Monday, December 4, 2023

Southlake’s FY 2022 Annual Development Report: The Blueprint for the Future

Planning and Development Services (PDS) has released its Annual Development Activity Report for FY 2022.

“With a focus on envisioning the future while maintaining high standards, this department plays a crucial role in shaping the future of our community,” said Dennis Killough, the planning and development services director.

This report also gives insight into the department’s successes over the past year, including its priorities for what lies ahead.

One priority for PDS has been implementing high-quality scenic standards for public spaces. These efforts earned the City of Southlake the 2022 Platinum Texas Scenic City Award.

The City was granted this honor back in October 2022 through the Scenic City Certification Program, which was developed to implement and establish a foundation of cohesive scenic standards and land planning practices that demonstrate the protection of environmentally sensitive areas and the provision of shared community spaces, parks, walkable sidewalks, and scenic roadways.

“Managing the growth of our community is essential to the well-being of our residents and businesses,” said Killough, “We’re always working to improve on our implementation of the City’s comprehensive plans and adopted codes, which directly reflect the values of the community.”

Over twelve months, employees have accomplished various assignments and approved numerous permits. These figures can be observed below:

  • The total Number of Building Permits increased from FY 2021 to FY 2022

o 3,209 permits to 3,372 permits

  • # of Building Inspections Completed increased from FY 2021 to FY 2022

o Approx. 10,000 building inspections to approx. 12,000 building inspections

  • Total Fees from Building Permits increased from FY 2021 to FY 2022

o $1.38M to $2.47M

To dive deeper into the numbers, the FY 2022 Annual Development Report is available online.

How Southlake’s OPX Team Developed an Innovative Solution to Improve Notifications and Reporting for Active Zoning Cases

Recently, The City of Southlake stepped up its game by automating the notification and reporting process for active zoning cases, saving the City time and money and ultimately bringing the whole process in-house.

Zoning allows a local government to regulate which areas under their jurisdiction may be used for particular purposes. A City is required to notify owners of any zoning changes within 300 feet of the area, typically with a mailed letter. When zoning changes are opposed, the City’s Planning and Development Services (PDS) Team will contact GIS staff to conduct a case calculation.

Deep Rajani, a Senior Application Developer for the City of Southlake, built an in-house solution to improve the zoning case notification process. By leveraging his expertise in technology, Rajani was able to save the City significant resources while enhancing the overall efficiency of their operations. He was supported by Patrick Whitham, the GIS Analyst, Reagan Rothenberger, the Planning Manager, and Dennis Killough, the Director of Planning and Development Services, for outlining the process and defining specific requirements.

Before Deep’s employment at the City, the City contracted with a third-party vendor to create a web solution that PDS could use to generate postcards. Unfortunately, there were shortcomings in the solution. PDS could not automatically generate postcards for external destinations or schooling districts. Instead, they had to do a manual mail merge and print out stickers to paste onto a mailing book which took time.

Whenever a zoning case had opposition, PDS would contact the City’s GIS staff to do case calculations, determining if the opposing property owners’ properties and rights-of-way intersecting a 200-foot buffer of the case property amounted to 20% or more of the area of the 200-foot buffer. A calculation for zoning case oppositions typically took two to three days with three personnel and required a costly software package.

To streamline these processes, Rajani automated both, merging them into one interactive solution. Now the process is simplified with a flexible in-house solution using an application that requires just a planner and around two hours of mostly hands-off execution.

“Due to this new solution being in-house, all further iterations will be cost-free,” said the Director of Planning and Development Services, Dennis Killough. “This service speeds up the notification process by cutting the number of people required from three to one and the amount of time needed from two or more days to one to three hours, which helps us focus on higher level projects.”

“We strive to consistently improve our processes for accuracy and efficiency by delivering the best results to our customers internally and externally, said Rajani, “I was excited to be part of a project that embraced the great potential of technology. Through rigorous iteration and a willingness to learn, any process can be bettered.”

Dennis Killough Appointed Director of Planning & Development Services Department

Dennis Killough, who has served the City of Southlake since November 1994, has been appointed as Southlake’s new Director of Planning & Development Services, effective November 16, 2022. Killough served as Interim Director with the departure of Ken Baker and has previously served as the department’s Deputy Director since 2007.

“Dennis enjoys a strong reputation within our organization and in the development community. He’s been a very active member of our team for many years, and his knowledge is extensive,” said Shana Yelverton, City Manager. “Those who have worked with him think of him as a living, breathing encyclopedia of all things Southlake.”

Killough has been involved in every aspect of the city’s modern planning efforts and has been an integral part of creating effective regulations that have resulted in the orderly development of Southlake. His influence extends to many of the city’s landmark projects, including:

  • Southlake Town Square (130-acre mixed-use development)
  • Gateway Plaza (83-acre retail center)
  • Sabre, Southlake (155-acre corporate campus)
  • Verizon Network Operations Center (50-acre communication and data center)
  • Cornerstone Business Park (60-acre business/industrial park)
  • Shops of Southlake (30-acre retail development anchored by Central Market)
  • Timarron (1,000-acre residential planned unit development
  • Carillon Parc (285-acre mixed-use development)
  • TD Ameritrade (78-acre corporate office development)
  • City of Southlake 2025, 2030, and 2035 Comprehensive Plans.

