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Proposed ordinances making opening new businesses easier

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Lawton City Council is voting on two ordinances that could potentially help small businesses open up shop in Lawton.

One ordinance would attempt to provide flexibility in codes required for a business to move into a new or existing building. The other would simplify the rules on where fire hydrants are located on new or existing buildings.

"We want to level the playing field,” said Lawton City Council member Dwight Tanner.

Tanner says he does not like driving through his ward and seeing empty store fronts.

"I want an atmosphere in the city of Lawton that is user friendly. People want to come to Lawton. They want to do business with Lawton. They want to come visit Lawton, buy things in Lawton. This is just one small step toward making that happen,” Tanner said.

Tanner helped push forward the ordinance. He says will make it easier for small businesses to open their doors.

Tanner's gave an example on how the current regulations could force new businesses to spend thousands of dollars before they move into a building.

"Now it's been labeled a change of use. So your H-VAC, your A/C equipment is still working fine but it's under the old codes so now we're going to force you to bring that up to date when it doesn't necessarily have to. So that's what this new ordinance is trying to prevent from happening,” Tanner said.

In the proposed ordinance, a chart would help determine if a business moving into another building is "more hazardous" than the previous owners. For example, if a space used for retail will now be used as a restaurant, the city will require the business to upgrade for health and safety reasons.

Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce chairman Mark Brace says the issues small businesses have in opening up is very real to them, and discussed frequently.

"I think the City Council taking the foresight to go out and say let's do something about it. Let's change it within the bounds of what's proper and right and safe. So these changes here are really good for our community,” Brace said.

The other ordinance proposed started when City Council member Keith Jackson visited a small business that was in danger of getting shut down because they couldn't afford to install an additional and required fire hydrant in front of their shop.

"I went over and stood on the front door of that particular business and I could see a fire hydrant 200 foot of the front door, and I couldn't understand what the problem was. There was a fire hydrant, I could see it! I could almost touch it in a way,” Jackson said.

The city worked with the Lawton Fire Marshal's office to put in the proposed city code that fire hydrants could be 400 feet away from a business. It would remove the requirement that any newly moved business needed an additional hydrant, unless a safety risk is proven by the fire marshal.

Jackson says these ordinances are one way to help Lawton grow.

"We have lots of buildings, lots of vacant building, lots of rental buildings around Lawton. And all of them want to rent their spaces out and sometimes when these issues like this come up then all of a sudden you can't rent this particular spot because you're going to have to add a $75,000 project just to get your front door open. It's just not fair,” Jackson said.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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