My role as the economic developer, for the City of Dayton Texas, is to create a vibrant community
by attracting quality developments with the right locations. We are focused on development of new
housing, industrial/manufacturing, offi ces, and retail. Dayton knows what site selectors and businesses
require in determining the correct location to place a business.
We’re working to create an environment in which residents can shop and work where they live. They won’t be forced to travel to other places to fi nd a living wage job, or buy the products and services they need, or spend hours a day sitting in their cars trying to get to their jobs.
The more industrial, manufacturing, offi ces, stores, and shops we can build, the better it will be for local residents to shop and work locally.
We work on behalf of developers at every opportunity. City staff and I attempt to ensure that they get their permits in a timely fashion so they can expedite their business’ opening.
There are only three major steps in any project, which consists of getting the permits, hiring a contractor, and then putting up the buildings.
In our efforts to eliminate one of the major steps is to expedite the commercial/industrial permits to a two week process once the business submits their completed plans. Some developers show up at the front desk, in other cities, thinking that project planning will take a month only to discover that it might require a year, or more. Acquiring permits in many cities can become a long and sometimes- frustrating process so we are doing what we can to eliminate this hindrance.
“I want a permit,” they might say. “Can I pay my fees and get my approvals?” It isn’t that simple. They may need a variance or another form of waiver. This is not a rubber stamp process; the answer can come back “no” or “yes,” depending upon how the planning commission assesses the situation.
Agencies outside the city, such as the Texas Commission of Environment Quality (TCEQ), get involved at this point, depending upon the nature of the business. Some impatient developers tend to think the worst of the people behind the preapproval process I’m describing.
Dayton City planners are good people who are faced with diffi cult, complicated tasks. They remain as fair and unbiased as possible as they try to identify the connections between all the parts of the picture. City development is a Jigsaw puzzle with a lot of pieces.
This business never gets any easier. The standards change and adjustment of regulations take effect that impact both commercial and residential developments. It would be theoretically possible to do a development in two months from ground up, but pushing the necessary pile of paperwork through the process slows the wheels of development when problems arise. Given the complexity of what needs to be done, problems always arise. Some problems with an application can be anticipated and smoothed out in a pre-application meeting, which is held between me, city, county, utility companies and sometime state representatives on one hand, and site representative or developer with his architect on the other.
The meeting is usually initiated by me getting a phone call. Someone wishing to develop property at Gulf Inland Logistic Park, for example, requests a pre-application meeting. The developer asks questions, “What’s the process?” “What am I missing?” Evaluations and site plans are submitted. “Does this look good?” “Will suffi cient parking be made available?”
Each representative during the course of the pre- application meeting must clarify what the developer can do for approvals.
The process continues as the developer fi nalizes his application, which includes such things as a site plan and building permit submittal, all involving paperwork that must be fi lled out completely.
The application forms are then turned over to the City’s planning department, which takes about 10 days to respond. The planners are our organization’s top dog in working with you and helping you obtain your approvals. Eventually they review the applications, and then make a determination if it is complete. Most of the time it isn’t. An application is very seldom clean in the fi rst submission. Areas are identifi ed that require clarifi cation.
The design review for most projects must also go through the Planning Commission for platting approval, which is a citizen review board composed of residents, selected by the City Council providing an additional level of checks and balances for development projects. The commission does a very fine job!
To expedite the process, we try to keep the Conditional Use Permit moving through channels at the same time. The Conditional Use Permit is an additional request to the Planning Commission that they give approval for the type of use the developer is requesting for a certain property: a gas station, for example, or steel manufacturing plant.
A whole separate set of hurdles is created if environmental issues begin to creep into the mix. If the city hires a consultant to do an environmental impact report for a project, the final report might take weeks, or even months. A project involving an MND (Mitigated Negative Declaration) might take eight months. Even worse, a full-blown EIR (Environmental Impact Report) might take a year. So far we have been successful in not requiring an EIR or MND as we want businesses now.
The planner has to complete all these steps before the first spade of dirt can be turned. Sometimes roads have to be created and named. Signs must be changed. Traffic patterns altered. Lot numbers must be assigned. The whole process can get sticky and complicated. With that in mind, we get the engineering processes going simultaneous with the design and planning activities to expedite the process.
The fact is, Dayton is speeding the process up, not slowing it down. Developers who are novices to the process underestimate the amount of planning work city development requires, and the number of steps the planners are forced to go through. This becomes especially true if a project involves environmental review.
The process is complex to the point that normal people, like me, can’t get our minds around the complexities. It is elaborate to the point that I have to use a spreadsheet myself to keep the required steps straight in my own mind.
I’m helping the city become proactive in trying to locate firms that we want to move into our area. For example, we’re trying to get department stores to look at us. We assist them with marketing analysis so they will know that their business will be successful here. We show them the demographics that we’ve compiled. We answer the question, “Why should we locate here?” “Are there incentives?”
We’re also providing information to Commercial Brokers and Site Selectors so they can attract businesses that should locate here. We hold meetings with real estate people and members from the business community giving them information about locations they could move into.
We share ideas with them. Depending upon the scope of their projects we will drive them around and show them suitable locations. We help them by not wasting their time. Nothing succeeds like success, they say. It’s certainly true about economic development. Dayton is breaking through some economic and population thresholds that made our city suddenly pop up on the radar screens in a lot of corporate headquarters.
Even though the rate of growth will begin slowly, five years from now we’ll have a lot more population once State Route 99 (Grand Parkway) is complete as this attracts large scale development. As an example the River Ranch development is a 7000 acre housing development of which phase one of 1300 homes has started. SR-99 is part of the third loop around Houston. A lot more industrial and commercial development will be completed on Highway 146 and US-90. Our downtown is in the process of being revitalized with the first step being the creation of a Downtown Redevelopment Plan followed by a TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone). Five years from now more people will be climbing into their cars at 8:40 a.m. to get to their 9 a.m. jobs than now. In the evenings those same people will also be leaving at 5:00 p.m. to get to a 5:20 p.m. dinner or entertainment engagement.
I’m doing everything I can to make this happen. The changes will ultimately be good for everyone. You will find lots of information on the official City or Dayton Community Development Corporation web sites, go to -
www.cityofdaytontx.com or www.daytontx.com