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Neighbors concerned about Bell's Amusement Park near their homes

Bell's billboard
Posted at 4:06 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 18:56:04-05

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — The City of Broken Arrow is responding to neighbors' concerns about Bell's Amusement Park potentially opening near their homes.

“When we found out it was going to be Bells Amusement Park, our world was turned upside down,” said neighbor Christy Walker.

The new Bells property sits on 102 acres of land right off the Creek Turnpike between 71st street and 81st street.

MORE >>> Bell's Amusement Park is coming back

Neighbors in the Bel Lago subdivision near 81st Street and Evans Road say it’s just too close to their homes.

“Can you imagine what this is going to sound like,” said neighbor Tamara Rickerson.

Rickerson says it’s not just the noise, but the lights, the crowds, and the potential crime the amusement park could attract.

Eastern Broken Arrow land
A local family is expected to announce plans Thursday for a section of land in eastern Broken Arrow.

“We are pro-growth, but we need the right kind of growth,” said neighbor Johnny Walker.

“If we had known there might have been a Bell's Amusement Park in the near future, we would not have bought our home here. Who wants to live next to an amusement park?” said neighbor Christy Walker.

Christy and Johnny Walker moved into the neighborhood last November. They, along with other neighbors, say the quiet brought them to Bel Lago. They knew the property next door was zoned commercial.

“As a former realtor, commercial to me is office buildings and shopping,” said neighbor Tamara Rickerson.

They didn’t think an amusement park would be near the homes they bought for retirement.

“Please don’t sacrifice our happiness, our investment, because sometimes growth is not necessarily good growth,” said neighbor Johnny Walker.

2 News Oklahoma reached out to the City of Broken Arrow about neighbors' concerns. Broken Arrow City Manager Mike Spurgeon responded in a statement:

“For nearly 15 years, the Bell Family has looked for a new home to reopen Bell’s Amusement Park. Their search has included possible sites in Broken Arrow and in other communities around our metro area. Last week, Robby Bell announced the end of his search with plans to build a four-phased amusement park in Broken Arrow on 102 acres of privately owned property located east of the Creek Turnpike between Kenosha St. (71st Street) and Houston St. (81st Street).

While the reaction to the announcement to this potential private development has been overwhelmingly positive, there are many who have expressed legitimate concerns about the impact the proposed amusement park could have on the area. The BA community should rest assured that the Mayor, City Council, and I understand and share your concerns about this project. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to provide some clarity on what we know at this time and hopefully quell some misinformation that has surfaced.

First, Bell’s proposed location has approved zoning for Commercial Heavy that allows for the proposed Amusement Park. In early 2020, the property was rezoned from Agricultural to Commercial Heavy. This rezoning request was consistent with the land use plan outlined in our Comprehensive Plan that has been in place since 1997 and updated in 2019. This rezoning process followed all applicable laws, including proper notice of the rezoning to being sent to property owners within 300 feet of the property, publication of the notice in the Tulsa World and Wagoner Tribune newspapers, and the posting of signs on Kenosha and Houston streets advertising the rezoning application would be heard during a public meeting of the Planning Commission. Notably, on May 21, 2020 the Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning request followed by City Council approval in its public meeting on June 2, 2020. At neither public meeting did anyone speak for or against the rezoning request. At some point thereafter, the owners decided to sell their private property.

Second, currently there is no development application before the City for consideration. As a result, the City is not aware of the timeline for the project. However, Mr. Bell did state that he’d like for the first phase to be open in about two years and the other three phases would follow in approximately one-year increments. Again, the 102 acres is private property, and it is undeveloped. If this project moves forward, the developer will have to come forward and secure all applicable city approvals, which will include any public meeting of the Planning Commission and ultimately the City Council. When that time comes, we will alert the public with advance notice.

When an application and site plan for development is filed, this will be the City’s opportunity to review the proposed development plan vs. our codes AND evaluate the potential impacts (e.g., traffic, stormwater, noise, lighting, hours of operation, sound barriers, public safety, etc.) the park could have on our community. Until such time as we receive an application there is nothing for us to review regarding the park. Notwithstanding, we will be researching what we can to include the economic impact, traffic & public infrastructure needs, and public safety concerns. We will also be talking to applicable state agencies that may require permitting of amusement parks.

Finally, the City of Broken Arrow promoted Mr. Bell’s press event but has not provided any economic incentives for Bell’s new Amusement Park. The City will evaluate any future requests for economic incentives from Bell’s investors just as we would with any other economic development project, namely by considering the project’s economic benefits to the community including job creation, sales tax generation and increase to tourism. This process would include a thorough review of their business plan. Please note that any public-private partnership must be approved by the City Council and would be done so with full transparency.

In closing, we are at the proverbial starting line of this project and there is a long way to go and many hurdles for the developer to clear before any rides open! I sincerely appreciate the passion and pride our citizens have for maintaining a great quality of life in our wonderful city. The governing body and I have that same passion and pride and only want the best for our community not just only today, but for tomorrow, and well into the future. Look for more updates as learn more about the project.”

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