PC Board of Commissioners meeting minutes

September 19, 2023 | Headlines

PONCA CITY — The Ponca City Board of Commission met in regular session on Sept. 11. Mayor Homer Nicholson called the meeting to order, which was followed by the pledge of allegiance.  Commissioners Robert Bodick, Garrett Bowers, Paul Taylor, and Kelsey Wagner were in attendance.

Consent Agenda

Under the Consent Agenda, the City Commission approved the minutes of the Ponca City Board of Commissioners regular session held Aug. 28 and work session held Sept. 5. A resolution appropriating money for the payment of claims against the City of Ponca City, Oklahoma; a resolution confirming nominations of the Mayor for appointment of Officers and Department Heads for the City of Ponca City, Oklahoma and setting the term of office; and a resolution appointing members to various boards and commissions and establishing terms of office.


Under Reports, City Manager Craig Stephenson reported that Solid Waste Collection has returned to the normal start time of 7 a.m., the Mayor and City Manager will present the State of the City Report at the Ponca Politics session to be held at City Hall on Friday, Sept. 29, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.; and the September Harvest Moon Kayak Tour will be held Friday, Sept. 29, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., beginning at the Lake Ponca Sailboat Marina.    

Public Hearings

VFW zoning

Under Public Hearings, a public hearing was conducted and the City Commission denied an ordinance zoning real property located at 2821 east Prospect Avenue, from R-1 Single Family Residential to C-2 General Commercial.  Mayor Nicholson, Commissioner Bowers, Commissioner Taylor, and Commissioner Wagner voted to deny the ordinance; Commissioner Bodick voted against the denial of the ordinance.

This zoning petition concerned the site located north of the 2800 Block of east Prospect Avenue, which has historically been the home to the Veterans of Foreign Wars or VFW.  The property comprises a total of 53.3 acres, with 23 acres separated by Snake Road and physically touching the waters of Lake Ponca. The VFW’s main building was originally constructed in 1929, and has been utilized for over 70 years for VFW activities normally associated with a fraternal organization such as this. The property upon which the building is situated includes a very large surfaced parking lot that is used to host weekly flea markets open to the public. There was even an outdoor gun range that operated up until the mid-2000s.     

The building and property were annexed into the City in 1965 and have been zoned R-1 Single Family Residential ever since. The use of the building and property as a fraternal organization was “grandfathered” in when the property was annexed, meaning the property can continue to operate indefinitely as the VFW. The zoning classification of the property as residential has no bearing on the continued use of the VFW as a fraternal organization, as well as any activity associated with that organization, such as a restaurant, club, or any other similar activity for members and guests.  The legal term for grandfathered is “non-conforming,” which means the use of the building and land was legal when the property was annexed, but it is not legally permissible under the current zoning laws. Obviously, R-1 Single Family Residential does not permit fraternal organizations, or restaurants or bars, but the property’s status as a legal non-conforming use permits these activities to continue unless the property becomes vacant for an extended period of time. Non-conforming uses of buildings and land are quite common since City Codes have been changed and updated many times over the past 80 years. The VFW is no exception.

The City’s Zoning Code has a Section specifically set aside for Non-conforming Uses which reads, in general, as follows:

  1. A nonconforming building or structure may be continued and maintained, including reasonable repairs.
  2. A nonconforming building or structure shall not be added to or enlarged in any manner.
  3. A nonconforming building or structure which is damaged or partially destroyed by fire, flood, wind, earthquake, the public enemy or act of God, to the extent of not more than sixty percent (60%) of its value may be restored and the occupancy or use of such building may be continued or resumed.
  4. The use of a nonconforming building or structure may be changed to a use of the same or a more restricted zoning district classification.
  5. A nonconforming building or structure which is or hereafter becomes vacant and remains unoccupied for a continuous period of one year, shall not thereafter be occupied except by a use which conforms with the regulations and requirements of the zoning district in which said building or structure is located.

Nonconforming Uses of Land:

  1. A nonconforming use of land may not be extended or expanded.
  2. If said nonconforming use or any portion thereof is discontinued for a period of six months, or changed, any future use of such land, or change in use, shall be in conformity with the provisions of the zoning district in which said land is located.

