Tulsa County Court Judge Dana Kuehn dissolves a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city from collection efforts on properties owned by plaintiffs who failed to pay the downtown ballpark assessment fee.
The favorable ruling is a win for the Tulsa Stadium Trust and property owners who support the assessment district for the downtown ballpark.
In addition, the judge set a court hearing to permit property owners who favor the district to be heard in the case. The hearing on the motion to intervene is scheduled for Oct. 2, providing the ballpark supporters the opportunity to be heard at the Oct. 9 hearing on the request for preliminary injunctive relief.
“We are very pleased with the court’s ruling and believe it is the first step in allowing the voices of the majority to be heard over those of a small minority of downtown property owners,” said Stan Lybarger, chairman of the Tulsa Stadium Trust. “The ballpark assessment district is supported by a significant majority of property owners in the district, and they will now have the opportunity to be heard.”
“The court agreed to hear our motion to intervene, which was filed on behalf of property owners who support the assessment district and the ballpark development and represent 4.7 million SF of assessed property in downtown Tulsa,” Lybarger said. “During the same hearing, the temporary restraining order was dissolved because the plaintiffs could not prove immediate or irreparable harm.”
Annual bills for the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District were issued in July, and to date, more than 85 percent of the assessment fees have been paid, which is nearly the same rate of payment as collections from the prior assessment district.
Plaintiffs only represent about $35,000 or 1.95 percent of the total assessments.
Property owners have 30 days to pay. After 60 days of delinquency, the city can file a lien on the property. The city had not planned to start the lien process until Oct. 10.
Cities throughout Oklahoma have been using improvement districts for a variety of public projects, including marketing, development, beautification and infrastructure, and their use to finance a public venue is clearly permissible under state statute, Lybarger said.
“ONEOK Field is the next major step in Tulsa’s downtown revitalization and overall economic development efforts,” Lybarger said. “We have already experienced a significant increase in property values since the ballpark project was announced. When completed, this venue will bring additional residents and visitors to downtown, create new jobs, generate more tax revenue and result in further growth for our community.”
The ballpark construction is on schedule and within budget. The next construction milestone will be the installation of sod, followed by the installation of home plate.