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Author Topic: TMAPC and the Zoning Code Update  (Read 4286 times)
PonderInc
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« on: September 15, 2015, 09:04:13 am »

Having spent a lot of time studying the various drafts of the proposed zoning code, I was amazed and offended to realize that the Planning Commission has not dedicated an equal amount of time to this process.

I've tried to attend as many of the "work sessions" as possible, and it's been illuminating.

During these work sessions, Kirk Bishop, the consultant on the project, has provided a high level overview of the changes that have been incorporated since the public feedback period.  Basically, what has changed due to public feedback, and what will be included in the "public hearing draft" to be considered by the TMAPC.  Most of the planning commissioners have not taken notes at these meetings.  Also, based on their questions, it's apparent that they have not actually read any of the drafts.

The final kicker was at a joint meeting of the TMAPC and the City Council, when commissioner John Dix said he wanted the proposed draft to go back to the Citizen's Advisory Team for a final review. 

This is not how the process is supposed to work, but it's illuminating because Dix obviously wants Joe Westervelt (who's an entitled loudmouth on the CAT) to get one last chance to tell the planning commission what to think.

(Amusingly, Covey, the TMAPC chairman said "What's the CAT?"... which indicates that he hasn't attended any of the public meetings about the zoning code update, where the process was explained.)

Several years ago, I was on the Citizen's Advisory Team for PlaniTulsa.  We participated for over two years, providing input, encouraging public participation and sort of monitoring the process.  But when the comprehensive plan was drafted and sent to the Planning Commission for review, our work was done.  We, as an official body, did not get to have a special meeting to tell the commissioners what to do or think.  (Although, I bet some individuals did!)

Our job as an oversight committee was finished, and if we wanted to offer our opinions, we did so at the public hearings like every other citizen.

The aforementioned work session is scheduled for tomorrow: Wed, 9/15/15 @ 10:00 AM in the St. Francis conference room in the Williams Tower I building (1 West 3rd St) - which is one of the black angled buildings downtown.

There are some smart and thoughtful people on the CAT.  I hope they are able to attend.  And then there's Westervelt, who thinks he, and he alone, should be able to dictate what's best for Tulsa when it comes to planning and land use.  And then there are Joe's cronies on the TMAPC who consult him whenever they don't know what to do.  Rumor has it that several of the planning commissioners text Joe during TMAPC meetings for direction and input.  That would certainly make for an interesting public records request...everyone, hand over your cell phones so we can see the text messages that have been secretly exchanged during public meetings.

In any case, the agenda for the work session includes 3 items:
- Neighborhood Character Overlays
- Parking
- Form Based Codes

I would encourage anyone who can sneak out of work to attend this session to watch the inner sausage making of our city's future.  A future, I might add, that should not be determined by a bunch of obstinate and uninformed old men who don't want anything to change.

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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2015, 01:02:22 pm »

It's not magical, mystical, or even difficult to understand, is it?

Follow the money....


Anything, anywhere, anytime.  Money.
 


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« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2015, 07:09:15 am »

So a special work session was held for the sole purpose of allowing Joe Westervelt and Paul Kane to tell the TMPC what to think. This was an enormous waste of time and resources, since Incog and City staff were present, and Kirk Bishop, the consultant Skyped in.

The only CAT members present (aside from the ones who are already on the TMAPC!) were Westervelt, Kane, Blake Ewing, and Jim Turner. Turner only spoke once, briefly.

Although the purported reason for the meeting was to give the CAT an opportunity to be briefed on the latest changes, that was obviously false. Joe and Paul came prepared with their specific talking points which are the same as their talking points from last year's CAT meetings. The gist: they want the neighborhood overlay section to return to their preferred draft version which would render overlays impotent and difficult to obtain.

