Residents who don’t get the answer they want from the Downtown Lawton Architectural Review Committee will see their appeal process changed under a recommendation made by the City Planning Commission.

Commissioners agreed recently to specify that appeals to decisions made by the architectural review committee (DLARC) would come to the planning commission, rather than the Board of Adjustment. The DLARC is a board set in place to govern building codes applied to the downtown overlay district, Lawton’s historic downtown area where city building codes strictly govern what may be done to buildings to ensure a uniformity to buildings while preserving the historic nature of the area. Such applicants must obtain a certificate of architectural conformance before proceeding with plans for a building in that area.

Now, when DLARC rejects a request from a builder or someone working on a building, the applicant can appeal that decision to the Board of Adjustment, a body designated to analyze and decide on variances from city building codes. DLARC members objected strongly last month when the Board of Adjustment reversed a decision they had made about a mural that the Friends of the Lawton Public Library have commissioned to be painted on the brick storage building on the east side of the library’s parking lot. DLARC members and city planners had said that mural actually is a sign because it will contain the word “library,” and signs are not allowed to be painted on the sides of buildings under downtown overlay regulations.

City Planning Commission member Deborah Jones, a retired city planner who also worked with the entity that controlled Lawton’s downtown urban renewal efforts, said she also opposes the mural because Lawton Public Library was built with a distinctive look to anchor the downtown revitalization effort in the 1970s, and painting the mural (a temporary art work) on the distinctive red brick could damage it.

Commissioners said appeals from a DLARC decision are better suited for the nine-member CPC, because its members represent every ward in the city and because it already has a recommending process that goes before the City Council. CPC members also agreed with DLARC concerns that the Board of Adjustment had reversed downtown overlay district decisions at least three times in recent months, saying the planning commission would be the more appropriate body to hear such appeals.

Deputy City Manager Richard Rogalski said the change means that the Board of Adjustment would be removed from the appeal process. Decisions rendered by the Planning Commission would go to the City Council. Now, decisions by the Board of Adjustment can only be challenged in district court.

Under the revised directive, appeals from a decision made by DLARC have to be made to the CPC within 10 days of the DLARC decision. The CPC must hear the appeal within 30 days, with appeals to the council to be made after that time.

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