Commissioners took the action despite a recommendation from planning staffers, who said the total amount of commercial development roughly triples the amount called for in that area by Horizon 2020, the city-county long-range planning guide.
"Big box" is a developer's term to describe a development anchored by a large, stand-alone store, such as SuperTarget on South Iowa Street.
Staffers recommended rezoning no more than 15 acres of the property for the development.
Planning commissioners had agreed in March that the proposal was far bigger than called for in Horizon 2020 and sent the developers back to the drawing board.
Developers returned Wednesday with a modified proposal -- 26.4 acres of commercial zoning, down from 32. The switch prompted complaints that little had changed.
"It's still the same thing," Commissioner Andrew Ramirez said. "My eyes don't deceive me and my eyes see what they saw last month."
During the meeting, developers agreed to cut it further, to 25.9 acres.
"I think we need to look in bigger terms, beyond what we're used to," Commissioner Roger Schenewerk said.
A motion to recommend against the rezoning failed. Commissioners then voted, 6-4, to recommend the rezoning from agricultural to planned commercial development.
Schenewerk voted for the motion, along with commissioners Paul Werner, Jacob Plants, Ron Durflinger, Tom Jennings and Gregory Leon Frost. Ramirez voted against, along with Jane Bateman, Frank Male and Sue Pine.
The recommendation will go to the Lawrence City Commission next month.
-- Staff writer Joel Mathis can be reached at 832-7126.