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Controversial Classen Circle rezoning plan continued after hitting stalemate

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OKLAHOMA CITY –  A controversial plan that involves several Oklahoma City businesses and an ice cream shop went before the planning commission for approval.

On Thursday, the Oklahoma City Planning Commission heard arguments regarding the controversial plan for a Braum’s to be built along Classen Circle.

Earlier this year, Braum’s Ice Cream & Dairy Stores submitted a rezoning application for a parcel of land near N.W. 50th St. and Classen Circle.

The area is familiar to drivers and residents because of the triangular block that serves as the home for the HiLo Club, Drunken Fry and other businesses.

Property near NW 50th and Classen Circle.

The application asked the planning commission to rezone six lots from residential to commercial; a conceptual site plan shows buildings on the block would be razed and made into a parking lot for a new Braum’s restaurant and store.

The building that is home to the HiLo and Drunken Fry was built in 1948 as the Donnay Building. Many residents and patrons say they want to save the building and the block from becoming a new store or parking lot.

HiLo Club

“Braum’s is a vital part of this community too. So I would hope that the powers that be at Braum’s would see the petition, they would see how much people love this building, and that they might think twice about tearing it down,” said Lynne Rostochil, who started a petition to save the Donnay Building.

During Thursday’s planning commission meeting, several people in the community spoke against the plan. Many said that traffic congestion caused by the fast-food restaurant would be a danger to drivers and residents in the area.

David Box, an attorney representing Braum’s, argues that whether it is a Braum’s or another business, traffic will always be an issue with the site.

Rezoning proposal for Braum’s on Classen Circle.

Others said the historic nature of the Donnay Building should be considered before the plan is approved.

However, a representative for the current owner said that if the property is not sold to Braum’s, the Donnay Building will still be demolished.

“You’ll have a lot of protesters here. A lot of people that want to talk about the Donnay Building. The long-term prognosis, short-term prognosis for that building is- if we do not sell the property to Braum’s, we alternatively are going to redevelop the property and demolish it next spring,” said David Kennedy, who represents the owner of the property.

After hearing all of the arguments, the commissioners were split on their arguments about the site.

Commissioners hear arguments about the rezoning application.

Ward 2 Planning Commissioner Janis Powers says it is “a difficult and complicated site.”

“This seems like the worst possible place to put a site where you’re hoping to attract a lot of traffic,” Powers said, referring to her first thought when she heard the news about the application.

Without a traffic study or traffic plan, she said it is hard for her to see what Braum’s has in mind. She said she can’t support the application without those plans in front of her.

Ward 6 Planning Commissioner Asa Highsmith also said that he couldn’t support the plan at this moment because he is worried about the walkability of the site. He also said that without a comprehensive plan, there are too many questions left unanswered.

On the other hand, Ward 8 Planning Commissioner Scott Cravens said the area is primarily commercial, and while the infrastructure is not well designed, it is designed to carry traffic. Cravens said that he supports the application because the area is meant for businesses.

The initial vote was split 3-4, but the commission cannot issue a recommendation unless five votes are reached.

Box asked for the case to be moved to the City Council without a recommendation from the planning commission.

A vote to continue the matter to a future meeting was approved 4-3.

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