Wedding Venues and Recovery Center Draw Stiff Opposition

The November 15 Board of Adjustments meeting held in the old ballroom of the Collins Building was standing-room only with a crowd of people opposing several requests for zoning variances.

John Rogers applied for a special exception to allow a wedding venue/event center on land zoned agricultural at 18380 South 65th West Avenue, Mounds, Oklahoma.

“The subject tract is 39.82 acres, more or less. The property is surrounded by agriculture zoning and is located on a dead-end road. The area of the property the owner intends to use as a venue is a bluff approximately a hundred feet above the adjacent property. The owner’s home is on the property,” said Creek County Planner Wendy Murray.

Murray then described the scope of the operation: “The majority of weddings are on weekends, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. They are typically scheduled for mid to late afternoon with receptions following with receptions which may last until 10 or 11 (p.m.). It is difficult to anticipate the number of weddings.” Murray stated that there had been “numerous” wedding venues approved in Creek County. The office has had one open records request and several phone calls with concerns with traffic and wear and tear of the road. The staff recommendst to the Board of Adjustments for approval.

Local attorney Sam Allen who was representing Rogers toll said he wanted to give the board “a real good overview.” He informed the board that a number of his clients had previously been approved for wedding venues, including The View, The Hidden Rose, and The Barn on the Hill. “This venue is much more secluded and remote than any of the others you have approved.”

Allen addressed the concerns about the road: “With regard to the road issue, at this time it is a very narrow road. My client has already done something to start improving it, he has put in several whistles and is prepared to do a lot more, he wants to work with the County Commissioners, spend his own time, his own effort, his own money to improve that road.”

The first neighbor to voice opposition to the request was Ed Ray, who provided the Board with photographs of the road. “This road is a dead end road…it’s not quite one mile long and dead end. If you see there from the photographs, it’s a 12-foot-wide road, there are no shoulders. It is dark, there is no lighting, we just feel that it is a drastic change for the road, and it is not what this single lane road was intended for to begin with.” Ray voiced concern about littering, the increased traffic and intoxicated drivers, as well as the possibility that emergency responders would be unable to reach landowners with all the traffic.

The next neighbor to speak was Margaret Mudd who said she was told the road would never worsen or become a two-lane road. She informed Board members that she was able to clearly hear a conversation between Mr. Rogers and his daughter a few days earlier. She felt that the noise from events would negatively impact her race horses and livestock in the area. Mudd recommended that people attending events detour through Whispering Hills.

BOCC Chair Newt Stephens told the audience and the Board that the road in question was a section-line road that was originally gravel and the County overlaid it with asphalt, repaired drainage, and added larger whistles. He advised that if the road were to be widened, just the cost of asphalt would be $120,000 per mile, and property owners would have to pay to relocate fences and for surveys. He went on to say that the neighbors in the area had “good harmony” and residents had no problem with a one-lane road.

Michael Brown was concerned about traffic and Beth Scott that traffic would be outside her bedroom window.

The BOA unanimously passed a motion to table the request at the applicant’s expense until it is known what will be done to prove better ingress and egress, plans on what specifically will be built, how many people in attendance of events, and a plan for parking was in place.

The next wedding venue request by Tonya Janeway was for a Special exception to existing zoning laws for property located at 16162 West 61st Street South, Sand Springs, Oklahoma.

Planner Wendy Murray read the request. “Special Exception to allow a wedding venue event center in an agriculture setting. The subject property is 9.95 acres, more or less, the property is surrounded in agriculture and residential zoning. The Janeway venue is responding to an open complaint that brought into the office August 8th for noise and traffic. The office has had several emails and phone calls, the applicant is present, staff recommends to the BOA for approval.”

Ms. Janeway addressed the Board and people attending the meeting: “This wedding venue has been in existence since 2017, and we did not have any complaints until the Dollar General on 61st and 161st, then we received all these complaints. There were two incidents where it did get loud…. In our contract, we put that there are quiet hours from 10 o’clock until 7am on weekdays and 11:59 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekends. We’ve also asked that there will be no foul language with the DJ or with the music….we don’t have any trash, we keep it very neat and very clean.”

The first person to speak in opposition to the request was Eric Schmidt, who said he purchased his property in May 2022. He said he loved his property, however, the only problem was the traffic. “Every day from 6 a.m. until 5pm. The traffic is crazy going up to Janeway place. If I had known it was going to be like that when I bought it, I probably shouldn’t have bought it.”

The next neighbor to speak was Debora Rock. “What Ms. Janeway just said, it was a lie. Because I called the police department at 1:15 in the morning when it woke me up and the house was shaking… I think that’s a little late…this is becoming a pattern. We listen to DJs doing profanity about how they can do whatever they want because the police had just been there.”

