City development department goals lowered, report shows

(KXAN File Photo)
(KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After changing its tracking, a new city performance review shows home zoning applications rarely get reviewed on time.

“We submitted [an] application almost eight weeks ago to the day and have not received formal response comments from the city just yet,” said president of Permit Partners, LLC, David Cancialosi.

Cancialosi helps clients through Austin’s permitting process. He says he believes the city is trying to make changes, but he still notices issues.

“You’ve got the combination of an outdated code and procedure in place, along with understaffed departments,” said Cancialosi. “It almost makes for a perfect storm in terms of trying to get something through.”

When KXAN looked through the performance review for the Development Services Department, something stood out. In fiscal year 2014, the city set a goal of getting 85 percent of new residential zoning applications reviewed within seven days. The department missed the goal, only getting 38 percent completed on time. However, in fiscal year 2015, the city lowered the goal to completing 25 percent of the reviews on time. It exceeded that standard, reviewing 26 percent within seven days.

Residential Review Manager John McDonald explains that the city changed the way it tracks the application review process. The data used to only look at part of the process, leaving out various stops and possible holdups in city departments. Now, the numbers for fiscal year 2015 include those stops. So, the department lowered its goals.

City leaders are working to improve wait times and change Austin’s permitting and development process. The critical Zucker Report highlighted problems and made hundreds of recommendations to improve planning and development. After the city released the final Zucker Report last May, the Planning and Zoning Department and the Development Services Department released responses outlining their plans for the 462 recommendations contained in the report.

The Development Services Department is also handling an increase in applications for building permits in the last several years, according to McDonald.

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