TULSA — The City of Tulsa is busy buying dozens of properties in the Pearl District, even homes that are occupied. The buyouts, they say, are part of a larger flood relief plan.
Residents are now fighting to keep their homes from being turned into a detention pond.
Gaby Tarvin, a 15-year Tulsa resident, says, "We do not want to lose our homes. We do not want to move! This is our home, and this is our neighborhood."
Tulsa engineers plan to construct two drainage ponds. The first one covers an area of 45 residential and commercial properties.
Brooke Caviness, City of Tulsa Lead Engineer, says, "We don't come in and just take people's homes. We make a very good offer, we help with moving expenses, we pay fair market value. We've had pleasant experiences with the homes that we've purchased. Moving forward, we hope to continue having positive relationships with the residents."
Out of the 45 properties needed for the project, 12 are now owned by the city. They are in the process of buying five more. They say they will buy the others later.
The pond is called the West Pearl Detention Pond. It is drafted to hold over 64 acre-feet of water.
The city wants it in the area from Sixth Street and Madison Avenue, to Fourth Street and Owasso Avenue, east of downtown.
Caviness says the pond will relieve neighborhoods around the Elm Creek drainage basin; and improve drainage in the entire area, including downstream to Veterans Park.
Caviness says, "49 of the properties downstream will be taken out of the floodplain."
Now, a group of Tulsans question, ‘What about the neighbors this project is kicking out?’
Caviness says, "Once the city of Tulsa buys them, we'll demolish the home and we'll maintain it."
Those are words many like Tarvin do not want to hear. She found her family home in the Pearl District almost two years ago. Her home is in the pond's way.
Caviness says the pond cannot be moved.
“Unless the project is moved or postponed or eliminated, we have to move forward with this project. It's for the greater good of Tulsa."
If property owners do not settle on a deal with the city, eminent domain proceedings will follow.
The conversation continues Tuesday night at 6 p.m. inside the Central Center at Centennial Park.