They also said that it was their belief that the zoning code update was a three-way process between the CAT, staff and the consultant. It's seems they don't understand the fourth major leg: the citizens of Tulsa. Or, you know, elected officials.  They are really quite inflated about their own importance. Neither Joe nor Paul believes the public should be given any credence. And both said that public input should not "override" months of work by the CAT, by which they meant: we want to be in charge of this tired group of old men who make all the zoning recommendations, but we like to decide things without interference from pesky citizens. Both seem to have forgotten that they are mere citizens (and soon only one of them will reside in Tulsa, as Kane is moving out of town).

Fortunately, Blake was there to speak for the other side. The CAT did not have a single unified voice, and Blake represented some of the other viewpoints. He said it was made very clear that the CAT role was to get a draft out to the public, and then let the public input process shape the final product. The public process would iron out the areas where the CAT couldn't reach agreement, and it would identify areas where the draft needed improvements.

This meeting didn't serve any purpose except to illuminate how the TMAPC works. Also, it appears few of the commissioners have read more than 10 pages of the zoning code.
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TheArtist
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« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2015, 02:25:06 pm »

So a special work session was held for the sole purpose of allowing Joe Westervelt and Paul Kane to tell the TMPC what to think. This was an enormous waste of time and resources, since Incog and City staff were present, and Kirk Bishop, the consultant Skyped in.

The only CAT members present (aside from the ones who are already on the TMAPC!) were Westervelt, Kane, Blake Ewing, and Jim Turner. Turner only spoke once, briefly.

Although the purported reason for the meeting was to give the CAT an opportunity to be briefed on the latest changes, that was obviously false. Joe and Paul came prepared with their specific talking points which are the same as their talking points from last year's CAT meetings. The gist: they want the neighborhood overlay section to return to their preferred draft version which would render overlays impotent and difficult to obtain.

They also said that it was their belief that the zoning code update was a three-way process between the CAT, staff and the consultant. It's seems they don't understand the fourth major leg: the citizens of Tulsa. Or, you know, elected officials.  They are really quite inflated about their own importance. Neither Joe nor Paul believes the public should be given any credence. And both said that public input should not "override" months of work by the CAT, by which they meant: we want to be in charge of this tired group of old men who make all the zoning recommendations, but we like to decide things without interference from pesky citizens. Both seem to have forgotten that they are mere citizens (and soon only one of them will reside in Tulsa, as Kane is moving out of town).

Fortunately, Blake was there to speak for the other side. The CAT did not have a single unified voice, and Blake represented some of the other viewpoints. He said it was made very clear that the CAT role was to get a draft out to the public, and then let the public input process shape the final product. The public process would iron out the areas where the CAT couldn't reach agreement, and it would identify areas where the draft needed improvements.

This meeting didn't serve any purpose except to illuminate how the TMAPC works. Also, it appears few of the commissioners have read more than 10 pages of the zoning code.

Very interesting, thanks for keeping us abreast of things Ponder and let us know if there is anything we can do now or in the future to help out.
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« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2015, 03:53:42 pm »

TMAPC public hearings for the zoning code update will be held:

Monday, 9/28/15 @ 6:00 PM at City Hall in the City Council chamber

If more time is necessary for public comment, a second meeting may be held the following day (to be determined at the Monday night meeting):
Tuesday, 9/29/15 @ 6:00 PM

Right now, it appears that the major item that is being fought over is the neighborhood overlay.  Joe Westervelt and members of the Home Builders Association want overlays to be weak, ineffective and hard to obtain.  People who care about enhancing the character of specific neighborhoods want overlays to be effective, useful and not too painful to initiate. 

In a separate but related issue: a couple guys don't want the overlays to be available downtown.  Other people think it doesn't make sense to elminate this tool from the toolbox for downtown property owners.

One issue that doesn't seem to be on many people's radar is that the Form Based Code is not incorporated in the new code as a base zoning option.  It should be.  There is a plan to make it a MPD (the future version of PUDs) that can be applied throughout the city.  However, if you read the code, there is no way to understand that this option exists.  So if nothing changes, the FBC will be a forgotten relic, or a black ops option that you have to know the secret handshake and code word to request it for your property. 
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PonderInc
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2015, 09:20:10 am »

So, another interesting meeting.

