LAKE JACKSON — With a deadline quickly approaching, Lake Jackson city officials are sorting through details of a new planning law in an attempt to prevent an adversarial relationship from forming with developers, City Manager Bill Yenne said.
During a workshop this week, the city government and planning commission met to discuss how to implement House Bill 3167, which places a 30-day approval time frame on county and municipal land development applications.
The bill affects all cities, Yenne said, but the frustration he feels is due to the bill’s singular approach.
“It’s frustrating. They use a one-size-fits-all approach and their approach is that anything cities do is bad,” Yenne said. “It has to do with the process of getting a plat or a site plan. We hadn’t gotten complaints here. We’ve been really collaborative.”
The process of approving a land project generally takes the city two to three months to approve from the application being filed to hearing the developer’s plans and then following up with discussion and action, Yenne said.
This new process, which goes into effect Sept. 1, is not as efficient as it’s meant to be, Mayor Bob Sipple said.
“There are several new requirements in the bill and our discussion was based around meeting those requirements,” Sipple said. “It’s a situation where some of this is not prudent to efficiency, even though that’s the intention of it. They try to shorten the approval of planners, and to me, every time you push a balloon in, it pops out somewhere else.”
The 30-day period is meant to speed up the process and assist developers in getting timely approval from the planning commission, Yenne said. But the unintended consequence of that is a formal process that could produce tension, he said.
“The problem with this new thing is, is once they file their plan with the planning commission they have 30 days. There’s no back and forth, no time for discussion,” Yenne said. “It becomes a very formal and adversarial process.”
Additionally, the application is automatically approved if not decided upon within those 30 days, Yenne said.
Sipple said the city is working through the process and figuring out how to handle the changes.
Yenne said once the council meets again Sept. 3, they’ll determine how to move forward with the new requirements.
“We don’t know if what we come up with is going to pass the test, but we are desperately trying to think of a way to do this that isn’t adversarial,” Yenne said. “But it was a good meeting we had. The planning commission was there, there was lots of good conversation and we kind of came up with a general process we think might fit. But this whole thing has just been very, very frustrating.”