Exploratory discussions at the local level have begun in an effort to find an alternative location for a new Department of Human Services office building. The building is slated to be built on Travertine Circle across from the Hickory Ridge Addition.
Hickory Ridge residents have voiced strong opposition to the placement of the DHS building, because many had been led to believe houses would be placed on a section of land that was zoned light industrial.
"I have heard from a lot of residents, and we want to do what is best," said Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore). "We want to do what is best for everyone if we can get this worked out."
Ownbey serves as chairman of the House Human Services Committee, and will meet with the department Monday. He said he has begun discussions with contractor Joel Wisian and the Ardmore Development Authority to look at possible alternatives.
"After all this happened, I contacted the builder to see if he was interested, and I contacted the ADA," Ownbey said. "The goal is for it to be a win-win idea for everybody. The ADA is open to exploration, and so is the builder. I believe we are on the right path and every party is open to the idea of exploring different possibilities. We are on the right path, and it appears DHS is going in that direction."
Ownbey said there are no assurances an alternative site can be worked out, but said it is under exploration.
Residents who were under the impression housing, rather than offices, would be built on the site had their ire further stoked when an ADA brochure was circulated with a schematic that showed housing or townhouses would be built at the site. The brochure was for the Ardmore Technology Incubator, and was made under former ADA leadership.
"Early this week, I realized we had marketing material two to three years old that was active in print and on our website that showed the 'multi-housing' designation for the area that DHS selected," said ADA interim president and CEO Brian Carter said. "I have no idea why that is the case. I immediately briefed our board of this reality."
Earlier this year, the ADA board of trustees opted not to renew an option on a piece of land for the project.
"The ADA originally declined to grant a sales option for the DHS project because of our core mission to attract industry," Carter said. "Nothing against the DHS or any other government entity, but we have a relatively small amount of land, and simply wanted to focus it on our core mission."
Carter said Ownbey has approached him, and the ADA is interested in taking part in a discussion to find relief for the Hickory Ridge residents' concerns.
"Representative Ownbey had called me to ask if the ADA would be willing to explore an alternative," Carter said. "I stated that we would be willing to look at DHS' request."