Staff presented a report of all the major changes in the new code, along with a list of minor recommendations to make it better.

Folks spoke and said all the expected things during public comment.

In an interesting twist, the planning commissioners revealed that they have no understanding how an application for a zoning change works.  You'd think after all these years, they might have read the zoning code or understood the process that they oversee.

In any case, the great controversy over overlays may be winding down.  Now that the commissioners are starting to understand how a property owner applies for a zoning change (the same process that's been in effect for... oh... decades), they came to realize that the overlay process will not result in the end times.

An application for a zoning change (and thus, an overlay) can be initiated by the owner of the subject property, or by the city council or the planning commission. If a group of property owners want to apply for an overlay for their properties, they can.  If a neighborhood wants to get an overlay, but not every property owner agrees, the neighborhood can simply petition the city council or the planning commission to consider it.  Those bodies can decide if it's a good idea or not. 

Just like today, the city council has the right to rezone any property in town, whether every property owner agrees or not.  However, your neighbor can't apply to rezone your property without your consent.

This is basically how the overlays will work, and it's been clear to anyone who's read the past two drafts of the zoning code, or to anyone who bothered to listen during meetings, or to anyone who bothered to ask staff.  (The planning commissioners and the overlay haters do not appear to fall into any of those categories.)

Once the commissioners and the people who oppose overlays finally started to understand the city's current process for rezoning, the opposition to overlays appeared to melt.  This also includes the opposition to overlays within the CBD from the DCC (aka Bumgarner) who claims to represent all 500-700 property owners downtown.

Still the commissioners could not pull the trigger and recommend approval of the draft of the code.  Even though the existing language satisfied their concerns.  They need more time to review and digest it.  Which I suppose means that they need to ask Joe if it's OK.

For folks who care about Historic Preservation, you might want to attend the next meeting, since commissioner Dix stated that he still has questions about HP.

The next public hearing will be on Wed Oct 7 @ 1:30 PM.

 
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2015, 07:10:04 pm »

In an interesting twist, the planning commissioners revealed that they have no understanding how an application for a zoning change works.  You'd think after all these years, they might have read the zoning code or understood the process that they oversee.

I gave up on that one.
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PonderInc
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« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2015, 12:56:24 pm »

Well, the TMAPC has finally passed a version of the zoning code draft and sent it on to the City Council for their consideration.

The commissioners awakened momentarily from a deep slumber, hitched up their trousers, and began working to eliminate changes that had been incorporated as a result of public input. 

It seems that when Ol' Joe told the commissioners a few weeks ago that "public input shouldn't override" the work of the CAP (aka: what Joe wants), they really snapped to attention!

So now that's what we've got.  It's as close to a "Joe Draft" as they could get.  Of course, they don't really know all the details, because that would require reading the thing.  But they did work hard to eliminate as many of the good ideas that arose from public comments as possible.  And they confidently dismissed most of the recommendations made by professional planning staff.

New motto:  "Tulsa! Lumbering backwards based on the fear and ignorance of a few old men!"

Remember back in the day, when decisions were made by a handful of white guys behind closed doors? 

Yeah, it's still like that.  Apparently public input and public hearings are just democracy theater.

Fortunately, the draft now goes to the City Council, a group of elected officials who may take their obligations to the citizens a little more seriously than the ancient, un-elected good-old-boys on the TMAPC.

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« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2015, 04:19:39 pm »

Well, the TMAPC has finally passed a version of the zoning code draft and sent it on to the City Council for their consideration.

Is that particular draft version available online?

I'd like to compare it to some previous drafts, if possible.
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PonderInc
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« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2015, 09:09:12 am »

Not yet, that I'm aware of.  The City Council has a work session at 9:00 AM on Thurs, 10/22 to talk about the zoning code.  I would guess that they would get a "red-lined" version of the Public Hearing Draft with the TMAPC edits, but I'm not sure.  The Public Hearing Draft is the latest version that's been published.

