Dallas’ former planning chief is claiming that criticism of municipal employees is “toxic” while also acknowledging that the City’s outdated development code has been leading to issues for businesses and residents.
Former director of Planning and Urban Design Julia Ryan and former director of Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization David Noguera resigned in September. Ryan suggested public sector employees did not deserve to be held accountable for problems with the City’s zoning and permitting processes, for which she blamed antiquated regulations.
Ryan is now a transportation planner for a consulting firm in Arkansas. However, she revisited some of the criticisms her department received from an opinion article published in The Dallas Morning News that called out the “awful” planning department.
“The city has a backlog of cases it’s leaving unaddressed. Meanwhile, there’s a long-range planning group with numerous employees,” wrote opinion author Dallas Cothrum. “The City of Dallas insists everyone wait in line.”
Ryan responded to Cothrum’s opinion piece in a LinkedIn post in which she deflected the criticism by attacking the opinion author.
“There hasn’t been enough conversation about the toxicity faced by public sector employees by the public,” Ryan wrote. “This is a great (bad) example of a self-serving article by an author who runs one of the largest pay-for-zoning change companies in Dallas.”
Ryan asserted that such “toxicity” from developers and residents played a part in her resignation.
“In a time when local governments are facing staffing shortages and limited quality applicants for critical technical positions, such as senior planners, we are then forced to quietly endure the parade of angry residents, business owners, politicians, for policy issues that are out of our control,” Ryan lamented.
Ryan noted that the development code for the City Planning Department has not been updated since the 1980s and has only become more complicated over the last several decades. She went on to blame Dallas voters for the situation.
“Add to that a population highly resistant to change. To the residents, the status quo is what they bought into and will fight (dirty and loudly) against seemingly innocuous code amendments, such as how to measure height,” Ryan wrote.
Ryan also argued that the development codes are antiquated, referencing the City’s zoning backlog last year. Outdated regulations within various aspects of the City’s development purview, including parking and permitting, have also led to issues with development under City Manager T.C. Broadnax.
As reported by The Dallas Express, commercial developers in Dallas often must undertake a complicated process that periodically results in backlogs and delays.