Making the permitting process easier
Navigating city hall when it comes to permitting and code can be intimidating to even the most seasoned developer or entrepreneurs in Oklahoma City. Enter Jane Ward, a 25-year-plus veteran of City Hall, as Oklahoma City’s development center liaison. In a position that was created late in 2018, Ward is here to help advocate for developers, businesses and individuals as they go through the permitting process with the city. From construction of the new Omni Hotel to an individual wanting to install a storm shelter, Ward is there to help them through the process. She is just one more example of why Oklahoma City was named “Best-Run Large City in America” for the second year in a row.
VeloCity: What is your role as development center liaison?
Jane Ward: I look at it as a person who helps citizens, developers, stakeholders and contractors through the processes of the city. Having someone here who specifically is set out for that purpose, You don't know how many calls I get every day, "I'm so glad that you're there because I didn't know where to start." If people don't know where to start, I can help get them started and then they can come back to me again if they need some more guidance through the process. I try to be very accessible, so that if they want to call me on my cellphone or email me I can get back to them as quickly as possible. Sometimes people in other roles can't devote that much attention to a citizen, contractor, or a developer. But that's what I'm here for.
VeloCity: What was your role at the city before taking on this responsibility?
Jane Ward: I worked at the city for over 26 years. I retired two years ago and then when they got this position, I said, "I want that position." I had worked in plan review as a plans examiner. I have been a project manager on infrastructure projects. I was the inspection services superintendent over all of our construction inspectors for the city of Oklahoma City. I've got an extensive construction background. Even in my life before the city, I was in construction. In the military I was a reservist and I was in construction in the Navy.
VeloCity: It sounds like your background was tailor made for this job.
Jane Ward: Yeah and that's why I thought I would be a good fit. Plus I know all the people at the city. But knowing people at the city is what really helped because I know who to call, and they know me too.
VeloCity: So you are available throughout the whole permitting process?
Jane Ward: Yes, I've been able to help people from filling out the application for a building permit, to getting the very last inspection on their job, and helping them get their certificate of occupancy issue. I can stick with them through the whole time, or if they just need to get started, or they're trying to get it finished, and everything in between.
VeloCity: Would you consider yourself at advocate for the citizens and business through this process or is that too strong of a word?
Jane Ward: If I didn't know what I knew, and I came to the city to try to get a permit, it can be very complicated. But I don't think advocate is too strong of a word.
VeloCity: Do you have a focus or are you available to projects of any size?
Jane Ward: I work with citizens that are doing things in their house like a storm shelter permit or a fence permit. And then, I get involved with pre-development meeting. I'm working with the Omni Hotel project managers. We've had several meetings with them. We've been able to assist them.
VeloCity: Even small businesses?
Jane Ward: Yeah. Sometimes you can't put certain things in certain areas because of zoning restrictions. So, I help them work with zoning. Even before, when they're looking for some property.
VeloCity: How did this position come about?
Jane Ward: David Adcock (Development Center Manager) was the instrumental person in putting this together and saying, "Here's what it can do to help the customers." It's customer orientated. He saw that there was disconnect sometimes. Plans examiners do a great job plans examining, zoning people do a great job checking zoning and permitting people do that. All these different people are experts at what they do. I see that everyday working with them. But they needed somebody to bring all of this together. I just tell people, "I'm a helper to help you through the process here at the city, of development and/or licensing. Anything that needs to be done for the stakeholders who have an interest in developing and building."
If you could use help with permitting at Oklahoma City Jane Ward can be reached at (405) 297-2313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.