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Law Targets Broadnax’s Slow Permit Approvals

Home builder working on a residence
Home builder working on a residence | Image by Virrage Images/Shutterstock

A new law passed during Texas’ recent regular legislative session aims to speed up the issuance of building permits in Dallas and around the state.

House Bill 14, introduced by Rep. Cody Harris (R-Palestine) in March and enacted into law on September 1, allows developers to utilize third-party reviewers if development officials in a political subdivision fail to approve, conditionally approve, or deny a building permit application within 15 days after the time prescribed.

By allowing certified third-party inspectors and licensed engineers to help review overdue development documents and permits, Texas hopes to increase the overall efficiency of the departments responsible for reviewing and approving construction permits.

Slow permitting times under Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax have been a multi-year problem and a major point of contention for the local development community, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

HB 14 should help with this by allowing for additional assistance in reviewing and approving permits for large multifamily apartments or commercial projects, suggested Barrett Linburg, co-founding partner of Savoy Equity Partners.

“To share the potential impact of this law, the last 4 multifamily building permits in the City of Dallas have taken us an average of 7.5 months,” Linburg said in a post on social media. “These were “by-right” zoning. We even paid an expediting fee on the last two which somehow took the longest,” he explained.

“If a municipality doesn’t act on your commercial building permit application in 15 days, then you can hire a 3rd party to review the plans and issue the permit. Theoretically, this will speed things up massively,” he added.

While he and Savoy Equity Partners “see the law’s intent to fast-track permitting positively,” Linburg said the new law “isn’t a silver bullet.”

He added, “A holistic approach is necessary for long-term efficiency.”

“Quicker approvals could benefit both developers and communities,” but “Permitting is complex, and Development Services faces other challenges, like workforce issues, that also slow down the process,” Linburg told The Dallas Express.

“In short, while HB 14 is a step forward, ongoing collaboration with the city is crucial for a system that works for everyone,” he said.

A problematic and slow permit process isn’t a one-off issue in Dallas. Gov. Greg Abbott addressed the subject in March during a Dallas Regional Chamber luncheon attended by The Dallas Express.

“Depending upon what city you’re in, the permitting process can take from 30 days to 30 months. [If] you’re holding a piece of property for 30 months, incapable of building on it because you lack a permit, that’s costing you a lot of money,” Abbott said.

By equipping Dallas’ Development Services Department (DSD) with an extra source to review and approve construction permits, local officials have a unique opportunity to smooth out Dallas’ development process, thus preempting future backlogs or administrative bottlenecks.

According to Abbott, HB14 will be “a game changer and magnet for people coming into the State of Texas, as well as for businesses to grow here in the state.”

“It’s important for businesses to be able to move at the speed of business. And that’s what this regulatory reform does,” he said.

DSD has attempted to address the lengthy permitting times in Dallas, but the local development community is still reporting severe delays and multi-month turnarounds. DSD has promised a commercial activity portal to track monthly activity — similar to its single-family dashboard —  but no new updates have been provided beyond DSD suggesting a possible end-of-year rollout.

The Dallas Express contacted the office of Rep. Harris for comment on the September 1 enactment of HB14 but did not receive a response by the publication deadline.

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