Broken Arrow grew because people fled Tulsa for lower crime, better homes, bigger yards, better schools, and a better life. Broken Arrow is still growing, but my fear is that BA is going to become the place where people leave seeking all the things that spurred BA’s growth over the last 40 years. Why is this? Everyone has their reasons, but the thing that irritates me more than anything is the rate at which we are devouring scarce available land and building ugly poorly constructed structures. If this town builds one more QuikTrip or Walgreens then we should change our city slogan to “we’re not pretty, but we’re convenient.” If there is one thing that will kill a city and drive down property values is poor zoning. Look at the 81st and Lynn Lane area. This is the center of town and poor planning has left it as one of the ugliest parts of BA.
After some serious introspect, I have realized you cannot fix poor taste. If, as a home-owner, you want to decorate your home with some moose-horns mounted to a pair of old skis, that is your right. This is the type of thing that should be addressed through a homeowners association, and not by stronger city codes. However, there are some serious trends happening in Broken Arrow that are very concerning and need to be addressed by the city government before all the vacant land is gone. It seems that the city is very myopic and focused on immediate tax revenue and not giving the future much consideration.
One of the most disturbing trends I’ve noticed with new houses in the area is the amount of siding. Broken Arrow isn’t some harbor town where wood siding is expected and charming. This is Oklahoma where violent storms and harsh sun are part of our lives. Take, Fairway Crossing on County Line for example, I’m not sure what the exact requirements are for masonry, but it has to be near 0%. Another glaring example is Stonewood Hills North. This neighborhood is less than 10 years old and the siding is already in disrepair on many of these homes. Both of these neighborhoods are visible to our cities visitors. Fairway Crossing is near Broken Arrow High School and Stonewood Hills is on the drive that leads to the Bass Pro complex.
Why is this such a big deal to me? It’s all about maintenance. Over time, homes with little-to-no masonry will not stand the test of time and harsh Oklahoma weather. Yes, siding can be replaced, but let’s face it, most people start out with good intentions of keeping their homes painted and rotted wood replaced. However, intentions don’t always remain high, homes are sold, people age, and before you know it your home has gone from “look at that nice house” to “look at that scary rental house.”
Think about all the desirable old neighborhoods across the Tulsa-metro. Even though some of these areas were developed early in the twentieth century (Florence Park for example), they have steadily increased their property value, enjoyed a high owner occupancy rate, kept crime low, and the pride of ownership is evident. Now, compare these homes to neighborhoods which many people consider less than desirable. For example, homes between Riverside and Peoria in Tulsa and homes West of Main in Broken Arrow. Most of these homes were built with no masonry and were built cheaply. Look what has happened over time. These homes have not been kept up, owner occupancy rates have dropped, crime has crept in, etc…
I’m obviously not saying that building homes with wood siding will lead to crime. The issue is bigger than that. In order to prevent the great BA Exodus of 2010, the city government needs to step in and do something about overall quality. This is not unprecedented. There are many documented actions of cities even putting a hiatus on building permits until they could get similar problems under control. Cities were seeing neighborhoods going up that did nothing to better the city and could possibly hurt the long term livability. I am not suggesting that we need to build more expensive homes to keep property values up, but, we need to build better homes that will stand the test of time. A minimum percentage of masonry is obviously a good place to start. Other areas could be liners between shingles and decking. I think two straight years of ice storms and ice damming make the case here. We’re living in the green era so we should look at new energy saving codes. I could go on.
Again, I am not advocating building bigger, more expensive homes, but I do realize that to build quality will cost a little more. When you consider the total cost of ownership over 30 years, the home will actually cost less if built with quality materials from the start. The rest of BA will benefit from sustained property values, better aesthetics, and enhanced quality of life.