Janeway and Rock then engaged in a verbal altercation, prompting the Chair of the BOA to call for order.

Jeff Hale voiced his complaints about noise from the venue, saying he called the Sheriff’s office and when the deputy came out the music was so loud the deputy thought the noise was emanating from Hale’s property.

Tommy and Brenda Manning said the property should have been rezoned before the event venue was constructed.

Linda Long, who is Janeway’s mother said she lives next door to the event center and the only noise that bothers her was from neighbors’ dogs.

BOA member Shannon Scott asked Janeway if she has an onsite staff member to answer complaints of loud music. “If you live close by, go by your neighbor’s house and validate their complaints or concerns. Be neighborly.”

The BOA unanimously passed a motion to approve the request with a 6-month review at the applicant’s expense, all music inside by 9 p.m., close at 11pm,and the special exception is with the Janeways and cannot be transferred.

The next contested request was for approval of a variance for a transitional living/ halfway house by Hope Ministries for property located at 24733 West Highway 33, Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

Murray read the request: “applicant asks for approval of a variance for a transitional living/halfway house, subject tract is 4.53 acres, more or less. The property is surrounded in agriculture and residential zoning…The office has had four open record requests and several phone calls with opposition, the applicant is persistent, The staff recommends to the BOA for approval.”

Travis Byrd, Director, Hope Center Ministries addresses the Board and people in attendance: “We have 37 locations, worldwide, and we are in thirteen states. We have been in existence since 2007…. we are a Christ-centered ministry…..Our goal has never been to get men or women sober from drugs and alcohol, but to create men and women who are followers of Christ…When people come to us, they have already gone through that painful detox process…I want to point out that we are a residential program, so men would live with us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. … We have staff members on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week…. We are all long-term…we are just trying to teach men how to be men with vocational training programs. Once they have reached the second phase of the program, they go out to work 40 hours a week.“

James Gaddis, nearby HOA president, voiced concerns about sewage, drainage, safety concerns and the fact that the ministry is not state or federally funded thus prompting questions about regulation and oversight of the minority program.

One of the spokesperson present for Hope Ministries told Gaddis that the men must have discharge papers before entering the program. Byrd told the Board and those in attendance that the ministry already had a contract with two Creek County companies. Addressing viability and safety, Byrd stated they have had to shuts down one facility due to losing a church sponsor, He said that there will three staff members onsite, security cameras on the premises, and GPS on vehicles and do monthly driver’s license checks.. He went on to say that no residents have access to guns or chainsaws or axes due to risk management. The men are sponsored by a local church and there is a one-time fee of $700 which is refunded upon successful completion of the program. He emphasizes that why have never had a police call and that non violent offenders or sexual assault offenders are allowed to participate in the program and there will be random drug testing.

John Trammel, who lives nearby, was concerned about 28 men “being across the street.” he asked the Board to vote no.

Neighbor Jeremy Watkins was real about capacity issues for 28 men occupying a 4,000 square foot house, septic capacity, and rural water supply capacity.

Byrd responded by saying the next step would be contacting DEQ.

Neighbor Stacy Bolton said that the DEQ reccomends the zoning be in a hotel category, and there would have to be electrical upgrades, and a lagoon system for sewage which raises the issue of odor and mosquitoes.

Amy Teague questioned the safety of the neighborhood, the rotation of residents. She said that there was a bus stop in front of the driveway; she asked how long it would take for a first responder to arrive and what happens if they sell the property and the home is setup for 28 people? What would come next?

Sue Hefner opposed the facility and addressed the Board and attendees stating that between her and her husband they had over 50 years in law enforcement. “I have dealt with addictive people my entire career, some of them are good people and just hit bad places in their lives, some of them are not good because the addiction has got a hold on them….they don’t have highly trained people on staff.” She questioned how the ministry has had no police calls with so many people of different backgrounds living together.

Denise Devries is worried about property values going down because of the facility.

Gordon Bailey applauded the ministry’s effort but felt the location was wrong.

County Commissioner Leon Warner had concerns about the property accommodating a large sewage lagoon and akse the item be table. BOA Chair Don Moss asked the applicant to contact the fire marshall about capacity and if fire suppression is needed. After considerable discussion, the Board unanimously passed a motion to table the request until more information is provided by the applicant.

In other business, after several speaking out against the proposed lot split, the Board unanimously approved an amended request from William Doudican for a lot split to accommodate another home that was already built.The motion stated that track 2 and 3 of property, located at 10201 Sahoma Lake Road be combined with a 35 foot easement with the stipulation that no more homes or businesses be built on the property.