Killough is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is a member of the American Planning Association and the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors. In addition, he holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography from the University of North Texas, an Associate of Arts in Mathematics from Tarrant County Junior College. He also has a professional certificate in Geographic Information Systems from UNT.

“With over 38 years of experience in municipal planning, civil engineering, and surveying, Dennis is ideally suited to lead the Planning & Development Services Department,” said Yelverton. “I’m excited to see where he’ll take the team and how the city’s physical development will continue to flourish under his leadership.”


Southlake Planning and Development Services wins the Richard R. Lillie Planning Excellence Award

The Planning and Development Services Department recently won the Richard R. Lillie Planning Excellence Award from the Texas American Planning Association.

The award was presented during the Texas APA awards ceremony in El Paso, Texas in October of 2022.

The City of Southlake is one of 44 municipalities to take home this award across the state of Texas.

“It’s always an honor to receive recognition for our efforts,” Dennis Killough, interim director of planning and development services said. “Our team works diligently year-round to ensure that our planning reflects the community’s values and always serves as the blueprint for Southlake’s future.”

The goals of the program included:

  • Increasing community awareness of the importance of planning.
  • Recognizing planning departments which meet certain professional requirements.
  • Recognizing planning efforts that have achieved community support.
  • Encouraging the funding of professional training for planning commissioners and staff.
  • Aiding economic development and community image.

Evaluation criteria included the level of training of planning commissioners and professional staff, professional qualifications of the planning staff, breadth and currency of master plan components, and completion of other planning-related projects.

“Our team of devoted professionals apply their knowledge and continued training in efforts to improve team collaboration and communication channels as well as engage with the public,” Killough said. “By fostering professional development, staff can adapt to industry changes while keeping Southlake’s vision, goals, and objectives in mind.”

To learn more about the City of Southlake’s Planning and Development Services division, please visit their webpage or give us a call at 817-748-8621.

Mayor Huffman wishes Senior Director of Planning and Development Services Ken Baker Farewell

Goodbyes are never easy, but sometimes they are necessary. The Senior Director of Planning and Development Services, Ken Baker, retired from the City of Southlake this week. Mayor John Huffman sent him off with a memorable farewell on this week’s Minute with the Mayor.

“The man is an encyclopedia of knowledge, and it makes our jobs as councilmembers so much easier because he can dig back in the memory banks and think through and help us talk through and analyze cases based on what prior councils have done and what prior councils have said. It’s invaluable as a councilmember and as a mayor,” said Mayor John Huffman.

Huffman also noted that Baker’s career at Southlake has left an impact on those around him.

“It’s really hard as mayor to try to encapsulate and describe the career of a man like Ken Baker and how much he means to the City, to the City staff, to the City Council, and to me and my predecessors,” he said. “He has made such an incredible impact on the community we live in.”

Baker has worked for the City of Southlake for 23 years. During his tenure, he has overseen several major projects and received numerous awards and accolades.

“His fingerprints are everywhere, from Town Square to every development on every corner,” Huffman said.

Huffman also mentioned the legacy that Baker will leave behind. “Your legacy will be here forever in the buildings and the developments and the parks we all enjoy,” said Huffman.

Congratulations Ken Baker, we will miss you on #TeamSouthlake.

Celebrating Building Safety!

Join the Planning and Development Service Department in celebrating Building Safety during the month of May! This month-long campaign recognizes all aspects of building safety and reinforces the need for the adoption and implementation of modern, regularly-updated building codes. These codes help individuals, families, and businesses by creating safe sustainable structures constructed in a manner that minimizes the risk of injury and property damage.

All communities need building codes to protect their citizens. Model building codes, adopted and enforced by well-trained, professional officials are society’s best way of protecting homes, offices, schools, stores, and entertainment venues.

The International Code Council identified four core themes that will be highlighted throughout the month of May.

The first weekly topic is dedicated to energy and innovation to ensure cities “plan for a safe and sustainable tomorrow.” Safety and sustainability in construction help address energy efficiency, building science, and innovation.

In conjunction with energy and innovation, building codes play a vital role in the construction of future-proofing communities. To fulfill this commitment, the City of Southlake recently adopted the 2021 International Building Codes to guide building safety and safeguard public health.

The International Codes, or I-Codes, are the most trusted source of model codes and standards. Decades of knowledge and experience guide the code development process to create safe, sustainable, and affordable communities, and a level playing field for builders, developers, and manufacturers. The I-Codes are updated and published every three years by the efforts of public safety officials through the code development process. The City of Southlake recently adopted ten (10) individual international codes, which include the energy conservation code, building code, residential code, fire code, plumbing code, mechanical code, fuel gas code, existing building code, swimming pool and spa code, and the property maintenance code.

Another major focus for building safety is resilience as it relates to how successfully infrastructure can adapt and/or recover from disastrous events. Construction of green and LEED (Leadership on Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings help reinforce societal health, resiliency in natural disaster situations, and awareness of consumption and management. The City of Southlake currently has seven (7) buildings that were constructed in a green manner; one of those achieving full LEED certification:

  • City of Southlake Department of Public Safety North (LEED Certified)
  • The Marq Southlake (incorporates LEED components)
  • Sabre
  • TD Ameritrade
  • Varisapce

To kickoff Building Safety Month, the Planning and Development Services Department made a presentation to City Council on May 3 to commemorate the occasion.

To learn more about Building Safety Month, please visit International Code Council’s website. For more information about Southlake’s best practices for building safety, visit our website or give us a call at (817) 748-8621.