The City Planning Commission wants the City Council to step into a discussion about changing residential zoning on a tract of land east of Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport.
Commissioners debated the issue Thursday, before deciding it should be up to the council to decide whether those members want to direct an administrative rezoning that would either give commercial zoning to the 23.965-acre tract or return it to the industrial zoning it held until late 2011.
Lawton Metropolitan Area Airport Authority, the governing board for Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport, has submitted a request to the CPC asking it to recommend C-3 Planned Community Shopping Center District zoning be applied to land at the corner of Bishop Road and South 11th Street, replacing an R-3 Multiple-Family Dwelling District zoning applied to the tract in December after the council responded to a rezoning request.
The site had held I-3 Light Industrial District, a zoning considered consistent with airport activities, said Airport Manager Barbara McNally. In December, council members weighed the recommendation of the airport authority and documented opposition from the Federal Aviation Administration before agreeing to change the zoning so a developer could continue with plans to build a three-story apartment complex.
The airport authority recommendation then and now wasn't unanimous: Ward 7 Councilman Stanley Haywood, an airport authority member and a long-time resident of the nearby Ranch Oaks Addition, said most people in south Lawton support the idea of additional housing units, because that, in turn, would make the south Lawton neighborhoods more attractive to new business. Haywood made that same point earlier this month, when the airport authority decided to seek an administrative rezoning of the site to restore it to a zoning suitable for property adjacent to airports.
While McNally argued the airport and the City of Lawton were obligated to ensure zoning surrounding the airport was consistent with airport operations (a requirement of the grant agreements the airport and city sign each time the facility receives federal funding), Haywood said there have long been residential areas around the airport (some predating the airport). Residents in those additions understand the limitations of living near an airport, so residents don't view housing as a conflict with the airport's primary mission.