Officials to draft ‘consistent, uniform’ engineering requirements

HARLINGEN — Developers want city officials to clearly outline engineering requirements to help their subdivision projects move more smoothly.

On Monday, about a dozen developers and engineers met at City Hall to request officials standardize engineering requirements such as drainage.

“We’re trying to get some subdivisions done and we’re having a tough time going about it,” engineer Jack Brown said after the meeting.

Now, officials plan to draft guidelines specifying engineering standards for roads, drainage and water and sewer lines to help developers better streamline their subdivisions, Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez said after the meeting.

“We are developer-friendly,” Sanchez said. “We want to facilitate (development).”

Sanchez said officials plan to draft a “design manual” to assure “consistent and uniform” engineering requirements.

“The city needs to have design standards,” he said. “We want to have a document that (sets) standards and puts the requirements in one place.”

Developers and engineers want the city’s engineering department, in which three city engineers have served in the last five years, to outline more consistent and uniform requirements, Sanchez said.

“The concerns were we had some inconsistencies in what the city engineer is asking for in some of the reviews,” he said. “The standards need to be consistent and be applied uniformly.”

As developers plan their subdivisions, the city engineer reviews their specifications to determine whether they comply with city standards.

For developers, the city engineer’s changes can tack on additional time as they work to complete their projects.

“Sometimes what the engineer wants is capricious or arbitrary,” Chris Hamby, a developer who attended the meeting, said. “We want to fast-track response time so there’s no time wasted going through the plat approval.”

City Engineer Andy Vigstol’s office referred questions to Sanchez.

“We want to streamline the subdivision review process and the construction plan review process,” Sanchez said.

Drainage standards

Concerns include requirements such as drainage designs as officials upgrade city standards from a 10-year to 25-year flood control plan, Sanchez said.

Last June’s storm that flooded many area homes led officials to consider tougher subdivision requirements such as construction of bigger retention ponds and higher home foundation elevations, Sanchez said.

“(We want) development that it is well planned so we minimize flooding in those subdivisions,” he said. “The higher (requirements) go, infrastructure improvements are bigger and more costly. We don’t want to drive away development by having design standards that are very expensive. We have to take into consideration flood prevention for homes.”

City seeks input

Sanchez said officials want to work with developers and engineers to draft the new guidelines during the next three months.

“We need to systematically go through the process with engineers and developers to come up with a design manual,” he said. “We want to invite their input in the implementation of the design handbook.”

After the Planning and Zoning Commission reviews the guidelines, city commissioners will consider their approval, he said.