City Hall

Inflation, Supply Chain Issues and Slow Permit Process Are Hurting This Dallas Business

Will Mundinger, executive in residence with the Development Services Department, said they are working to fill vacant positions which could also improve the permitting process.
Will Mundinger, executive in residence with the Development Services Department, said they are working to fill vacant positions which could also improve the permitting process. Getty Images
Southwest Perennials has been in business for about the last 25 years. The company has sold some 300 different plant varieties across the country. They have a location in Floral Farms that used to be called Tietze Wholesale Florist and it’s been there for nearly 100 years. Floral Farms got its name from the nurseries that have been in the neighborhood for about the last century.

Jonathan Soukup and his father, the owners of Southwest Perennials, bought the Tietze location several years ago. Business has been steady for Southwest Perennials, but Soukup said inflation and supply chain issues have made things difficult lately. Meanwhile, Dallas’ permitting process hasn’t made it any easier.

“We have been swamped with orders,” Soukup said. “Plastic pots, soil, heck all nursery supplies are in short supply. Prices have skyrocketed on all of our supplies.”

He said they’ve raised prices and have been able to increase payroll to hang onto employees, but “our biggest worry is we may not be able to keep up with inflation.”

In the last year, Soukup said their natural gas bill has doubled. That may not sound like a lot, Soukup explained, but they went from spending about $5,000 in January 2021 to about $11,000 in January this year.

He wants to open up two other sheds on his property, which could help streamline production and save money for his business, but he’s been waiting about six months now for the city to issue him the proper permits.

“Our biggest worry is we may not be able to keep up with inflation.” – Jonathan Soukup, Southwest Perennials

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Long wait times have persisted in the city’s permitting process for about the last two years. City staff has been working on these issues for about that long, but improvements don’t seem to be happening at a particularly fast pace.

Before the pandemic, most people looking for permits could just go to the Oak Cliff Municipal Center and walk through the process in person. At that time, about a fifth of planning permits were being prescreened online through a service called ProjectDox. Everything shifted online when the pandemic happened, and suddenly ProjectDox, which wasn’t fully integrated yet, was handling about 90% of the permit prescreening.

This led to huge backlogs in the permitting process. Single-family developments made up about half of the backlog.

Phil Crone, executive director of Dallas Builders Association, told the Observer at the time that the city’s speedy permitting process for single-family homes used to be a huge selling point. What might’ve taken weeks in other cities only took about a day in Dallas, Crone said. But, in the middle of a raging pandemic, that wait time shot up to about 12 weeks.

In a memo last week, Will Mundinger, executive in residence with the Development Services Department, said staff has been working for two years to bring improvements to the city’s permitting process.

“It is noteworthy to mention that the time it has taken to issue a new single-family permit continues to improve,” Mundinger said in the memo. “In December of 2021, the average time it took to issue a permit was 58 days; in February of 2022 that metric was down to 42 days.”

He also said they plan to roll out an upgraded version of ProjectDox in late spring, which could help. A new executive committee that’s being formed to “provide feedback and set strategic direction for the continuous process improvements” for the city’s permitting may also find ways to speed things up.

But only time will tell.

Before wanting to build the two new sheds on his property, Soukup said he never had to deal with getting a building permit through the city. It hasn’t been the best first experience and he still has no clue when he’ll be permitted to build the new sheds that could help his business stay afloat.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn