New Fence

Students play behind new fencing at Ridgecrest Elementary School in northwest Lawton. While the fencing is part of the school’s beautification project, schools across the district also will be getting new security fencing, a project that will be easier as City of Lawton officials work to amend city code to allow tall fencing in easement areas.

The City Planning Commission is recommending a change in Lawton fencing requirements that would allow Lawton Public Schools to erect security screening around its school sites.

Earlier this month, commissioners agreed with a proposal that would change requirements now set for fencing that is erected within the front yard setback, or footage on the front of a lot adjacent to streets that is considered easement — meaning, there are limits on what you can do there. Now, fencing in that front setback may not be more than 4 feet tall, to ensure sight distance is maintained.

But, a proposal accepted by the planning commission eases that requirement in P-F Public Facilities Districts, which is the zoning that accommodates governmental, and public recreational, utility, educational and institutional, and public or private correctional. It also would apply in industrial zones.

Deputy City Manager Richard Rogalski said Lawton Public Schools has plans to install security fencing around its school campuses, to increase security at those sites.

“They want to funnel people to the front door,” he said, of efforts to protect students by limiting access points for people who do not have a need to be at or in a school.

The proposal would allow non-opaque (meaning, see-through) fencing within the front yard setback to be taller than 4 feet on properties owned by Lawton Public Schools, Rogalski said. The amended zoning code for P-F would require that fencing to be a decorative open wrought iron fence, aluminum fence or similar material, and be “100 percent non-opaque.” The code would allow brick columns or similar posts on that fence, but they could not be placed within a sight triangle, or the area needed to ensure vision for drivers is clear.

Rogalski said the emphasis will be on non-opaque fencing.

“We don’t want a block wall along a road,” he said, adding that chain link fencing actually works well because such fencing is “almost invisible; you see right past them.”

Rogalski said LPS and city officials have met with the fire marshal’s office to ensure security measures still are met with that taller security fencing; for example, allowing access by public safety vehicles and requiring push bars on the inside of a fence gate to allow quicker evacuation of the school in case of an emergency. The idea is containing school populations to school officials and students during school hours.

“We want the ability to stop people from coming onto school grounds,” Rogalski said.

The specific ordinance offers the variance from the 4-foot rule to P-F districts, industrial districts and sites owned by Lawton Public Schools, as long as fencing is not taller than 6 feet; is 100 percent non-opaque on all portions of the fence taller than 4 feet; and posts/pillars built into that fence don’t exceed 18 square inches and 6 feet in height, with a minimum distance of 6 feet in between. While specifying a decorative fencing of open wrought iron, aluminum or similar material, the ordinance allows a vinyl-coated chain-link fence if it is approved by the planning director.

The revised ordinance will be forwarded to the City Council for a final decision.

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