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Thread: Expedited review procedures?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Expedited review procedures?

    Texas state statute mandates that all subdivisions, regardless of plat stage, be before the planning/platting commission within 30 days of it's submittal, and, if according to each city's charter the plat also needs to go before the governing body, 30 days after the planning commission decision to the City Council. This is rather fast, in my opinion, and is generally business-friendly and works with most developers and their teams on addressing issues with their plans.

    However, we are looking into possibly creating an official "Expedited Review" process that would cut that time practically in half (barring any idiot proposals or lack of progress as far as addressing issues). The expedited review would be an option on each subdivision application (i.e. check boxes for either expedited or standard reviews) and would have a higher application fee due to the added stresses it places on our staff.

    My question is this: I am vaguely aware of such processes occurring with great frequency in places like California and North Carolina, and want to know how such a policy is implemented and how successful it's been. Do many people utilize it? With those that do choose to utilize expedited review, how many actually stick to their guns to address issues in the expedited review timeline? Does the policy actually work financially for a municipality? Has there been public input on the processes and what problems have been encountered and addressed?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I would think that one difficulty in acheiving such a process would be getting cooperation from the other reviewing agencies, be they internal departments (engineering, utilities, fire, etc.) or outside agencies (county boards, school district, etc.). What happens when planning staff doesn't get the comments it needs to give the Boards/Commission in a timely manner?

    On a more general note, such an expedited process will require Boards/Commissions that are sensitive to the more technical aspects of subdivisions. There are bound to be disputes between the applicant and staff and unless the applicant agrees to the changes or conditions on final plat approval, the Boards will need to table or deny a lot of projects. Generally, a longer review timeframe usually affords more opportunity for negotiation.

    Just my two cents, but I'd be interested in hearing more about other perspectives, particularly in dealing with the public input issue.

  3. #3
          Downtown's avatar
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    Holy Moly! Our review time frames for residential subdivisions are no less than 18 months (unless the subdivision doesn't require an public utility/infrastructure extenstion). I'm curious how state and federal wetland coordination is performed in that amount of time, let alone county and intermuncipal review.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Downtown View post
    Holy Moly! Our review time frames for residential subdivisions are no less than 18 months (unless the subdivision doesn't require an public utility/infrastructure extenstion). I'm curious how state and federal wetland coordination is performed in that amount of time, let alone county and intermuncipal review.
    This is Texas. We don't give a sh*t about the environment. It's all about property rights. Not only can you do whatever you want with your property, you can do it on a whim.

  5. #5
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Don't do it. Remember, this IS Texas. Every single developer will check that expedited box and gladly pay the extra few hundred dollars if it means getting lines in the dirt two weeks faster. And those small local developers (I know you have a few) that may not be able to pay it are going to cry foul, screaming that you shouldn't have to pay for better service. I would also argue that the city accepting payment for better customer service to selected applicants is marching into dangerous ethical territory.

    That 30 day requirement is a product of a BOB (Bad Ol' Bill) that managed to make its way through the Texas legislature. And, as is typical, you can probably thank the City of Austin for it (they are also responsible for our obtuse annexation regulations).

    What you really need to do is get religious about determining adequacy of applications, which is what can save you from that 30-day rule. You've got 10 days to determine adequacy. After notifying them that the request is inadequate, they have 45 days to make it right.

    Also, few developers are willing to challenge the 30 days for a couple of reasons. If something is screwed up and inconsistent with code, they know a future property owner might go get themselves lawyered up (property rights is a two-way street). More importantly though, if you find something wrong with an adequate submission, you are still tied to the 30 days. Remember, state law states you must deny if it does not meet your standards. The developer does not want their project denied and the City does not want a legal challenge by other property owners/competing developers, so the developer will typically consent to waiving the 30-day requirement. If they don't, then the Planning Commission has no choice but to statutorily deny the plat.

    We do the 30-day waivers pretty routinely down here to the south of you with no complaints from developers. I'll be glad to send you whatever we have as far as standard waiver letters.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  6. #6
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Sounds like the development community has you by the . . . .

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Perceptions of what is "expedited" may mean different things in different places. In most parts of the midwest I find that a development project can be expected to go through the approval process in a single meeting if it is not too complex and the submitted plans are pretty decent to begin with. Something like a subdivision may take 2-3 months, and that is more often determined by posting requirements rather than the plan commission notpicking the details of the project. Of course, that time frame changes when you get closer to Chicago.

    The worst development review processes I have encountered have been in the Denver area. At the time I was there Denver's mayor had even recognized the problem and started an initiative to reduce the review time. I don't know how that worked out. In some places it was not uncommon to hear of plans sitting for more than six months or even a year before they made it to the plan commission. I could also share some anecdotes about the absurd requests made by staff or the plan commission. I won't go there.

    I do favor statutory limits on how long a plan can sit before it must be advanced. I also tend to look favorably upon local initiatives to provide speedy review. It is important to remember that these limits are intended to ensure timely review and action. That does not necessarily mean approval.
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