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Freedom beyond the city limits? – Purcell Register

Freedom beyond the city limits? – Purcell Register

Katrina Crumbacher

Faced with a genuine request, Purcell City Council members reconsidered whether to release the land during their regular council meeting on July 1. However, Wayne resident Kristen Harper expressed concerns about the upcoming Freedom Crossing development and the impact releasing the land would have on her and her property.

Under Mayor David Lee, the council voted in 2010 to annex hundreds of acres of land, 3,200 square feet of which is owned by Harper.

“My perspective is that of a citizen whose property and way of life are directly affected by the decisions made by this council,” Harper said. “I don’t get to vote for the Purcell City Council, but you do get to vote on issues that affect me and my property.”

Harper lives east of Highway 77 and the southern tip of the family’s property are within 50 feet of land owned by the Continental Gateway Authority. That land is also within city limits and is at risk of being deannexed. However, at the June 3 council meeting, Councilman Allen Eubanks indicated he wants to preserve it for possible future development.

“We are rural people,” Harper said. “Our family has lived in the countryside along these roads for decades. We don’t want our peaceful rural life to be disrupted any further by big money.”

However, she does not only want to avoid the commercialization of land near her property.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” she said in an interview. “We don’t want Purcell messing with us.”

City Council approval is currently the last major hurdle to the planned progress of the Freedom Crossing development.

At the July 1 meeting, the council voted to postpone any discussion or possible action regarding the topic of deannexation until the August 5 meeting.

In June, the council approved rezoning a portion of the development so that construction of a truck stop could begin. Once the remaining portions of the development are rezoned, either by the city or the county, the development will include multiple retail stores, hotels, apartments, senior housing, veteran housing, about 150 townhomes, nearly 50 duplexes and about 700 single-family homes, according to the master development plan.

With the city out of the way, the Continental Gateway Authority, made up of McClain County Commissioners Glen Murray, Wilson Lyles and Terry Daniel, can move forward with the project.

“I just feel like it’s a lose-lose situation for everybody with property here,” Harper said. “There’s no control, even though the county commissioners are supposed to represent us. They sold us out and they don’t care.”

Established in 1997, Continental Gateway Authority is a public fund designed to “assist governmental entities and private enterprises in the development of McClain County, Oklahoma, by participating to the fullest extent possible in promoting and encouraging general economic and social development within McClain County,” according to an independent auditor’s report on the fund’s 2020 financial position.

Lyles said in an interview that it would take at least 20 to 30 years to complete the entire development, but he also said the Board of Commissioners will always carefully consider the concerns of local residents.

“The decisions I make today will impact McClain County and its citizens five, 10, 30, 40, 50 years from now,” Lyles said. “I think all three commissioners feel that way, so we’re being very careful in our decision-making because we know people enjoy their rural lifestyle and we want to preserve that as much as possible, but still give our young people a reason to stay home.”

According to Census Bureau estimates, Purcell does not appear to have a problem with urban migration at the moment. From 2010 to 2020, Purcell saw an influx of 18- to 24-year-olds, roughly 200 by the Census Bureau’s estimates.

In fact, the number of people moving to rural areas appears to be increasing recently, a far cry from the decline in the rural population over the past decade, according to a 2024 U.S. Department of Agriculture study.

According to Lyles, the future of the Freedom Crossing development depends largely on the water supply.

“Can Wayne meet those needs, or is Purcell willing to bring water to that property in the future,” Lyles said.

As for the truck stop, McClain County Rural Water District No. 8 will provide the water supply. However, it is still unclear which municipality or water district will provide water for the remainder of the project.

In June, the Purcell City Council unanimously voted that Purcell’s water system is currently unsuitable for the development of Freedom Crossing.

In addition to water, the city of Wayne will also have to consider the impact on the public school system. The Freedom Crossing development falls within the Wayne Public School District. The schools there would need to be able to accommodate any influx of school-age children into the area.

“Right now, we’re thriving as a district,” said Toby Ringwald, superintendent of Wayne Public Schools. “We understand that this is still in its early stages. But once this plan becomes a reality, we can implement a growth plan as needed.”

If the council decides to detach all of the land annexed in 2010, the City of Purcell will lose all of the sales tax revenue that the development of Freedom Crossing could generate. Additionally, businesses within the city limits would be in direct competition with businesses in Freedom Crossing.

Businesses in unincorporated areas of McClain County are only required to collect a combined sales tax rate of 5% — 0.5% for McClain County and 4.5% goes to the State of Oklahoma. The combined sales tax rate within the city limits of Purcell is currently 10%.

However, preserving the land also brings with it public safety issues, such as police patrols and fire management.

In June, Police Chief Bobby Elmore told the council that police are not currently patrolling outside the city perimeter and that neither the city police nor the fire department are fully staffed. Purcell Fire Station No. 2 on Highway 74 remains vacant.

Whatever the council decides, the fate of the development lies in their hands.