Bill Hofegartner and two of his daughters were surrounded by neighbors at an Oklahoma County County Planning Commission meeting Thursday afternoon. They all traveled to downtown Oklahoma City for a meeting about his dream to build a bar and dance hall on his parcel of land on Britton Road and Luther Road, in the shadow of the new Kickapoo Turnpike under construction.
The neighbors, about 40 of them, were united against the new business proposal. About ten of them spoke at the meeting sharing a litany of reasons why putting an establishment that would serve alcohol in their rural neighborhood was a bad idea. The reasons ranged from lack of law enforcement in the area, to lights and noise and the possibility of drunk driving on roads that have low visibility and are in poor shape.
Tyler Clanahan, a former law enforcement officer, said he and fellow neighbors moved to the area to get away from the city and while the turnpike forced some to lose their land or reckon with the new road being so close to them, “that was out of our hands.”
A decorated lawman before his career move into construction, Clanahan cited a University of California criminology study that said venues of this type are local crime attractors because of the mix of alcohol, people with cash and limited police presence.
He said while he means no negative intent against Oklahoma County Sheriff PD Taylor, there is limited police presence in all of the unincorporated areas of the county that stretches from Eastern Oklahoma County to Piedmont and Deer Creek. He and others suggested that this establishment be put inside a nearby city limit like Jones, Harrah or Luther where the zoning, and services like water, sewer and public safety, are already established to welcome new businesses.
It was Hofegartner’s third try at the Planning Commission for the zoning change. Currently the area is zoned agriculture and rural residential, and after being denied twice, he tried again for a change to commercial zoning of the parcel, a move that would allow any type of business to go there. He told the commission, made up of appointed members along with District One Commissioner Carrie Blumert, that he likes to go dancing every Friday and Saturday night, but has to drive 28 miles away to do it. He said while he doesn’t drink alcohol – his bar staff would be vigilant about ensuring no one left the establishment driving under the influence. He also said he might eventually add some hotel rooms so folks could stay if they did.
His daughter, Christina Tracey, told the commission that her dad is a retired roofer and wants this business to give him something to do following the death of his wife a couple of years ago. “I was born and raised here, however, there is nothing to do. We love to line dance and some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, I met dancing. It keeps you active and this will not just be a bar,” she said.
Mr. Hofegartner also said he would open the facility to family days for activities like corn hole, volley ball and dancing where no alcohol would be served.
“My dad wants to bring the community together. He wants a dance hall,” said Tracey.
Robert Borg of Harrah said his family moved to the area specifically for peace and quiet away from city. “I’ve never heard of something like this going up in the middle of nowhere. It’s non-sensical.
“We are taxpayers in the area, and we have a say,” he said.
In the end, all of the commissioners, except Amy Martin, voted against the zoning change. Hofegartner can try again in 90 days, according to state law.
Meanwhile, the turnpike is slated for completion, possibly before 2021. County planning staff say there has been little activity for other zoning change requests to build businesses along the 21-mile route, largely in the county’s unincorporated area.
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Could have been a great thing for Luther, all you that fought against this took money from our little town.