MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Muskogee's City Council heard from an attorney representing Arrowhead Mall on Monday night who contended that an urban renewal plan last amended in 1984 has expired.
Mary P. Huckabee spoke on behalf of the mall's owners at the City Council meeting in hopes of securing a resolution on the plan's ambiguous language. The language in question states, "[the plan] shall continue until 2010 and so long as thereafter as said use is necessary as determined by the council."
"There was no action, and so the plan is simply dead," Huckabee said. "We are asking the city council to pass a resolution affirming the plan is terminated."
The city council subsequently took no action on the proposed resolution. While litigation may be pending, no such litigation has been filed, said City Attorney Roy Tucker, and so the council hopes to continue conversations with mall ownership.
"We will continue to have discussions to attempt to seek a resolution to the issues," Tucker said.
Monday night's presentation represents the latest step in a conflict between the Urban Renewal Authority and the mall's owners. That conflict began Nov. 20 when the Authority denied a request to amend the existing plan to convert the now-empty Dillard's retail space into office space.
That request came from a Kansas City-based company competing for an opportunity to accommodate the proposed relocation of the VA Regional Office.
Huckabee told councilors that the urban renewal plan has played a part in difficulties marketing the space to new tenants — and has been unevenly enforced, she said.
"There was an Army Recruitment Office that was allowed to locate to the mall. The U.S. Post Office moved into that property in 2017," Huckabee said. "The plan hasn't been applied consistently."
Huckabee said that while the VA Regional Office was not central to her argument, it would be a good match for the Dillard's space.
"My client has been marketing this property and trying to find a good tenant," Huckabee said. "The VA is a perfect match. There's room to grow a beautiful new space."
Tucker described ongoing conversations with mall ownership as "cordial and candid" but said a judge may have to decide whether the plan has expired.
"We want the mall to succeed. We certainly don't want to hinder the mall," Tucker said. "We don't want it to become a vacant building and fall into disrepair — that's not in anyone's interest."