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Dallas’ ‘Broken’ Permitting Process Hurts Residents and Small Businesses | Part 2

Business, City

Home builder working on a residence | Image by Shutterstock

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For more than two years, the lengthy process of obtaining a building permit in Dallas has elicited frustration from Dallas builders and contractors.

Building permits are required for most construction projects and range from small-scale plans like adding a roof over the patio to larger-scale undertakings like renovations on a commercial property. But the city’s current software has had connectivity issues and service outages, leading to backlogs and bottlenecks for hundreds of different-sized projects.

Andrew Espinoza, Dallas’ new director of development services, spoke with The Dallas Express regarding the challenges surrounding the permitting process.

“The current software could have used more time before rolling out,” Espinoza told The Dallas Express. “Since then, it has really fumbled along the way and is the primary reason for the slowdown.”

City officials claim the backlogged building permitting process will improve with a new software enhancement set to be implemented in early August.

However, in an exclusive interview with The Dallas Express, Louis Darrouzet, CEO of the Metroplex Civic and Business Association, expressed his worry that the changes are complicating the permitting process instead of streamlining it, taking one step forward and two steps back.

“In reviewing the City Manager’s 100-Day Plan, we were discouraged to see that additional steps will be added to the already extensive permitting process,” Darrouzet told The Dallas Express.

“In order to expedite housing construction, the City would need to make the building entitlement process as rapid, seamless, and cost-effective as possible. Some measures in this 100-Day Plan seem to be a step backward,” he said. “We are hopeful the City will take these concerns more seriously going forward.”

Since accepting his new role as Dallas’ director of development services, Espinoza has seemingly made a good-faith effort to create a more open and engaging line of communication with developers.

Still, to facilitate engagement with homeowners and do-it-yourself experts, the development services department hosted its first “Pop-Up Permit” event on July 23, where some residents received quick approval on simple permits for minor home repairs and upgrades.

During the event, smaller projects had permits issued the “very same day,” Espinoza said. The event, he claimed, was also a “first step in developing a better relationship between the City and builders.”

He told The Dallas Express he hoped the community would latch onto the idea.

Darrouzet was less optimistic that the Pop-Up Permit event would make much of a difference.

“While a monthly, six-hour ‘Permitting Pop-Up’ moves the needle marginally for the do-it-yourselfers and smaller contractors, it does not account for the many months-worth of permitting backlogs that require immediate attention, Darrouzet told The Dallas Express.

“As firms relocate to the Dallas Fort-Worth Metroplex, they want assurance that their organization’s future growth will be supported and expedited through these local government processes,” said Darrouzet. “If we want our region to grow and prosper, these issues must be handled in a more timely and efficient manner.”

Phil Crone, executive director at the Dallas Builders Association, did not disagree on that point but expressed to The Dallas Express his perception:

“If the event is not successful right away, it will be down the line.”

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Mark Martinek
Mark Martinek
3 months ago

Blaming it on the software? The bigger problem is management of personnel. There is no co-ordinated flow of information. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Staff has a “can’t do” attitude. The management culture of the building department is at least as big a problem as the software. Things won’t get better until the culture changes.

3 months ago

how many permits were issued the day of the pop up event? seems like an important question to ask.