City of Lawton staff members said they will meet with property owners in an area of southwest Lawton being considered for de-annexation.
The area is a 480-acre tract located west of Southwest 67th Street and south of Bishop Road, annexed into the Lawton city limits in 1982 but still sparsely populated. The area came to the council’s attention in April when city administrators outlined proposals for providing the area with new and larger waterlines, designated to allow the area to meet fire flow requirements (meaning, sufficient water pressure to fight fires). The existing lines, which are privately maintained, are insufficient to meet fire flow, the reason city staff rejected a request for a city water meter from a property owner who wants to build a house in the area.
Council members decided in April that the cost of resolving the problem — installing new mains at a cost of $3.5 million — was too steep and instead directed city staff to look into the process of de-annexing the area, meaning removing it from the city limits. Once that is done, building codes specific to the City of Lawton no longer would apply.
While some property owners like that solution, others have contacted city officials saying they want to remain in the city limits, City Manager Michael Cleghorn said.
Cleghorn said city staff was looking for direction from the City Council about how to proceed, with one major question being: should all properties be de-annexed or just those who want to leave the city limits.
“That’s problematic, at best,” Cleghorn said, of the patchwork of properties that would be created by de-annexing some tracts and leaving others within the city limits.
Cleghorn also confirmed Mayor Stan Booker’s concern that the city still would have to install a waterline to provide adequate water pressure for those remaining within the city limits. Cleghorn said he believes the city’s decision must be “all or nothing,” in terms of keeping all properties or removing the entire 480-acre tract.
“How can we afford that?” asked Ward 4 Councilman Jay Burk, about installing the $3.5 million waterline.
Burk said the woman who was rejected for a city water meter clearly wants to leave the city limits, as do other property owners. But, Cleghorn said city staff has received calls from “citizens who don’t want to be de-annexed,” leaving city officials to make a decision.
Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren said splitting the area “skirts around” what the council ultimately wants done: development of a subdivision with suitable infrastructure that could petition to be taken into the city limits. He said other subdivision developers had to follow the rules; those here should as well.
The council ultimately directed city staff to proceed with the de-annexation process, setting a meeting with property owners to explain the process. Warren asked city staff to also provide information on improvement districts, a legal process where property owners can vote to tax themselves to pay for infrastructure upgrades.
The council would have to vote to de-annex before it would go into effect.
“We’ll get that moving most promptly,” Cleghorn said.