How TX’s “Shot Clock Rule” Affects Development Approvals

18 June, 2020

For Texas developers, the recent “Shot Clock Rule” can potentially accelerate project timelines and streamline approvals. Here’s what you need to know about how the rule may affect the local land development approval process.

Standardizing Regulations

Prior to House Bill 3167 (the “Shot Clock Rule”), Texas jurisdictions established their own land development review processes. They could provide unlimited, subjective comments, often resulting in multiple applicant submissions, additional fees, and unknown timeframes.

The Legislature advises that the Bill is designed to standardize the land development review process throughout the state of Texas. It sets a time limit on jurisdictional reviews and, to curb subjective comments, requires comments to directly reference the jurisdiction’s codes.

Changes to the Approval Process

Jurisdictions now have a time limit of 30 days to review applications, and must either approve, approve with conditions, or disapproved within that time frame. Additionally, reviewers must cite the applicable code section as it relates to each comment or condition.

  • When an application is approved with conditions, the applicant can provide a written response addressing each condition. The jurisdiction must then approve or respond within 15 days of the resubmission.
  • If an application is disapproved, a new submittal is required to move forward. This includes new fees and a new application. However, the applicant can address previous comments in the new submission.

How the Rule Benefits Owners and Developers

  • It accelerates timelines. In many cases, the Shot Clock Rule accelerates project timelines by limiting rounds of revisions and resubmissions. Jurisdictions must make all comments in one review period.
  • It results in more dependable scheduling. The established time limits and requirements on a jurisdiction’s response are designed to prevent projects from being delayed through a continuous cycle of new comments and applicant responses. The new requirements may help owners and developers create more realistic project schedules.
  • Only objective comments are allowed. Reviewers must identify specific code sections that align with each comment or condition requested. This means projects cannot be rejected based simply upon how something looks to a reviewer.

Navigating the New Approval Process

Though the Shot Clock Rule has streamlined the process largely in favor of developers, there are best practices applicants should consider throughout the approval process:

  • Understand how the Bill has affected your specific jurisdiction. Cities and towns across Texas have altered their entitlement processes in unexpected ways. In some cases, the process has become more linear, actually lengthening the approval timeline. Prior to the Bill, an applicant could submit for several types of permits at the same time. Now, the jurisdiction may want to review and approve one at a time. Be sure to understand how the jurisdiction has interpreted and applied the Bill.
  • Consider a pre-development meeting with the jurisdiction. Be forthcoming with the city or town about development plans. Engage a consultant who understands your development objectives to meet with reviewers to flush out their concerns and comments prior to the initial submission. Direct conversations with town and city staff can help to streamline the process. A consultant who understands your business can better represent you, guide jurisdictional meetings, and help develop solutions for all stakeholders.
  • Invest time up front to develop a strong plan set. In the past, some applicants have found success in submitting a preliminary design as quickly as possible to obtain jurisdictional feedback while still working out the details. With only one round of comments permitted in the new process, you may want to reconsider this approach. While it may take a little longer on the front end to finalize plan details, a well-thought-out plan may fare better under the new process. Applicants with strong plan sets are likely to secure a quicker approval with limited comments to address

While the Shot Clock Rule is intended to standardize the process, each jurisdiction may interpret it differently. Engage your consultant team early to help you evaluate each project’s unique circumstances and understand potential risks or roadblocks.

Considering development in Texas? See how our team can move you forward.

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