Council Members Question Broadnax’s Stakeholder Outreach

Roofers working on a new construction project
Roofers working on a new construction project | Image by COSPV/Shutterstock

City Council members are voicing frustration over the alleged lack of stakeholder outreach conducted by the Development Services Department regarding a recent fee study that revealed how much local taxpayers were subsidizing the agency’s services.

As it stands, the Development Services Department (DSD) is being subsidized to the tune of roughly $22 million because department costs are not being covered through its relatively low fee structure under City Manager T.C. Broadnax, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

During Monday’s Economic Development Committee meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins (District 8) claimed he had received numerous phone calls from stakeholders alleging “outreach had not been done” and that some organizations, like the Dallas Builders Association (DBA) and the Texas Real Estate Council (TREC), had not been “particularly informed” when it came to the fee study.

According to Dallas’ chief building official, DSD director Andrew Espinoza, that should not have been the case. He said DSD met with various stakeholders “in-person” and “virtually” to discuss the fee study, Espinoza.

DSD was purportedly scheduled to meet with the DBA, TREC, the Development Advisory Committee, the Construction Contractors Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association, and third-party plan review vendors, among others.

“When we started this process or started to finalize [the fee study], our directive was to be open, transparent, and [communicative] with all of our customers as much as possible and as often as possible, and so this [presentation] was specifically provided to confirm that we have met, we have communicated, we have informed our customers as best we can,” Espinoza explained.

“When we met with our customers, we also told them again that the fee study was openly and publicly posted on our website and if they had any questions to please reach out to us, and we would be happy to meet with him,” Espinoza added.

When DSD met with development stakeholders over the past few months, Espinoza said DSD gave presentations that showed where Dallas stood compared to other cities. However, while the development community was made aware of the fees Dallas charges relative to neighboring cities, Espinoza said DSD did not share the final draft that went out on October 27.

“Our goal was to share it with you first as opposed to you finding out through the media or through some other channel,” Espinoza told council members on the committee.

While Council Member Paul Ridley (District 14) said he thinks the proposed rates in DSD’s report should “certainly” be shared with the development community, he said he did not expect the feedback to be very pertinent.

“Other than a general complaint, that, ‘gee, your fees are going up,’ which I would anticipate them saying … I’m not sure what we’re expecting to get from those meetings, particularly when we’re simply trying to cover our costs,” Ridley said.

“We’re not trying to make a profit center out of this. So, other than sharing the results of this report, I’m not sure how much in-depth conversation needs to happen,” Ridley added.

When Espinoza was appointed as Dallas’ chief building official in the summer of 2022, he was tasked with course-correcting the department by improving things like community outreach and the City’s periodically problematic permit turnaround times.

“Coming out of the pandemic, I realized that we needed to partner with the development community. And we’ve done that through ongoing stakeholder outreach engagement,” Espinoza claimed.

“That’s one of my number one priorities — and so, in this particular case, nothing changes. We will continue to partner with the development community and work with them to communicate how we’re improving, how we’re doing, and any proposed changes that might impact their business operations,” he said.

The Dallas Express reached out to DBA and TREC to see if the organizations were satisfied with DSD’s outreach in recent months but did not receive comment by press time.

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