A project of 300 apartments demolished in Edmond

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Edmond voters could decide Nov. 8 whether to rescind multifamily zoning on property near Interstate 35 and Memorial Road. Regardless of the outcome, the owner scrapped plans for a 300-unit complex on the site. (Photo by Kathryn McNutt)

EDMOND — Plans to build a 300-unit apartment complex near Interstate 35 and Memorial Road have been shelved more than a year after Edmond City Council approved rezoning to allow development .

It’s been a decade since an apartment complex opened in Edmond, where existing multi-family units are consistently between 94% and 96% occupied, city officials said.

“I don’t want any more apartments,” Frank Battle, director of Expressway Development LLC, told council members when they met Monday night.

Battle, owner of the property along I-35, said he did not renew a purchase agreement with Case Development of Tulsa when it expired. Case had planned to start the multi-family development after receiving council approval in April 2021, but a protest from nearby residents stalled the project.

Residents of the Edmond Oaks neighborhood have collected enough valid signatures to put the rezoning to a people’s vote. A challenge to the petition filed in the district court was not resolved until late December. The decision paved the way for an election on the rezoning, which could be held on Nov. 8 or in 2023.

“It took too long, and it felt like a vote from people was going to go in the direction of not approving the apartments,” Battle said. “It’s costing me $7,000 a month in interest.”

Council member Josh Moore said Wednesday he regretted the loss of 300 in-demand apartments.

“From my perspective, there are unintended consequences that come with turning down a perfectly fine multifamily project,” said Moore, a real estate developer and homebuilder.

“Case wanted to be here because they recognized the need in our market for this type of housing. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be speculating on a $30 million project,” he said. “Without progress, Edmond will continue to widen our labor housing deficit. This is unfortunate for all our businesses in Edmond.

Battle told council on Monday he now has the option of selling 10 or even 20 acres to a local resident who wants to develop a commercial building park on the site. The developer has about 50 such business parks in various locations, he said.

This development would require zoning to revert to General Retail E-1, which the petitioners are asking for in the referendum petition.

Since all stakeholders are now in agreement, Battle asked if the council could speed up the dismantling of zoning.

City Attorney Stephen Murdock said he doubted council had the power to rezone the property while a referendum petition is pending and no referendum election has taken place. The zoning issue could be placed on the November 8 general election ballot if the city notifies election officials by August 23.

Council members instructed Murdock to see if the district court could waive the requirement to hold the election. He agreed to report at the August 22 council meeting and also provide the documents needed to call the referendum election.

“We need it on the November 8 ballot,” Mayor Darrell Davis said. “It’s the cleanest way.”

If voters approve the return to commercial zoning on Nov. 8, the change would be immediate, Murdock said. If they follow multifamily zoning, the process for the city to rezone the property for the commercial project would likely take 60 to 75 days, Murdock said.

“I hope my buyer can last that long,” Battle said. “It is slow to buy building materials, and the building materials are skyrocketing.”

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