Broadnax Asked To Focus on Commercial Permits

Building permit | Image by Francesco Scatena

Dallas officials have asked the City’s Development Services Department to prioritize faster turnaround for commercial permits.

The City of Dallas Economic Development Committee (EDC) met in early September to highlight the importance of accelerating permit times now that applicants can hire third-party reviewers — as set out by a new state law.

HB 14, which took effect on September 1, allows developers to hire third-party inspectors if a building permit application exceeds the new 45-day, state-set deadlines.

Council Member Chad West, who represents District 1, said he recognizes the momentous shift in the performance of the Development Services Department (DSD) over the past several years. Still, he said a lot more work is needed, particularly with commercial permits.

“When I ask a person who is coming through development in the City of Dallas, I would like them to tell me, ‘You know what I love about your department? They start from yes and work backward,'” West said.

By starting with a ‘yes’ and then working backward, West believes Dallas will prevent scenarios where developers are actively turning to third-party reviewers or diverting to other cities for development.

West expressed concern that the new law may increase the tendency of permit reviewers to issue denials to avoid going past the 45-day decision deadline, but Assistant DSD Director Samuell Eskander said he did not believe that would be an issue.

“I don’t think we’re going to get there at this time. Over the past year, we have reduced our review times tremendously,” Eskander told council members, emphasizing DSD’s 10-day residential review goal and its 15-day commercial review goal.

“I’m happy to report that we are meeting those goals and exceeding them as well,” he said.

To facilitate commercial permitting in Dallas, West has asked DSD to reduce its commercial permit flowchart by 33% within the next two years. In addition, DSD announced Monday that it had established a new commercial permit hotline for customers who have submitted a building permit application and are experiencing permitting delays.

“We are confident this additional customer service point will help facilitate faster permit issuance and strengthen our relationship with our customers,” DSD said in the September 18 news announcement.

Despite Eskander assuring council members that DSD was seeing reduced permit approval times, The Dallas Express continues to get reports from developers about multi-month delays for larger projects.

Barrett Linburg, co-founding partner of Savoy Equity Partners, said his firm’s last four multifamily building permits averaged around 7.5 months for approval despite paying an expediting fee on the last two permits.

Theoretically, HB 14 will speed things up massively, he told The Dallas Express.

Even though DSD has improved its turnaround times, District 6 Council Member Omar Narvaez suggested that progress is not happening fast enough.

“How long is it going to take? We’re in year three. We’ve given you everything you need, and it’s still not there. What more can we do?” Narvaez asked during a September meeting.

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