By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman city leaders have been working with stakeholders and the Norman Chamber of Commerce on several initiatives to improve the business climate in the city.
On Monday, City Manager Steve Lewis and Development Coordinator Terry Floyd presented an update on those initiatives to the Chamber board at its monthly luncheon.
In the last three years, the city has formed a Business and Community Affairs subcommittee of the city council, funded and hired a development coordinator (Floyd), funded and put out a search for a retail marketing coordinator, formed an economic development authority and appointed an economic development advisory board.
Lewis said the Business and Community Affairs Committee was formed to look at business and community concerns.
“I think this is our first effort to look at business from this position,” he said.
Floyd and Lewis said input from the Chamber and other local organizations in the development community were vital to developing the improved business climate in the city and for targeting these particular initiatives.
Lewis and Floyd said the city has received positive feedback on the initiatives it has implemented so far. Efforts to find a retail marketing coordinator will continue.
“It was an open recruitment,” Lewis said. “We completed some interviews for the position, but at this stage, we’re continuing that recruitment.”
The city also has worked on streamlining development by extending the legitimacy of preliminary plats to five years and adding an administrative approval process that would simplify development in appropriate cases.
Final plats will now be reviewed and approved solely by the city council, rather than going through the lengthy process of returning to the planning commission.
In addition, pre-development meetings and planning commission consideration can be submitted in the same application window. All of these measures allow for a tightened time frame without skimping on city code and other important quality assurances.
Norman has worked to enhance its customer satisfaction in the building and permitting process. Following the issuance of a final certificate of occupancy, the city is surveying trade contractors and builders to track the city’s customer service and to gain input on the plan review and inspection processes.
Floyd said he also will reach out to smaller businesses that are applying for building permits to help those who may be unfamiliar with the city’s processes.
Technological upgrades also make the inspection process easier. Now, city inspectors have laptops and can record inspections, access code books and schedule inspections in the field. Those easily accessible, digital records will allow inspectors to optimize the process for applicants. Applicants also can sign up for inspections and pay fees online.
Brown bag lunches with subcontractors and the trades have allowed for discussion of code changes and increased communication for better understanding between the city and those who must meet ever-changing building codes. Those luncheon meetings will continue once every quarter, Floyd said.
In the future, the city will survey residents about retail and restaurant needs and wishes.
Interpretations of building and fire code compliance and a development handbook to be used as resource will assist in future communication with builders and developers.
With so many road projects coming Norman’s way, the city will work on an email communication system to notify developers and businesses who could be affected by construction projects.
Additionally, a formalized checklist for development plans is being created to ensure accuracy and consistency, Floyd said. These checklists will be available online so consulting firms, such as design professionals, can use them while preparing platting documents for city approval.
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