Claremore, OK, once a frontier town, is a transportation hub for the greater Tulsa area. Birthplace of cowboy actor Will Rogers, who was famous for “having a lot of big ideas”, the City has kept its pioneer spirit while looking to establish its place in the modern economy.
With direct access to highway systems, a marine port, and a rail network, Claremore is planning for its next chapter while staying close to the needs of its community.
In late 2021, the City finalized its comprehensive plan to match economic development planning with the needs of its residents. The 2040 Comprehensive Plan incorporated the feedback of over 1000 members of the community, earning recognition from the American Planning Association.
Andrew KnifeChief, Director of Community Development, and Kyle Clifton, Director of Planning and Development at City of Claremore, established a clear vision for development, engaged the community, and are now working to bring the blueprint to life with software for modern planning and zoning and permitting and licensing. Claremore adopted OpenGov to manage key workflows, track performance, and share results transparently.
“OpenGov plays a pivotal part in implementing the comprehensive plan.”
– Andrew KnifeChief, Director of Community Development, City of Claremore, OK
Live On Permitting In 5 Months
4 Departments Using OpenGov Permitting & Licensing
Cross-Departmental Efficiency and Collaboration
# 1 Engage the Community in the Comprehensive Plan
A sustainable, comprehensive plan not only requires feedback from the community but also a hefty amount of support and encouragement.
“We really wanted our approach to be a bottom up approach… We really wanted our citizens to give us the input about where they wanted the City go and where they wanted to see growth in the City. If we had that community buy in we knew we could attract the developers that we wanted,” said Clifton.
The City of Claremore went the extra mile to excite residents on future planning for their homes. Gain inspiration from their creative examples below:
#2 Unifying the Code
After hyping up the Community on the City’s vision, next on the agenda was revamping the antiquated and over-complicated City code. Disparate, convoluted documents were not only slowing down development projects, but also straining City staff, as they were constantly helping contractors break them down.
After witnessing the success of the revamped comprehensive plan, Claremore City Council was supportive of the endeavor and appropriated additional funding for the project.
The City unified every code into one document, and made it more comprehensive with graphs and flowcharts.
“Not only can developers, architects, engineers pick up the document, consume it, and understand exactly what is expected. But John Q. Public can walk in off the street. We can hand them a few pages, and they understand what they need to do for their project,” said Clifton.
#3 Digitizing Permitting with OpenGov Permitting & Licensing
While the City’s comprehensive plan and code were shiny and new, its permitting system was still “stuck in the stone age.” The system they were using, while digital, was not intuitive nor streamlined and entirely complicated the process for both City staff and contractors.
They needed a new system that could keep up with the influx of permits and regulation changes that come with increased development, which was also navigable and user-friendly for constituents. Enter: OpenGov Permitting & Licensing.
“How do you take these plans, documents, and codes… How do you implement them so that they don’t just sit on the shelf and collect dust? And I think that’s where OpenGov really provided a solution for us.”
Kyle Clifton, Director of Planning and Development, Claremore, OK
The City went live on OpenGov in five short months and is already reaping the benefits of purpose-built permitting software. The City already has contractor license registration, residential building permits, commercial building permits, and trade permits, all online.
From an internal perspective, City staff are noticing more time on their hands. The simplified system “drastically reduced the amount of foot traffic coming through the door,” said KnifeChief. “We are a limited staff so we don’t always have the time to stop what we are doing…OpenGov has freed that up immensely.”
At first, KnifeChief and Clifton were fearful that constituents, specifically the dominant older population, would not catch on easily to the technology. But to their surprise, it was the “complete opposite.” The number of emails and phone calls subsided, as the system was so user-friendly residents could easily navigate it on their own.
“It’s so intuitive.. Step by step. It’s so easy to understand that you know even a caveman can do it,” said Clifton, “These [residents] are not having any issues.”
The City was also surprised by the developer’s reaction to the simplified and digitized process:
“Most of them are head over heels that they can request inspections online… The feedback from the developers and the trades folks have been amazing. I continue to be impressed by the ease in which we can do our jobs,” said KnifeChief.
#4 Introducing Pattern Zoning
Claremore is also one of the first cities in the country to adopt “pattern zoning,” a process in which a planning department hires architects to sketch up pre-approved plans that already abide by City code. These pre-approved plans not only cut steps out of the bureaucratic process but simplify and provide inspiration to the building process for residents.
“We removed the barriers of development to encourage the spread of small business,” said KnifeChief. “[With Pattern Zoning] we are turning dirt in 20 days, and in a month and a half, it’s built!”
A Solution for All Communities
When it comes to Community Development, Clifton believes these steps set the stage for universal success that is scalable for communities of any size: “If a City our size can do this, then there’s no reason why communities much larger than us can’t do it, and I think that it’s even scalable down even to you know, towns that are even less than you know, 20,000, or less than 15 or 10,000, you know. Whatever the case would be, I think that it’s scalable to any size community again. You just gotta have the conviction.”
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