Briar Whish plays in Lee West Park

Briar Whish, 5, plays in the sun Friday while enjoying the playground at Lee West Park. The park, defined as a community park, is among those cited for upgrades and expanded activities in the City of Lawton’s new parks master plan.

A proposal to designate additional funding for Lawton Farmers Market and a review of a plan to guide development of city parks will top the agenda when the City Council meets today.

The session will begin at 2 p.m. in the auditorium of Lawton City Hall, Southwest 9th and C. The meeting is being held earlier than normal because of adjusted schedules caused by the Christmas holiday.

The proposal from Lawton Farmers Market Institute would designate an additional $90,000 toward the entity creating an indoor/outdoor farmers market in downtown Lawton, between the Lawton YMCA and the old city police station. Under the terms of the existing agreement, the institute will deed the $2.5 million project to the City of Lawton once it is completed in early 2022, then lease the site from the city for $10 a year.

The facility is built on what used to be part of the parking lot serving the old Wayne Gilley City Hall, the City Hall Annex and the police station. Some parking was removed as part of the project, and the architect has recommended the contractor do more than simply restore parking by pouring new concrete against the broken concrete drive and entrance from Southwest 4th Street.

The better repair job is estimated at $90,000 more than city funding already allocated toward the project, but also would create an 11,064-square-foot parking lot with eight additional spaces, for 26 total slots along the Ned Shepler Park curbline between Southwest 4th and Southwest 5th streets. Council members already designated $200,000 toward the farmers market project in 2020 and voted in October to add $16,755 from the streets division’s budget to complete parking. The funding source for the $90,000 is not yet set, according to today’s agenda commentary.

In other business, the council will receive a presentation from Halff Associates, which has spent the last year analyzing Lawton’s parks, recreation and sports facilities, programs, trails and associated maintenance to create a parks, sports & recreation, trails and open spaces master plan.

Today’s presentation, similar to one provided to the Parks and Recreation Commission last week, will give the highlights of the 260-page, nine chapter plan, giving council members the opportunity to ask questions in a public forum. Once the comments received have been incorporated, the final plan will be brought back to the council for approval.

Nate Clair, Halff Associates project manager, said last week officials have tentative plans to take the document to the council for final action next week, at what will be the body’s last regular meeting for 2021.

City staff members have said the document is important because it analyzes existing facilities, spaces and programs, and makes recommendations on priority projects. City administrators point to the 2019 Capital Improvements Program, which includes $20 million for parks and recreation, including up to $8 million for an indoor youth sports complex (a project being spearheaded by businessmen in the community). CIP funds are to be paired with privately-raised funds to create a new indoor sports complex in Elmer Thomas Park that will provide opportunities for local youth and regional tournaments.

The parks master plan also makes specific recommendations for improvements to 10 existing parks, expansion of the existing system of bike and pedestrian trails (with an update to that master plan), an intense focus on maintenance and oversight for those recreational amenities, and divesting of some Lawton’s park/spaces to allow better maintenance remaining sites.

In a rezoning request, council members will be asked to approve a change that would grant I-1 Restricted Manufacturing and Warehouse District zoning to a 6.2-acre empty field at 1120 SW 38th Street. Rezoning the tract, located immediately north of the Neighborhood Market at Southwest 38th Street and West Lee Boulevard, would allow the owner to develop an indoor gun range on the site.

The proposal comes with an unanimous recommendation from the City Planning Commission, which also asked that the building’s exterior meet architectural standards required in a C-5 General Commercial District so it would look like a “regular commercial building.”

Developers said the building will meet national safety and soundproofing standards. Co-owner Joshua Powers said the facility will contain Ares State Armory retail business, along with the indoor range, storage and a snack area.

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