If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
PEARSALL TOWN HALL MEETING HIGHLIGHTS FRUSTRATION WITH PERMIT PROCESS
Pearsall Mayor Ben Briscoe hosted a town hall meeting last week as part of a drive to provide the community with a more streamlined, efficient and transparent permitting process for commercial and residential renovations and new construction.
“It is important that we follow code,” the mayor said to a room full of concerned citizens. “It is important we have a policy for the safety of everyone. Because, if we are implementing the policies, we are enforcing them. It is for the safety of our whole community.”
Citizens have raised concerns over the past year regarding permit denials, confusion over the permit application process and what some described on Wednesday as unfair treatment.
According to City Manager Federico Reyes, the city follows building codes that were adopted by the council in 2019, and that includes the 2018 editions of the International Residential, International Building, International Energy Conservation and the International Property Maintenance codes.
“A lot of the regulations have been adopted and the state of Texas requires a lot of this,” the city manager said. “Permits and inspections go hand-in-hand.”
The city hired independent contractors Bureau Veritas as building inspectors two years ago.
“It does take knowledge and certifications,” Reyes said of the decision to hire the company.
Briscoe told the crowd that he believes the city does not have any intentions of making the process difficult and said the administration is geared towards finding a way to streamline the process to obtain a permit.
Former Frio County Attorney Hector Lozano, who served as legal counsel to the city for many years, suggested that a copy of the ordinance and code be provided to permit applicants.
The regional manager of Bureau Vistas, Fernando Garcia, was in attendance and provided feedback to the audience regarding failed inspections.
“At that moment, the inspector will cite the code and will read it,” Garcia said. “A lot of cities do not print out the codes because it is costly. But you can look them up online.”
“It appears it is selective enforcement,” Lozano said. “It would be beneficial across the board.”
The former county attorney referenced a recent commercial development project on the west side of town. He alleged the site plan plat requirements were not filed.
“Yes there is, at the courthouse,” the city manager said. “There is a lot of development here that has been done that does not have proper permits. There are subdivisions not even platted and people rely on water, roads. Because of the lack of knowledge, it creates problems in the future.”
Joe Vela, who identified himself as a master electrician and commissioner for Precinct 4, expressed his distaste for the permit process and an apparent claim that permits are required to conduct simple handyman work in local residents’ homes.
“What you are doing is wrong,” Vela said. “These people voted for you and you stab them in the back. You do not feel nothing for the people who voted for you.”
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) lists Vela as an electrical apprentice whose license expired on July 18, 2022. His company license as an electrical contractor remains active and lists Robert Alvarez as its master electrician.
Mayor Briscoe said homeowners are not required to file for a permit to paint a house, replace a toilet, change a light fixture or replace flooring.
“If you are a homeowner and you can do plumbing, you can do it,” Garcia said in support of Briscoe’s comments. “There is an exception in the Texas code for that. The code is meant to enforce the intent of the code primarily for the health and safety of the public.”
Councilor Ramiro Trevino said he feels there is a lack of eduction and resources for the citizens when it comes to the permit process.
“I think the issue we are having here is a lack of communication,” the councilor said. “A lot of policies are not being enforced and it is our duty to meet your needs and bring resources to you.”
“It is being misinterpreted that you are tying their hands and that is not the truth,” Pearsall citizen Christine Pelfrey said. “It is just that it needs to be simplified.”
Briscoe, Reyes and Trevino agreed with Pelfrey and said the mission of the city was to being a committed partner, not an obstacle, to residents and developers who are investing in the community.