McKinney is re-evaluating its development processes after two laws were approved in the most recent legislative session that could change the look of the city and play a role in providing more affordable homes.
One law prevents government entities from enforcing building material standards stricter than those set by the national model code.
Another sets time limits for cities to respond to submitted plats and civil engineering plans. If cities do not respond to plats or plans within the allotted time, the submittals are automatically approved, according to the new law.
Both laws went into effect Sept. 1.
“The intention [of the laws]is positive … but I do think that anytime you take this sort of action, there’s unintended consequences,” said James Craig, president of Craig International, a real estate, brokerage, development and consulting company whose founder developed McKinney’s Craig Ranch community.
Some officials, including McKinney legislative consultant Angela Hale, said these bills take away local control.
Former McKinney City Council Member and builder Don Day said he is in favor of the two laws and does not anticipate them having much effect on McKinney.
“My experience [has]been that when the state comes out with these kinds of ordinances and laws, the city immediately turns and looks at their legal staff to find ways around it,” Day said. “And so at the end of the day, I don’t expect [the laws]to have a lot of impact.”
Signed into law June 14, HB 2439 nullifies the city of McKinney’s architecture code, including a portion requiring the exterior of all commercial buildings to have at least 50% masonry—brick or stone.
The new law means builders can use different and sometimes newer materials, said Phil Crone, executive officer of the Dallas Builders Association.
Home or building costs could also potentially be lowered by the new law, Crone said. If a homebuilder no longer has to use brick siding, that may create cost savings that the builder will hopefully pass on to the buyer, he said.
“House Bill 2439 is an important bill to ensure that local governments do not mandate vendor driven and product specific mandates in construction that are in the direct or indirect prohibition of other products approved by national codes and standards,” state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, said in an email.
Sanford said there are numerous examples across the state of “excessive and unnecessary” mandates resulting in higher home values. At least 12 McKinney residents, developers and elected officials signed a petition asking Gov. Greg Abbott to reject this bill. As of June 2, the petition had 936 signatures.
Exempt from the new law are buildings designated as historically significant or located within a Historic Neighborhood Improvement Zone, which must still abide by the city’s architecture code. The zone includes downtown McKinney as well as properties east of US 75, west of Airport Drive, north of Wilson Creek Parkway and south of US 380.
Homeowner associations, such as the one in Craig Ranch, may continue to enforce their own building guidelines, said Jennifer Arnold, director of planning for the city.
“We can continue to hold ourselves to a higher standard and require those that develop within our development to that same standard,” Craig said. “If we didn’t, we’d be doing ourselves a disservice.”
Arnold said the law’s influence on affordability will be no surprise.
“Now, people are open to us using lesser-quality materials, which cuts down on their upfront costs, which means they can then promote a product at a lesser price,” she said. “And I can see, on the surface, that sounds great and wonderful, but longterm, those lesser-quality products—they don’t maintain as well over time.”
Shot clock bill
House Bill 3167, also referred to as the “shot clock bill,” gives cities 30 days to respond to submissions of plats and plans.
The 30 calendar days begin when the city deems a submittal “administratively complete,” meaning the applicant provided staff with all information necessary to complete the process, Arnold said.
City staff will then review the submittal and either approve it as is or approve it with conditions. If staff recommends disapproval, or if a variance or specific use permit is requested, the submittal will go before the Planning and Zoning Commission or City Council.
These entities will either approve, approve with conditions, or disapprove the submittal. If action does not come within 30 days, the plan or plat is automatically approved, according to the law.
If an item gets sent back to the applicant, they can re-submit documents to the city at any time. Once a response is received, the city has 15 days to grant final approval or disapprove it.
Planning and Zoning Chair Bill Cox said he supports HB 3167 but worries it may put a burden on city staff.
“I don’t think city staff intentionally stalls a project,” he said. “They have a lot they’re working on. And … in a fast-growth area, they have so much that is thrown at them. It’s hard to get everything through the chute in a reasonable amount of time.”
In 2018, the city received 580 planning submittals. Nearly 285 submittals have been sent to the city from January to July in 2019, according to the most recent city data available.
In response to the law, the city may have to hire additional staff to stay on top of these submittals and re-submittals, Arnold said.
“We just don’t know yet,” she said. “We’re going to be keeping a pretty close tab on the bandwidth and how things are going.”