The Fresno City Council shot down the proposed express development team that would have allowed businesses and developers to pay an extra fee for expedited services within the city’s Planning and Development Department.
However, Mayor Jerry Dyer said he still has plans for the team to move forward in some way.
“We will continue to have an express development team,” Dyer said. “The funding was approved for positions, and it’s the director’s ability to utilize those employees in a manner that they believe will be most beneficial.”
He added, “I have had a conversation with several council members on my intent to continue with the express development team.”
The difference, however, is that no fees will be attached, Dyer said.
The mayor said his administration is planning to put together an internal policy to determine who could qualify for expedited review. Currently, according to Dyer, developers can pay third parties who contract with the city to get the job done quicker — and the express development team would help remedy that.
“Large scale housing projects, affordable housing projects, projects that are tied to specific grant timelines, those types of projects will be utilized for the express development team,” Dyer said.
The initial proposal included a team of seven to process applications in one to three days for those willing to pay an extra fee. However, several council members, including Tyler Maxwell, District 4 representative, said the program would not be equitable for those who can’t afford an additional fee.
Maxwell’s motion to kill the express team proposal during budget hearings last week passed unanimously on Tuesday. Councilmember Garry Bredefeld was not present during the vote.
Instead, the city approved the hiring of 13 positions and the conversion of one part-time to a full-time position to speed up the process across the board.
“From the start, I’ve always agreed that we need to have better outcomes at the planning department, faster processing, an overall expedited process,” Maxwell said. “My contention has always been (with) the pay-to-play model, and now it’s potentially setting a fast track for a group of people whether or not they paid.”
As for the modified express development team, Maxwell said he will be “keeping a close eye on it to make sure it’s equitable.”
Maxwell said he has requested information from the mayor on who and what projects might be considered for the expedited process and hopes to receive information before July 1.
“My concern with the express development team was that wealthy developers would be able to cut in front of the line,” Maxwell said. “I think the last thing this council wants is for wealthy developers to cut in front of the line without paying a dime. I think that’s worse.”