Fast Track Process Slowly Chips Away at Permit Backlog

Architecture plans of a building with small model house on top of blueprints, pen, ruler and notebook. | Image by Eviart, Shutterstock

Dallas’ backlog of building permits has spilled over to a new “fast-track” program by the City’s Development Services Department (DSD) that will supposedly speed up the process for single-family projects.

On November 1, Dallas’ DSD launched the “Residential Plan Review Fast-Track Permit Process,” a new program designed to allow residential developers who submit a high volume of repetitive permits to have multiple floor plans reviewed and approved at once.

The new fast-track process is intended for “one- and two-family developers who submit a high volume of repetitive permits.” By allowing more repetitive permits to be reviewed under a single workflow, DSD believes it will be able to speed up the permitting process for preapproved floorplans.

“In the past, all new single-family projects were categorized into one workflow that resulted in extended permitting timelines,” DSD said in a recent information bulletin. This new process “will allow DSD to issue these permits with faster turnaround times and improve our customer service delivery.”

By opting into the fast-track permitting option, developers can submit their floor plans in advance and have them promptly reviewed in collaboration with the applicant to ensure all predesignated floor plan models are correct, properly designed, and labeled.

Applications for homes located on corner lots will need to be submitted using the regular submittal process.

Although building permit issues have been present in one form or another for many years, the problem truly ignited during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Dallas’ DSD fumbled its transition to a new online, cloud-based software.

Following the mishandled transition in 2020, the issuance time for single-family residential permits swelled from an average of 1–3 days to 40 days, according to DSD’s permit activity report for September.

Even with the new residential fast-track permit program, Dallas is still a very long way from a permanent fix.

When Andrew Espinoza accepted his new job duties as Dallas’ chief building official and DSD director in June, he assured council members that the city’s permitting problems would be fixed by November.

However, during a November 2 city council meeting, the findings of a third-party audit of the department were presented to council members. Espinoza told council members that “issues would likely persist for years.”

The audit, titled “Development Services Workflow Evaluation And Staffing Study,” assessed the state of the City’s development review processes and evaluated service improvement opportunities such as workflow practices, organizational structure, staffing levels, and technology needs.

Matrix Consulting Group conducted the study, which highlighted many participants’ frustration with Dallas’ onerous building permit process.

“While a majority felt that they understood the process and requirements, most also said that the department’s review times were too long for both initial and re-submittals,” the study said.

It is still too early to determine whether Espinoza’s new fast-track residential permitting program will impact Dallas’ extended permit turnaround times. In the meantime, DSD said it wishes to partner with the development community and progressively implement initiatives to help facilitate high-volume building developments.

“We are committed to creating proactive and innovative processes to provide our development partners with excellent customer service,” DSD said.

Applicants must request the Fast Track Plan Review option when submitting the form to [email protected]

For questions regarding the fast-track permit process, contact Alex Barkume, developmental services manager, at [email protected].

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