plats

Planning technician Caleb Gasparek and planners Matthew Simmont and Matt Greene examine a plat at New Braunfels City Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2019. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

A new law that went into effect earlier this week is cutting the county’s turnaround time for the platting process in half — and pushing county staff to step up their game.

Adopted during the 86th legislative session and enacted on Sept. 1, House Bill 3167 changes the timeline of the platting process so applications must be reviewed and approved, approved with conditions, or denied within 30 days — half of the county’s former 60-day period. 

If the application is not reviewed within this time, the application is automatically approved.

Formerly the process was allowed a two-month period to be completed. Comal County has a couple members on staff dedicated to the platting process — David Vollbrecht, assistant county engineer, and Adrienne Winkler, county subdivision coordinator.

“We had a four-hour meeting with the county attorney and hashed through the items, and shortened those time periods,” Vollbrecht said. “We’d already been discussing (speeding up our process) over the last couple years, so this just pushes us to do so.”

The county’s process was slightly different than the city’s in that the county only has these couple of staff members overseeing the process, there’s no zoning involved and there’s no planning commission involved, Vollbrecht said.

“So the way it worked was an application would come in, and for us that clock started ticking when we had a complete application — if we didn’t have a complete application, we’d tell them applicant to get us any missing pieces,” Vollbrecht said. “Once all items were in, the clock starts.”

From then, the county had 60 days to get a response to the applicant — now, it has 30 days.

“So that cut our time in half, and we have to do a better job in the hot fire at getting that turned out,” Vollbrecht said. “After we give the applicant our response with any stipulations, they have as much time to review it as they want.”

While the applicant has the paperwork back, the clock stops, Vollbrecht explained.

“Once they respond to us, we only have 15 days to get through it again,” he said.

A big change for the county will be having to cite an exact rule for why the application was returned with changes, Vollbrecht said. 

“Before we didn’t have to provide that,” Vollbrecht said. “Now we have to say, ‘Okay here’s rule 32, here’s the contour rules, you have to provide that now.’ Adrienne, our subdivision coordinator is looking at, ‘How am I going to city our rules?’ and ‘How do I find them?’ They’re a little difficult to read.”

Organization will be a big key item in getting that process down to 30 days, especially because the county wants to keep the thoroughness and quality it’s kept in the past, Vollbrecht said.

“I think we still have the capacity — we’ll just have to really streamline everything,” Vollbrecht said.

When asked if he felt stressed or if county employees would have to work overtime, Vollbrecht said the county team did not feel stressed, and that overtime is not likely to be needed.

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