By Theo Melancon, Dayton City Manager
The City of Dayton is on the cusp of seismic changes in the community. These changes require a methodical and analytical approach to how we do business as a City. With growth on the horizon, we are laying the foundations today for a vibrant, aesthetically pleasing, and well-planned community.
In the last column, economic development was a central focus of the article. In this article, a brief overview of our Development Services division is the next logical step to discuss. Development Services encompasses many areas of focus: Planning, Public Works, Parks, Community Center, and Library. Our Development Services division thinks about quality of life today and into the future. This division is a one-stop shop for residents and businesses.
Prior to my arrival, a prospective business wanting to open in Dayton had to engage several people to get answers about utilities, road and drainage infrastructure, and permitting requirements. We rolled all of these processes under one Assistant City Manager (Kimberly Judge) whose task is to walk each business or new residential construction through the process. All of these functions and staff fall under Assistant City Manager Judge.
The pressure to be more efficient and effective is coming from the growing tidal wave of development. In 2013, the City of Dayton issued 8 permits for new residential construction. In 2017, we issued 67 permits. Seven months into 2018, we have issued 44 permits.
Not all growth is good growth. This is why the City has embarked on developing a Comprehensive Plan, Downtown Revitalization Plan, Master Parks Plan, Land Use Plan, and a traffic study. These plans are the building blocks for the City to define its own future. Without thorough planning, backed by common sense regulations, the City’s future will be dictated by people who may not have the history and heritage of the City on their minds. Our goal is to maintain the integrity of our historical downtown and neighborhoods. Quality homes in safe neighborhoods as we expand will be vital to our continued success. Placing commercial, retail, and industrial enterprises in appropriate locations will be key to maximizing our land use in the coming decades.
We are working hand-in-hand with our County officials to maximize the potential of Dayton. We recently entered into an interlocal agreement with the County to help in the regulation of subdivisions in our Extraterritorial Jurisdiction. Extraterritorial Jurisdiction extends one mile from the City limits.
With these plans and regulation in place, the City will be able to work with developers to bring the types of services residents desire to see in their community. Developers will know that their multi-million dollar investments will be protected by land use regulations. It is important for businesses to know what types of businesses and development will surround their own enterprise.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to highlight a few common questions we receive from the public in regard to permitting and code enforcement. For large scale building permits, we turn those permits around within 2-3 weeks, which is a fast turn around for the Houston area. Oftentimes, our building inspectors perform their inspections within 24 hours of submission by contractors. Businesses and contractors who work in other cities in other areas of Houston have come to appreciate our timeliness.
Our top code violations in the city include, grass and weeds higher than 12 inches, junk vehicles, doing work without a permit, and signage in the right of ways. We are asked if a permit is needed for minor work such as painting or minor fence repairs. In those circumstances, a permit is not needed. The best thing to do is to call City Hall before doing a project.
Beyond the work of issuing permits and crafting plans, our Development Services division also conducts community outreach programs including homebuyers’ seminars, educational sessions on property maintenance, and participating at holiday festivities. During all of these events, the City partners with others including the Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Office to provide information for low-to-moderate income families for property maintenance and home purchase programs.
Development Services and Economic Development work hand-in-hand during the recruitment process for businesses to join our community. One of the best selling points for businesses to consider Dayton is the red tape that has been cut for planning and permitting in our offices. Other cities have not embraced business-friendly workflows and that can deter businesses from joining those communities. We welcome businesses with good paying, living wage jobs with open arms and our permitting and economic development processes prove it.
As one can see, attraction of businesses and high-quality developers takes a well-oiled machine. With an economic development corporation constantly promoting our community and a development services group with less red tape than the rest, Dayton is in prime position to bring the right development to our community to complement our heritage and history.