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Meetings to help businesses follow city codes

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Future Lawton business owners will now have a much simpler process to make sure their buildings meet city codes before breaking ground or moving in.

Friday, the first of a new type of development meeting involving city staff was held at City Hall. Councilwoman and small business owner Cherry Phillips, who is looking to build a gym, met with the city planning director, fire marshal and others to walk through plans for her business. They asked Phillips detailed questions about her plans, and let her know exactly what she would need to do to be in compliance.

In the past, there have been several instances where business owners said they got mixed messages on what the requirements were, only to find out after they had invested time and money that there was still more that needed to be done.  Now, city officials want everyone to know going in to each project exactly what will need to be done and what it will cost, so there are no surprises.

The meetings with the developers are readily available to anyone looking to build a new business or move a new business into an old building in Lawton. They dive into where fire walls are, or need to be built, where exit signs need to be, where fire extinguishers and fire exits need to be and more.  Phillips met with the group Friday and said the meeting allowed her to keep her business plans on track.

"I don't want to be caught with not knowing something, then getting in trouble down the line because it doesn't comply with code and then I have to come up with more money,” Phillips said. “I don't want that kind of experience so the pre-development meeting was very important to set us straight on what we do have to do."

Lawton Fire Marshal Mark Mitchell said the new process of meeting before hand was put in place to help the citizens better control their time and money.

"They've got to create a budget, they have to put together a business plan to ensure they can afford the structure they are looking at and modify it the way they want to and get their business in operation,” Mitchell said.

The meeting also serves as a way for City Planning Director Richard Rogalski to take a look at the blueprints of your business and tell you ways you might change things to make things cheaper on you, a luxury you would not have if you met with them after building had begun or been complete.

"There are some things where you just can't get around them, sometimes this is just the way it is, you can't get around it. But sometimes there's some small modifications,” Rogalski said.

One such example of that came to fruition Friday in discussions of the placement of a metal door in Phillips's future gym.

"How do you treat that metal door, there's several ways you can do it and it all has implications in terms of the life safety issues and some of the fire life safety requirements,” Rogalski said.

Rogalski said the group will even talk potential business owners who have several options of where to put their business about which is the best.

"This site has fire hydrants existing, this site doesn't so you'll have to build those,” Rogalski said. “We're really not trying to direct anybody in any way but we're certainly going to tell them what we know about those site conditions or those building conditions."

The meetings are free and open to anyone looking to move or expand their business. You just have to call the city planning department. When you do, they'll get you a packet of information, meet with you and get you on the right track to get your building done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

When you call, they will get as much information from you as possible, like if you are planning on building an entirely new building or move into a building previously used for something else, to ensure they have the right people to suit your needs at each meeting.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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