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Monday, December 5, 2022
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Dallas’ Same-Day Building Permit Program Leaves Some Out

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Homebuilder | Image by Shutterstock

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Dallas is facing a permitting backlog that is costing builders and developers time, money, and other resources while the City works to resolve the multiyear bottleneck.

Andrew Espinoza took over the role as Development Services’ newest chief building official on June 1, 2022. After holding the job title for several months, Espinoza and his team have made strides to chip away at the problem. Such efforts to improve permitting times include creating awareness and training initiatives, launching a new permit software in July, and increasing engagement activities throughout the year.

Espinoza highlighted the recent launch of the Rapid Single-Family VIP Program (RSVP) on September 2.

The RSVP is a costly, expedited review service designed to facilitate the issuance of new single-family permits, according to a Development Services bulletin.

Through the program, permits are issued to registered developers, homeowners, architects, engineers, or contractors on the same day that the application is submitted and paid.

“Our RSVP in-person review has scheduled 21 appointments and completed 11 [since its launch],” Espinoza told The Dallas Express, adding that “all completed appointments resulted in permits being issued the same day.”

A single-family permit is issued if city staff determine the submission meets the minimum building and zoning standards.

In addition to filling out a complete permit submittal package, the project must meet the following criteria to qualify for the Rapid Single-Family VIP Program.

An eligible project is:

  • A new single-family home (excluding duplexes)
  • A maximum of 3,000 square feet
  • A maximum of three stories (no basements)
  • Located on a property that is platted, or early release approvals must have been obtained
  • Not located in a special overlay district (Historic, Floodplain, Conservation, Complex PUD, or Shared Access).

If an applicant fails to adequately meet the qualifications based on review comments that cannot be resolved, they can request a partial permit approval, according to the DSD bulletin.

A partial permit approval allows the applicant to commence the start of the project by beginning site development, utility installation, and foundation pouring while corrections are resubmitted within seven days. Vertical construction is not authorized under a partial permit approval.

Still, though Dallas’ RSVP is meant to help issue same-day permits, Phil Crone, executive director of the Dallas Builders Association, believes the initiative only benefits the lucky few who can afford the expense.

The City charges a minimum review fee of $200 per hour to assess qualifying projects for permit issuance through the RSVP.

Crone explained Dallas’ RSVP initiative to The Dallas Express using an amusement park analogy.

“Imagine spending hours standing in line under the hot sun waiting for your turn to get on the roller coaster,” Crone depicted. “Now imagine someone cuts in front of you and hands the ride operator $200 to skip the line. That is what the department’s program feels like for many people standing in the proverbial line.”

While Crone noted it is “great” that Espinoza’s department is taking the initiative to regain the trust of the community, he said many individuals remain frustrated by the process since they don’t receive the level of attention the lucky few in this initiative do.

“Espinoza and his team’s hard work should be commended,” Crone told The Dallas Express. However, “his department still has a long way to go when I regularly get calls about 3-4 month delays.”

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