On Monday's City Commission agenda there was a public hearing scheduled concerning whether to close to the public the streets located on, or around Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) campus — but at the last minute the university requested to delay the item.

Shawnee City Commission

On Monday's City Commission agenda there was a public hearing scheduled concerning whether to close to the public the streets located on, or around Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) campus — but at the last minute the university requested to delay the item.

OBU had submitted a written request to close and vacate University Oval Drive, University Avenue (also known as University Street), Chapman Avenue (also known as Pottenger Street), and Pottenger Avenue (also known as Ione Street). Though it is not an immediate priority, the agenda states, the expressed goal is to replace University Street as the primary east-west access to campus with an improved street located due south.

Right before the meeting representatives from OBU asked that the items be tabled until the Dec. 19 City Commission meeting — at which time the board may determine whether to approve an ordinance to do so.

Also pushed back to the Dec. 19 meeting, commissioners may decide whether to make an agreement between the City and OBU to maintain vehicular access to University Drive/Street and pursue certain roadway improvements.

OBU's plan

OBU has requested that the city close the streets to the public, in preparation for selecting and improving a new south entrance to the campus, in accordance with OBU's Long Range Master Plan.

Two alternative locations have been suggested thus far. The first sequence of improvements may include portions of Midland St., Bonita Ave., and Franklin St. The second alternative incorporates Franklin St. from Kickapoo St. to Airport Dr.

City code

Closing of a public way is accomplished through adoption of an ordinance by the city. A municipality retains the right to open a closed street when deemed necessary. However, after the public street has been closed, the street may be vacated by petition to the district court, removing any right or claim for the city to reopen said street. If an ordinance is passed to close the four subject streets, it is the intent of the applicant to proceed with vacating said streets.

At issue

According to the agenda, Shawnee's Community Development staff has a couple primary concerns:

• Once the City has closed the public streets, the property owner may petition the district court to vacate said streets, terminating the City’s right to reopen any of the subject streets.

• Once vacated, the possibility exists — without an agreement in place — for University Street to be physically closed to public use. This could be concerning for the following reasons: University Street is a public road providing primary access to, and through, the campus for citizens on a daily basis; University Street currently serves as a necessary emergency service route. Removing such access at this time would not be in the best interest of the City; and the publicly dedicated right-of-way for the subject streets contain public infrastructure. University Street in particular includes a six-inch water line and an eight-inch sewer line.

To satisfy staff concerns, OBU has agreed to leave University Street open to public access for a period of 10 years, or until completion of the proposed street improvements to Midland, Bonita and Franklin or another alternative agreed-upon by the City.

In regards to University Street, by separate easement or agreement, the ability to access and maintain services between Airport Drive and Kickapoo Street will be ensured for REACT, City Police and Fire, Shawnee Municipal Authority, and other relevant entities.

The easement rights of affected utility companies to maintain, repair or operate infrastructure along University Street will not be affected by the passing of the ordinance.

Recommendation

City staff has no objection to the closing of University Street, University Oval Drive, and portions of Ione Street and Pottenger Street, with the following conditions:

• Execute express, separate easements between the Grantor, City of Shawnee, and Grantees, React, Shawnee Municipal Authority, Shawnee Fire, Shawnee PD, and other relevant entities ensuring the ability and mobility of those services between Airport Road and Kickapoo Street; and

• Execute a separate contract with OBU stipulating the right of the public to use University Street for ingress and egress for a specific, agreed-upon time, or until agreed-upon improvements have been established and dedicated, producing a new means of primary east-west access between Airport Drive and Kickapoo Street.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.