County zoning board approves Osage Nation requests

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Two Pawhuska-area re-zoning requests from the Osage Nation — one for tribal housing facilities and the other for a business — received approval from Osage County Commission on Monday.

A week earlier, on Dec. 8, both ON proposals had been granted requested zoning modifications by the Pawhuska-Osage County Board of Zoning Adjustment.

The residential project will provide new treatment centers for the tribe’s substance abuse and domestic violence recovery programs, while the business proposal allows for an oilfield services business to re-locate on property which had previously been used for a similar purpose.

Light industrial zoning was granted on a 5.37-acre tract a few miles south of Pawhuska on State Highway 99 where an oil tank services operation is to be installed. The property, which includes a metal building, had previously been zoned as agricultural.

Osage Nation Energy Services spokeswoman Jill Jones said the prior owners had operated a roustabout service at the site under a grandfather-clause exception. Todd Willis of Replay Energy told the board he is currently in the process of relocating his Copan-based tank bottom reclamation business to the property.

The board inquired about the possibility that the re-zoning could allow for activities “more objectionable” than what was being proposed. Member Mike Tolson said he would not be in favor of the request if the site was going to be used for “something intrusive,” such as sandblasting.

Tribal officials said monitoring at the site by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Quality would prevent it from being used for most of the services deemed objectionable by the board.

Multi-family zoning was designated for a 10-acre tract located just outside the city limits on the south side of Lynn Avenue (former State Highway 99). The tribe intends to use federal Indian housing block-grant funding to construct separate facilities for the ON Counseling Center’s drug/alcohol rehabilitation and domestic violence programs, said Osage Nation representative Bruce Cass.

Cass said the two new single-story dwellings to be built would be replacing aging residential structures that are to be eliminated as part of the master-plan improvement project currently under way on the tribe’s downtown campus.

When asked if current residents of the area should have any safety concerns due to problems associated with those staying at the centers, Cass said that, while some of the people would be assigned there through the court system, all of them will have undergone thorough background checks. Plus, “they have 24-hour monitoring,” Cass said.

“They are already in the community now,” said Cass.

Due to the high elevation of the property — which will be accessed off Santa Fe Avenue — “the neighbors probably are not even going to see them,” Cass said.

Both of the proposals were approved, 6-0, by the zoning board and through a 3-0 vote of the county commission.