Public Hearing Draft:
http://zoningcode.planittulsa.org/sites/default/files/documents/TulsaZoningCodePublicHearingDraft090815.pdf

Here's the exhibit for the zoning code agenda item on 10/7/15.  This includes the staff recommendations for the code overall, as well as the clarification staff was asked to provide to the commissioners to help them understand the overlay application process.  Get it while it's hot.  This will soon disappear from the tmapc.org website.  (It will fall in the donut hole between current agenda and approved minutes.)  http://tmapc.org/Documents/Agendas/10-07-15/Zoning%20Code%20Update.pdf
« Last Edit: October 09, 2015, 09:21:49 am by PonderInc » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2015, 04:50:20 pm »

Not yet, that I'm aware of.  The City Council has a work session at 9:00 AM on Thurs, 10/22 to talk about the zoning code.  I would guess that they would get a "red-lined" version of the Public Hearing Draft with the TMAPC edits, but I'm not sure.  The Public Hearing Draft is the latest version that's been published.

Public Hearing Draft:
http://zoningcode.planittulsa.org/sites/default/files/documents/TulsaZoningCodePublicHearingDraft090815.pdf

Here's the exhibit for the zoning code agenda item on 10/7/15.  This includes the staff recommendations for the code overall, as well as the clarification staff was asked to provide to the commissioners to help them understand the overlay application process.  Get it while it's hot.  This will soon disappear from the tmapc.org website.  (It will fall in the donut hole between current agenda and approved minutes.)  http://tmapc.org/Documents/Agendas/10-07-15/Zoning%20Code%20Update.pdf
Thank you.  Both links were still active today.

I don't agree with some of the proposed red text changes.

For example:  Section 20.030 E, item 2:  An additional requirement for a pre-application meeting for owners who want to initiate overlays.  This shouldn't be required.  If an owner or a group of owners want to initiate a zoning overlay on their own property, then they should be able to do that without having a meeting, if they wish.

Section 20.030 E, items 3 and 4:  I'm opposed to the "affected" phrasing.  Who determines which individuals or parties are "affected" by a proposed zoning change?  How will that be defined and established?  The wording was better before the red text revisions, IMO. 

The proposed code allows several ways for overlay zoning to be initiated:

1.  By the owner or owners of the property in the proposed district;
2.  By people who do not own property in the proposed district (by requesting that the TMAPC or the City Council initiate the process);
3.  By the City Council.

Owners of property within the CBD should be able to initiate overlays on their property, if they wish -- I'm not sure where that issue stands in the latest draft.   
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PonderInc
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« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2015, 12:48:58 pm »

The TMAPC kept the language prohibiting overlays in downtown (CBD zoning).  There are a small handful of loud, powerful men who like to pretend that they represent all downtown interests.  They vocally opposed allowing the use of an overlay downtown.  It's funny b/c they use property rights as a reason to oppose overlays.  Yet, they deny downtown property owners the right to utilize an overlay.  Weird.

In any case, this small contingent believes that what makes downtown great is the "lack of rules" and, thus, they don't want anyone creating rules.

In my opinion, the thing that makes downtown great is that it's unique.  It's walkable.  It allows density and mixed uses.  It has the (remaining) best architecture in the state.  And it has a group of young, energetic entrepreneurs who have been revitalizing it.  Most of the people responsible for revitalizing downtown are not big property owners.  They are tenants who rent their spaces, and have changed the perception about downtown.  If downtown were left to the big property owners, it would still be a 9-5 place, with no interesting and exciting places open at night, and no new investors wanting to build large residential properties downtown.  But these "mere renters" don't get a voice, when the big boys come out to exert their will on the zoning code.