The subject property also includes a building, storage yard and communication tower owned and operated by Sparklight Cable. The establishment of the local cable company sometime in the 1980s was most certainly permitted back at that time. The same holds true of the very tall cell tower nearby as well, which has a building permit dated 1999. In 2003, the City passed a new Code that restricts the placement of communication towers anywhere within the City, not just on VFW property. In summation, the cable company’s physical improvements and the towers that occupy the VFW property appear, from every vantagepoint, to be legally placed and may remain indefinitely. However, any new tower would have to be considered and permitted by the City based upon the standards contained in the Ordinance that was passed in 2003.   

What isn’t grandfathered on VFW property is the establishment of a material storage yard for dirt, sand, spoils, debris and stone. This activity began as recently as 2018 and does not qualify as a non-conforming or “grandfathered” use, nor is it an integral part of the everyday operations associated with a fraternal organization such as the VFW. A land use such as this is only permitted on property zoned, at a minimum, as General Commercial. Earlier this year, staff began receiving calls regarding heavy truck and equipment traffic along East Prospect Avenue. Upon further investigation, it was determined that a local contractor or contractors were using a portion of the VFW property for this purpose. The City Attorney notified both parties regarding the illegal use and advised them to cease and desist or seek a zoning change to bring the use of that land into compliance with the City’s Zoning Code. That notice prompted the representatives of the VFW to initiate the change to C-2 General Commercial.  

The City received a letter and zoning application on July 15 from the Commander of VFW Post 1201 seeking a zoning change to General Commercial for all 53.3 acres.  The application was submitted to facilitate the use of the property for:  flea markets, car shows and swap meets; sales of food and alcoholic beverages; meetings of VFW membership and other organizations; church services; outdoor storage of commercial material and equipment; rental of property for cell tower and communication tower; indoor/outdoor events including veteran and patriotic displays; overnight flag retirement ceremonies; weddings, funerals, conferences, sporting events; sheriff/police training exercises; all activities related to the restoration of the property to return the structure and the landscaping to historically correct appearances; and all events and utilizations previously permitted under special use waivers awarded by the City of Ponca City, referred to as “grandfathered”.  Zoning the building and property to C-2 General Commercial would have permitted all of the above uses, by right, as well as a large number of other land uses.

Four alternatives were presented by staff to the City Commission for consideration: 

  1. Deny the application.  This petition was for “spot zoning” and if approved, would have granted to the VFW, zoning rights not afforded to those persons who reside in the area and are similarly situated, and would otherwise be far beyond the rights they currently possess as a legal non-conforming use. The Cable company’s use of the property and the communication towers are grandfathered and may continue to provide a revenue stream for the VFW. The second communication tower on the property is legally permitted and is not at risk of being removed. Approving C-2 zoning for the VFW affords other property owners similarly situated the same zoning rights as well, which could destabilize property values as a result. Prospect Avenue is a local street with no paved outlet and as such, is not designed or intended to accommodate arterial traffic levels potentially generated by commercial land uses. The VFW is already legally protected to continue as a fraternal organization.  The heavy trucks and equipment that have frequented the material storage yard to dump or pick up materials must travel thru a residential neighborhood on a local street. Prospect Avenue has recently been reconstructed and is now substantial enough to handle heavier vehicle loads but the “chip and seal” portion further east is being pulverized by the heavy vehicle turning movements to and from this location. This roadway is the entrance into the west side of Lake Ponca and the presence of materials and activities associated with the use of the material storage yard is unsightly. Without a stormwater pollution prevention plan in place, these materials could migrate off site and into the waters of Lake Ponca if left unchecked. 
  1. Approve the application.  C-2 General Commercial Zoning would permit the VFW to use the building and site for those purposes outlined in the application letter without any further interference from the City.
  1. Approve C-1 Local Commercial Zoning instead.  Fraternal Organizations are a permitted use in C-1 Local Commercial.  Many of the objectionable land uses permitted in C-2 General Commercial are not permitted in C-1.  The illegal material storage yard would not be permitted to operate.
  1. Direct the owner to seek a Special Use permit to allow contractor services.  “Contractor Services” is a permitted land use created by the City Commission back in 2020 as a Special Use Permit in the R-1 District in the rural portions of the City. The applicant could seek a SUP to permit the materials storage yard under this category if the City Commission approved such an arrangement. 

