How DFW Planning Departments Are Responding to COVID-19 Pandemic

April 7, 2020 | Insights

Key Takeaways

  • Shelter in Place orders have forced cities to reevaluate the procedures for zoning application submittals, staff reviews, and public hearings.
  • Most cities in DFW are now accepting most zoning applications electronically and are conducting staff reviews virtually.
  • Cities have started to shift towards public hearings via video and teleconferences.

By Luke Franz & Shannon Quine

On March 22, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dallas County issued a “shelter in place” order, which took effect at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 23, 2020, and has been extended to run through April 30, 2020, unless extended. The order generally requires Dallas County residents to remain at home except when performing Essential Activities, Essential Business, or Essential Government Functions. Following this order, many other counties and cities enacted similar orders. Tarrant County issued a stay at home declaration which took effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24 and remains in effect until April 30, 2020. Collin County also issued an order for residents to stay home; however, this order allows many businesses to stay open—a major difference from the Dallas County and Tarrant County orders.

For Dallas County and Tarrant County, individuals may leave their residences only to perform Essential Activities, such as activities related to health, grocery shopping, or to care for family members. However, there is no prohibition on performing Essential Government Functions, per Section 2(b) of the Dallas County order and Section 6 of the Tarrant County order. The orders define Essential Government Functions as services needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Given the deference provided in these orders to local governments to define Essential Government Functions, cities are currently updating their procedures for development and zoning to shift most or all of their functions to be operational online.

As of now, the cities listed below have not stopped taking entitlement applications. However, developers and property owners should anticipate a slower process as city staffs transition into online submissions, virtual development meetings, and some call-in and virtual Planning and Zoning Commission hearings and City Council hearings. Please note that the new development processes vary city by city and may continue to evolve. Some of these cities are now allowing zoning applications to be submitted online, while others only allow applications to be submitted via the mail. Quite a few of these cities now allow online payment for zoning applications, while others still require a check to be mailed. Some of these cities have temporarily postponed public hearings, while others now use teleconferencing for public hearings. We have provided operational updates for the DFW metroplex cities listed below. As this situation is rapidly evolving, we will continue to monitor each of these cities and update this information as quickly as possible.

Dallas County

City Zoning Application Procedural Changes
Addison All application submittals available through an online portal. Payments are completed through the same portal.
Cedar Hill Zoning applications may be submitted by email. Filing fees may be paid online. Possible new hearing procedures are still TBD.
Dallas Applications may be reviewed by email before submittal. For formal submittal, hard copy must be mailed. Applicant will be informed within one business day if submittal is complete. Payment may be made by mailing a check. The April City Plan Commission will be conducted virtually; however, only Plats will be on the agenda and all other items have been delayed until at least May. City Hall is now officially closed to the public so all meetings should be conducted via telephone or email and all materials must be mailed to the Current Planning department.
DeSoto Applications may be dropped off at City Hall.
Duncanville Applications and filing fees may be submitted online. Hearings by teleconference.
Grapevine Must inform staff when submitting application, and drop off submittal at back door. Staff will call when receipt is ready. Hearings TBD.
Irving Applications accepted via email and an online invoice is generated once the staff reviews and determines application completeness. City Council and P&Z hearings have been delayed, so expect a slightly longer process. Upcoming hearings will be broadcast live.
Richardson Application submissions accepted via email. Still a preference for payment in person but possible for over the phone payments. Potential delay in P&Z date setting.

Collin County

City Zoning Application Procedural Changes
Allen Accepting applications via email, but hard copies are required to be delivered by mail. Fee to be paid by credit card after application submission is deemed completed. No anticipated delays at this moment by staff for P&Z hearing scheduling.
Frisco Applications accepted via an electronic filing and e-payment process prepared after application is reviewed and deemed complete. The payment must be completed by noon the day following the submission. Staff and applicant meetings are either being postponed to a later date or being conducted virtually. Public hearing participation by the public will be through two-way telephone communication.
McKinney All planning-related applications accepted on the normal schedule, except for plat applications will be on a modified schedule. Delays in operations are to be expected, and P&Z hearings are temporarily suspended. Applications are still being accepted but cannot move forward until commission meetings resume.
Plano Applications accepted online. In-person meetings and customer service are not allowed at this time. Payments should be made over the phone via credit card. P&Z and City Council hearings will take place via teleconference; applicants can present their case virtually though Zoom.

Tarrant County

City Zoning Application Procedural Changes
Arlington Applications already permitted to be submitted online. Now pre-submittal meetings will be virtual as well. Hearings will be held by teleconference.
Fort Worth Applications already permitted to be submitted online. If submitting in-person, appointment required. City Council and Zoning Commission by teleconference; however April’s Zoning Commission meeting has been cancelled and staff is working on a solution for May. Each item on the City Council’s agenda open for public comment has a link where the public can submit support, opposition, comments, etc.
North Richland Hills Applications may be submitted via email and an electronic PayPal invoice will be made available once the application is deemed completed. P&Z hearings canceled until May 7.

As we all navigate these unchartered territories, Jackson Walker is here for you and will continue to represent you and your business needs. If you are considering any zoning or entitlement changes, please reach out to let us know how we can assist you and navigate these new processes together.

Meet Luke & Shannon

Dallas associates Luke Franz and Shannon Field Quine represent land owners, real estate developers, and nonprofits in a variety of land use and real estate development issues, including zoning changes, specific use permits, and planned development districts. Luke and Shannon often work on matters related to compliance with development regulations and counseling clients with regard to land use entitlements and permitting issues, land use due diligence, annexation, vested rights, comprehensive planning, and affordable housing. Prior to Jackson Walker, Luke worked as a corporate and investment banking analyst and a mathematics and ESL (English Second Language) teacher, and Shannon served as a Legislative Aide for U.S. Congressman Ron DeSantis.

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Please note: This article and any resources presented on the JW Coronavirus Insights & Resources site are for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal or medical advice, and are not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Jackson Walker. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed.