TULSA – A former Tulsa mayor is pushing back against the idea to develop a local park that, he says, was never intended to be changed.
Former Tulsa Mayor Terry Young says the original intention of Helmerich Park was to be a park and nothing else.
"The greening and the re-greening and the keeping of the green in Tulsa is an important attraction."
Terry Young was Tulsa’s mayor from 1984 to 1986. Now, he's leading a group opposed to developing Helmerich Park.
"Any disposition of that land has to follow the city's procedures for selling public property."
He says by developing the area, the city is violating two city ordinances passed in 1991 specifically designating the space as a park.
"Both of those ordinances specifically say that the money was to acquire park land and those ordinances are still on the book."
The land was originally purchased with a third-penny sales tax and wealthy donors, including a man named Walt Helmerich, the park's namesake.
"Walt Helmerich does not, did not, expect that to be commercially developed."
But that's contrary to what Mayor Dewey Bartlett believes.
"At the time he did that, it was his desire be eventually be available for development."
Mayor Bartlett was a city councilor when the ordinances were passed.
“I don't want to have the authority to take away the rights of the citizens of Tulsa to use it as a park."
"Whatever I did say at some point in time, if there's no legal documents to back up whatever was supposed to have been said, then that's a whole different story."
As to why he's changing his position, Bartlett said "At that point, I was a city councilor representing a point of view, I’m the mayor now, whole different perspective."
As for Young and the city potentially breaking the law, he says "If we need to prove that point before a judge, we may have to do that."
Young says the third penny sales tax used to purchase the land was earmarked only for public parks.
He says if Helmerich and the city council - including Dewey Bartlett - wanted the space developed for commercial purposes they would have worded the ordinance as such.