Officials Question Benefit of New Permit Law

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A new state law meant to accelerate development and permitting times in Texas has caught the attention of local officials.

The City of Dallas is preparing for developers to take matters into their own hands after the September 1 enactment of HB 14, which allows developers to hire third-party inspectors if a building permit application exceeds new state-set deadlines.

State lawmakers hope that allowing builders to hire third-party inspectors or licensed engineers during the development process will help solve the local housing shortage and guard against building permit backlogs, a problem Dallas officials have been all too familiar with, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

“What I’m grasping is that this is a heavy-handed attempt from the state to try to get us to push permits out faster,” said Council Member Chad West (District 1) back in August, KERA News reported. “Which is a goal we have here, and we have expressed … many times.”

Permit approval times in Dallas can vary wildly depending on the size and scope of the project. However, in general, the City’s Development Services Department (DSD) has a goal of approving or denying residential permits within 10 days and commercial permits within 15 days.

The new law also addressed other development factors that require review and approval. However, DSD Director Andrew Espinoza said he does not see many scenarios where HB 14 will come into play.

For instance, a plat review in Dallas is typically completed in under 30 days. Meanwhile, the new law tacks on an extra 15 days to the plat review deadline before an applicant can hire a third-party reviewer.

“[We’re] already doing it within 30 days to be in compliance with state law … [so it] seems a little inconsistent,” said Espinoza, per KERA. “We concluded that this scenario will never play out.”

Although the law will not impact plat reviews much, it will impact commercial reviews, according to Barrett Linburg, co-founder of Savoy Equity Partners.

“To share the potential impact of this law … [t]he last 4 multifamily building permits in the City of Dallas have taken us an average of 7.5 months,” Linburg wrote in a post shared on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Despite paying an expediting fee on the last two permits, Linburg said the permits “somehow took the longest.” Theoretically, the new law will speed things up substantially, he told The Dallas Express.

Still, West claimed the law was not “well-thought-out” and provided no guidance on how development officials would vet third-party reviewers.

“Even though I think the intent is a good intent, to try to expedite the process, they’re not giving us any tools and zero guidance on how to do it,” West said, per Fox 4 KDFW. “There are no qualifications set by the state. So we’ve got to develop that at the city level, and it’s not done yet.”

The City is currently working to get the necessary systems in place to meet the requirements set forth by HB 14.

Despite early concerns about making changes to the City Code, Council Member Cara Mendelsohn (District 12) said City staff are ready to handle any new rules enacted by the new law, per KERA.

The law has been enacted for less than a month, so it is still too early to measure its impact in Dallas.

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