Mayor Jerry Dyer proposed a new team in Fresno’s planning department to expedite approvals of building projects for applicants willing to pay an additional fee. On Tuesday, the Fresno City Council shot down the idea.
The council voted 4-1 against the creation of an Express Development Team, but agreed to fund the hiring of additional planning department employees to address a backlog of project applications.
Councilmember Luis Chavez cast the lone vote in favor of the EDT proposal.
“We are working through those details along with several others in anticipation of having a final budget adopted on Thursday,” Dyer told GV Wire on Tuesday evening.
When planning director Jennifer Clark presented the concept last week, councilmembers were skeptical. They questioned the fairness of what some described as a “pay-to-play” model.
Clark said that qualifying projects would receive permits in one to three days instead of the 14 days most current applications face. She said it was an investment in development in the city.
Council Says Deal Would “Raise Eyebrows”
Councilmember Tyler Maxwell said dedicating a special team to review projects for an additional fee would “raise eyebrows.” He preferred keeping the employees that would be hired and add them to the already existing planning staff.
“I really take issue with what I perceive as these neo-liberal policies that allow wealthy citizens of the city to have better city services than the rest of the folks that can’t afford it. This is a slippery slope,” Maxwell said.
City Manager Thomas Esqueda said the Dyer administration was responding to a market demand, by allowing some to “jump the line.” He compared it to expedited security checks at an airport.
Councilmember Garry Bredefeld did not attend the meeting, due to a regularly scheduled cancer checkup at Stanford Medical Center. Bredefeld is a cancer survivor. Councilmember Mike Karbassi did not cast a vote on the EDT budget motion, but was present for voting on other motions.[Note 6/23/2021: this story has been updated with a statement from Mayor Jerry Dyer.]