I guess the big boys fear that the city council would adopt an urban overlay for downtown.  I don't see why this is something to fear.  An "urban" overlay could just say: 1. You must build up to the sidewalk.  2. You must have activated space (eg: retail) on the ground floor. 3. The ground floor must have x % of windows/transparency.  

These are the basic rules of creating urban places where people want to hang out, walk and shop.  It's not that hard, and it would prevent a super walmart from coming in, demolishing a bunch of historic buildings and putting in another giant parking lot.  (Gosh, how quickly we forget our own history!)

These things would only serve to protect the remaining downtown character, and only make everyone's property values go up.  Because that's what's unique and that's what the burbs can't compete against.  If we do urban well, we win.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2015, 12:54:41 pm by PonderInc » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2015, 05:13:32 pm »

One thing thats frustrating is, well I am sure some of you remember me railing against the minimum parking requirements on 11th (in the Pearl District area no less) that ended up derailing our attempt to put in a practice there last year.  I never liked minimum parking requirements and have tried to have them reduced and heck I would like to see them eliminated entirely, citywide.  Works fine downtown why not elsewhere?

But at numerous meetings one could hear a loud hew and cry AGAINST reducing or getting rid of this, and other, zoning requirement.  You would hear them say "I don't want people parking on my street, its undesirable and will reduce my property values!" I personally would have no problem with it whatsoever on my street but oh well.  

But then I thought "I do not like the idea of a large blank wall across from me or close to me on my street downtown." and know others feel the same.  Then heard about the new volunteer overlay potential and thought, this could be the ticket to help with that and some other aspects downtown.  

Nope, wrong again.    

So back to that frustrating thing.  Many of the people against the overlay say its a matter of principal "More freedom and letting the marked decide are good things."  But guess what, many of the same people against the overlay downtown and who said that were also the ones who were FOR the minimum parking requirements and other auto centric zoning features elsewhere in the city.  

Hypocrisy perhaps?  I want what I want and will use whatever excuse works at the time to get it, and to heck with what you want perhaps?

I don't want nobody parking on my street that will hurt my property values!
Well...
I don't want no blank walls on my street cause that will hurt my property values!

Another thing that rankled me at yesterdays DCC meeting  http://www.newson6.com/story/30264785/downtown-tulsa-developers-have-heated-discussion-over-zoning-code

Was right at the beginning when it was made abundantly clear how incredibly valuable everyones time was that came to this special meeting.  
I couldn't help but think, "You know, we, the citizens, spent a lot of time creating a master plan for downtown."  The overlay is one tool to help the other area plans become reality, outside the IDL.  But without any zoning tools downtown.... why did we even bother doing a downtown plan.  Many of the developers in that room were for doing whatever they wanted with their property, and nobody should tell them differently.  Why couldn't they have told us right from the start that we were wasting our time creating a downtown plan, when they had no intention of ever following it and were going to do their own thing anyway?  Who was wasting whose time?


I was reading about another city a while back, forgot the name, but basically the article was saying this city, that was perhaps 10-20 years ahead of us downtown development wise, had finally gotten all the things it had aimed for downtown.  Arena, shops, restaurants/clubs, museums, hotels, lots of living, lots of multi-level parking, and even a grocery store.  Everything was supposed to be all hunky dory right?  But the heady exciting early days devolved into... "Why are there still not many people walking around downtown?"  "Why don't we have that lively urban vibe we thought we would get with the new density and all the "things" we have?"  Turns out what they discovered was that the development was randomly scattered so that there was still no real shopping district for example.  Few shops here, few shops there, but no real "Main Street" to act as a draw and to help those stores thrive.  Just a scattered mess.  Reminded me of what a friend from Europe said to me when I was showing him around downtown and Tulsa.  He said "Its like someone took all the parts and buildings of a real city, put them in a bag, shook it up, then dumped it out." It was all a random mess with no rhyme or reason.  That's what I am afraid will be our situation 10-20 years from now.  

