have no problems with it other than I would like to see more intentional community interaction. But, if your back yard is already inclusive of halfway houses, it seems okay to seek more of a balance. Whatever happens in this case, I hope it leads people to working closer together, so that more balance in investment can be made. Speaking personally, as one who has done this here, I feel there is a moral imperative to invest in areas that have been neglected. Perhaps this is a project for a group within the Community Association in the future.