New law will pressure cities, counties to approve subdivision plans faster

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas cities and counties will soon be under a strict timeline to approve certain site plans.

Earlier this year, lawmakers approved HB 3167, also known as the “shot-clock bill.” It intends to speed up the development review process.

The bill requires Texas cities and counties to respond to a subdivision plan application within 30 days, and subsequent submittals within an additional 15 days.

Those that go without a response during those timelines are considered approved.

The bill will take effect on September 1.

David Glenn of the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin says builders are just trying to meet the demand for housing.

“We hope it will streamline the process, make it more efficient and easier to understand,” he said.

The city of Austin has been trying to do just that for years.

Previous KXAN investigations have highlighted the delays with Austin’s development and permitting process, as the city has struggled to manage the surge of people moving to town.

An audit last week further revealed the problems moving projects through permitting.

The city currently has a goal of reviewing applications within 20 days but met that goal 73 percent of the time.

Auditors also found some contractors are skipping the permitting process altogether.

“It does seem to me that this makes it more challenging that the resulting homes are going to get done safely,” said Council Member Kathie Tovo.

On Thursday city staff told the council workers will have to work weekends and overtime because of the state’s mandate.

More positions may also be needed in the future, prompting strong words from Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

“This is our state government striking a blow against local liberty,” he said. “It’s a sad day, and unlike the spirit of Texas.”

Travis County officials said we’ll “need to overhaul how we do business.”

Development Service officials told members of the Commissioners’ Court it currently takes nine months to a year for a subdivision plan to be approved, depending on the characteristics of the site.

“When we would be reviewing our subdivision applications, there would be a lot of things missing that weren’t submitted,” said Anna Bowlin, Division Director of Development Services.

Bowlin said the county is going to try and get the applicant’s submittals before the 30-day period begins.

“We don’t have a lot of opportunity for back-and-forth with the client once they’re in the review process, so some of that is going to have to happen before they’re complete and under that 30-day timeclock,” she said.

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