Sure they kept repeating. "Things are going great, why change?! Why make something possibly more difficult?"  I kept thinking, sure its great and easy now, but long term?  

I would love to sit on the couch eating ice cream and pizza.  I am sure it would taste and feel great... short term. Much easier than exercising and more enjoyable than eating more healthy foods.  But long term its unhealthy.  Same with downtown now.  Easy going, feels great now.... long term, unhealthy downtown that is going to be even tougher to get back into shape later.  And very likely one that will not be in as good a shape to be competitive with higher quality cities elsewhere. 

I for one am really tired of hearing "Whats wrong with your downtown?  Where are all the people?" over and over and over.  I sure as heck don't want to be hearing it 20 years from now.
  
« Last Edit: October 15, 2015, 05:23:19 pm by TheArtist » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2015, 04:22:54 pm »

OK, so here are the TMAPC recommendations to the City Council regarding the Public Hearing Draft of the Zoning code.

Recommendations of the TMAPC:
http://www.tmapc.org/Documents/10-22%20City%20Council%20packet.pdf

Public Hearing Draft:
http://tmapc.org/Documents/TulsaZoningCodePublicHearingDraft090815.pdf

A few observations.

The Planning Commission doesn't want public participation in anything related to zoning, unless a neighborhood wants an overlay, in which case...boy...they want a LOT of public participation/notification with lots of rules!  If only they would apply these standards whenever an MPD (the new PUD on steroids) is proposed! (Alas....)

The Planning Commission doesn't believe that the Historic Preservation Commission should be allowed to initiate an HP zoning map amendment.  Gosh, I guess they're not qualified.

But the Planning Commission really likes the Sign Advisory Board!  (Bunch of sign industry people.)  They sure listen to their recommendations!

The Planning Commission specifically removed the height "transition standards" that were included for MPD (formerly PUDs) and Corridor developments that are adjacent to residential properties.  So, even though the zoning code does not specify any height limits or required setbacks from adjacent residential properties (for MPD or CO), they don't want to require any sort of transition standards.  The proposed transition standards were very minimal (allowed a 40' wall adjacent to a residential property, with an additional foot of height for each 6" of additional setback/step back).  I guess it was just too much for them!

They also neutered the maximum parking standard, changing the max from 4 spaces/1000 to 5 spaces/1000.  Since 5/1000 SF is the normal amount that most big box stores want, it really doesn't do anything.  Our maximum, then, would be "as much as any big box retailer could possibly want."  To understand the implications: If you calculate the size of a parking space (about 9' x 20' depending on layout), plus the associated drive aisles (12' wide for one-way, 20' wide for two-way) and entry ways (often 30' wide), you can expect each parking space to require about 300 SF of land.  So our maximum would be 1,500 SF of parking per 1000 SF of building, or 1 1/2 times the amount of productive land (building=jobs, taxes, services, products) will be parking.  Enjoy that tax base, Tulsans!

They also added a provision that if an electronic sign can't be "electronically adjusted" to bring dynamic display elements into compliance, it should be considered a "legal non-conforming" sign.  I'm curious about what sort of digital sign can't be adjusted to reduce the brightness or make the display static.  I guess this is a sign industry loophole to make enforcement more difficult? Maybe the commissioners no longer drive at night, but if they do, they should take a spin down Peoria south of 41st and have a look at the lovely (blinding) car wash sign.  It lights up  the houses that are over a block away.  Fun!

They failed to accept several staff recommendations that were made, including allowing overlays to prohibit uses allowed in underlying zoning.  They also rejected the idea that downtown property owners should be allowed to apply for an overlay.  Weird.

And the final touch of the TMAPC (The Official Planning Commission of Whatever Joe Westervelt Says), they specifically repealed the Form-Based Code from the current zoning code!  Nice work, minions!

Great job by an un-elected, semi-comatose and intractable recommending body of fossils. Your work here is done!

Now on to city council....

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« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2015, 05:53:20 pm »

Absolutely absurd. 
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