Mrs. Lou Watkins
OSU/A&M Board of Regents
2800 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Dear Mrs. Watkins;
The concept for the OSU Master Plan suggests a showplace of academic and athletic excellence. It depicts a campus that is absolutely idyllic in amenities and aesthetics. It would be a tremendous achievement to accomplish such a project.
This is a plan that could have been welcomed with enthusiasm had it been handled properly. Since it was not, the likelihood of public and governmental support has been seriously eroded.
The most obvious problems include the timing of steps now taken, lack of detailed planning prior to action, methods employed in those actions and lack of consideration of the consequences of both the announcements and pursuit of acquisitions.
Upon release of initial development plans literally thousands of lives were impacted. Those in the immediate and near term acquisition area received certified letters the same day as press releases were published. Some received their letters before reading of the action in the newspapers and many read it in the newspaper only hours before receiving theirs. The letters contained thinly veiled threats of use of â€œeminent domainâ€ in the acquisition of their property. The term alone has become a â€œhotâ€ button nationally due to recent Supreme Court decisions and becomes a point of contention just on its utterance.
Impacted individuals include: home owners who have their entire lives wrapped up in their only real asset, their homes; small investors who have created retirement or supplemental income through rental property; renters (mostly students) who find the rentals more affordable than campus housing and other business owners.
Governmental entities impacted include: the City of Stillwater, which will have to redraw plans for streets and infrastructure, redo emergency planning and will lose bonding capacity; the school district, which will lose substantial tax base that has also been grossly understated by the University, much of which will not be replaced; Payne County from reduction of tax base.
The lack of a definitive implementation schedule has created a shroud over the entire planning area. Property and business owners in the entire area are now in a situation that their properties are not salable, no investment can be planned or made for the properties and erosion of investment occurred immediately upon announcement of the Universityâ€™s intent. Areas outside of the Master Plan have received a windfall increase in value also due to the announcements.
Since the initial announcement has been made, the die is cast. No retraction will recover any of the confidence in the areas outlined. Intentions have been announced.
The implementation has been an unmitigated disaster. The combination of threats of use of eminent domain, suggestions in public forums that the first ones to get in line will get the best deals, refusals to answer the difficult questions, denials of facts (reference: the use of eminent domain in the certified letters), the attempts to segment property owners by requiring non-disclosure agreements and asking them to not tell of conversations with University officials, under-reporting various impacts, constant shifting of the plans and schedules, etc., have created an unrecoverable loss of credibility for the University administration.
The communications have been absolutely sophomoric in its lack of preparedness, assumptions of complicity and arrogance.
Realizing that the University must grow, changes must occur. This one has been handled so poorly that it raises questions of competency. It has certainly not been a professional endeavor.
All of these issues will ultimately fall squarely on the taxpayer both immediately, as acquisitions occurs and public funds are expended for accommodations and in the long term with the maintenance of the new facilities and areas.
I would like to urge the Board of Regents to consider whether they have confidence in this administration, whether viable alternatives for University expansion have been equitably considered and whether they condone the heavy-handedness that is being employed by the administration, not only with the Master Plan, but with attempts to take over the Tech Park and other projects currently being pursued.
M. A. Crank