Representatives of the VFW have expressed concern and confusion about the legal ramifications of being a grandfathered use and what that means to their everyday operations and the use of their property. Regardless of the outcome of this zoning application, it was suggested the City and VFW work together to perhaps create a legal document that can be filed of record and one that clearly spells out their rights and limitations regarding the current and future use of this property.

New Business

Wildcat Way

The City Commission approved an ordinance changing the name of Brookfield Ave. to Wildcat Way in the east 500 and 600 Blocks; directing the change of street name on official City map; repealing ordinances in conflict; providing for severability; and directing the City Clerk to file the ordinance of record.  Representatives of the Ponca City School District requested the City change the name of East Brookfield to “Wildcat Way” to foster more community spirit and pride in the school’s newest athletic facilities being constructed between 5th and 7th Street. The School District is investing approximately 15 million dollars in the construction of a new state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility and outdoor soccer field on the north side of Brookfield Ave.  

Brookfield is unique in that the street dead ends at 7th Street and extends no further eastward, making the name change a seamless process and impacting no private individual property owners. The School District is the sole owner of all of the property bordering the 500 to 600 block.  The approved ordinance will be filed of record with the Kay County Clerk.  The local postmaster will be notified, so the street will be entered into official postal routes. All official maps maintained by the City will be amended to reflect the change as well. The City’s Traffic Engineering Division will also replace the existing street signs with special red and blue lettering to highlight and bring attention to the name change.

Public Safety Center

The City Commission approved Change Order No. 2 to CMaR (Construction Manager At Risk) agreement with KSB for the construction of the Ponca City Public Safety Center by increasing the GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price) amount by $85,686.00, bringing the total GMP to $17,551,398.74 and a substantially complete deadline of July 14.  The residents of Ponca City, on June 11, 2019, approved a 0.833 percent sales tax to develop a new Public Safety Center to house the Ponca City Police Department, Communications Center (911), Emergency Operations Center and new jail facility. This facility is located at 300  east Oklahoma Ave. The municipal court operations will remain at 200 E. Oklahoma Avenue, creating a Judicial Center.  On August 15, 2019, the City entered into a professional services agreement with KSB (KSB Enterprises, LLC) that outlined the CMaR services. KSB worked with ADG, the City’s architect, in the design and development of final construction plans of the new two-story facility totaling approximately 36,000 square feet and the 16-bed jail totaling approximately 10,500 square feet.

The City of Ponca City opened bids on June 30, 2020. There were 44 different bid packages sent out; there were 86 bids received on 37 packages, not all received multiple bids. On July 27, 2020 the City Commission approved Amendment “A” which provided for the awarding of 29 of the bid packages in the amount of $10,339.093. There were two bids rejected in total, four packages were rejected and authorized for re-bidding and then two packages were re-bid that no bids were received.  At the Aug. 24, 2020 City Commission meeting, Amendment “B” was approved in the amount of $3,176,613.49.  Amendment “B” provided for KSB’s recommendations of awarding of recommended bids in the amount of $3,176,613.49 and rejecting one bid package from Clint’s Welding, as it did not include both buildings.  KSB provided the City with the GMP for the construction of the Ponca City Public Safety Center in the amount of $17,465,712.74, which includes the amounts approved in the Amendments “A” and “B.” This GMP was approved on December 14, 2020.  Change Order No. 2 brings the final GMP to $17,551,398.74, an increase of 0.5% of the total GMP. 

Executive Session

An Executive Session was held to discuss the appraisal of real property for consideration in a future real estate transaction and that the City Attorney has deemed to be a confidential communication.  No action was taken.


PCUA Consent Agenda

Under the PCUA Consent Agenda, the PCUA Trustees approved the minutes of the PCUA regular session held August 28, 2023; a resolution appropriating money for the payment of claims against the PCUA of Ponca City, Oklahoma; and a resolution amending the operating budget of various PCUA funds for Fiscal Year 2023-24.