Report Card Shows Average Results

While a report examining permitting for office and industrial projects in the area found expected permitting times ranged from one to 11 weeks, and total permitting fees for an office development ran as low as $4,691 to as high as $33,307, industry observers overall thought the report showed the process and the price was reasonable throughout the area.
The Tulsa Metroplex Municipal Development Score Card for Fall 2008 was compiled by The Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business in conjunction with the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors.
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The ERPI team compiled report “to provide a helpful starting point for developers in choosing a location for their office or industrial building site within this area.”
Eight municipalities were included in the study: Bixby, Broken Arrow, Glenpool, Jenks, Owasso, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, and Tulsa.
Bob Pielsticker, SIOR, vice president of CB Richard Ellis/Oklahoma, said the scorecard was modeled after an SIOR project started in Salt Lake City which was extended to about 10 major cities across the nation.
“We wanted to bring it to Oklahoma, so we commissioned OCU to write a report on the eight largest municipalities around Oklahoma City and the same here in Tulsa,” he said.
The project was designed to encourage municipalities to bring fees and the timing to get a permit on an office building and a industrial building on “a level playing field,” he said.
Pielsticker said he was “actually encouraged by what we saw” in the Tulsa report, which was presented to about 80 representatives of the cities, the real estate community, brokers and developers last month at the Central Auditorium of Centennial Park.
“We know everybody has work to do to get better. That is really one of the long term goals of this report,” he said, explaining that the original study in Salt Lake City became an annual report and that the cities that fared the worst on the first report were the most eager to make improvements and be regraded.
Marco Placencia, of Equitas Realty Advisors, said a developer may consider permitting factors in making a decision on where to develop property.
“If it is a large difference in time or difficulty, then it will sway them, to select one property over another,” he said. “The study showed that in the area overall a developer should not experience difficulty in time or expense. There wasn’t anybody who was outrageous in time or expense.”
He said that a factor that can effect a development decision even more are requirements outside of the permitting time and costs, in particular stormwater detention.
“On occasion, the stormwater detention requirements can outweigh all the other costs of platting and permitting,” he said.
ERPI pointed out stormwater detention and management of flood plains are a major issue in most of the cities, and that Bixby and Tulsa were the only two cities that offered a fee in lieu of onsite detention in order to use a regional detention pond.
“We excluded this fee in lieu of onsite detention from the overall municipal comparisons in order to refrain from penalizing the cities that require the fee for having a better-organized detention system,” the report said.
Also, in determining the time it takes to work through the permitting process, the study “specifically assumes that all the platting, zoning, floodplain, and other issues of this nature were already taken care of and that the only remaining issue was the approval/permitting of the building plans.”
Based on those “rather restrictive assumptions,” the study found permitting times varied from one to 11 weeks for the municipalities in the survey.
ERPI also researched “actual” building permits in the City of Tulsa and found that compared with the estimated four weeks, a sample of 30 permits showed an average of six weeks, ranging from a minimum of three weeks to a maximum of nine weeks.
In its visit to the Tulsa permit office, the survey team found that “Tulsa’s development office gave us the impression that it is always searching for ways to improve its processes by making them more efficient and user-friendly.”
Jack Page, director of Development Services for the City of Tulsa, said some of that effort to improve the process is evident in the recently passed Title 35 infrastruture development process that is being put in place.
“It would allow a development to proceed through the approval process quicker, cost the developer probably less money, the City of Tulsa probably has more controls than it had before, less paperwork, less red tape, and developers will actually be able to get their building permits quicker than they were able to before,” he said.
The new ordinance replaces the old mechanisms of developing infrastructure ? PFPIs, (Privately Financed Public Improvement), WMECs, (Water Main Extension Contracts) and SSIDs (Sanitary Sewer Improvement Districts) ? by rolling them into a new product, an IDP (Infrastructure Development Permit).
“It significantly streamlines the process,” he said.
“The scorecard report itself was OK,” Page said. “I mean, we are not where we want to be … but we are constantly looking at ways to improve our process. It provides a grade card along the way – how are we doing, where do we need to continue making improvements, how are we being viewed by an outside customer.”

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