Texas Counties Seek More Regulatory Authority From 2011 Legislative Session

22 September 2010 Publication
Authors: Arthur Val Perkins

At a hearing held before the House Committee on County Affairs in August 2010, representatives of the statewide County Judges and Commissioners' Association of Texas and the Texas Conference of Urban Counties, together with other county representatives, reaffirmed their intention to seek additional regulatory authority over building standards, residential development and land-use controls in the upcoming 82nd session of the Texas Legislature.

The Texas Legislature begins its 140-day regular session on Jan. 11, 2011.  However, legislative committees and interest groups have already begun working on this and other issues for next session.

Developers and builders who are contemplating construction projects in the unincorporated portions of a county are urged to monitor carefully the legislation which these associations of counties will be supporting in the 2011 Legislative Session and, as made clear below, those with projects in the Texas Hill Country need to pay particular attention to the legislative efforts of the Hill Country Coalition of Counties, which began in the last legislative session.

In 2009, the statewide county associations supported the passage into law of House Bill No. 2833, which provided Texas counties with the authority to adopt the International Residential Code or other, similar building codes to govern single-family and residential duplex construction in the unincorporated areas of a county. This legislation, which for the first time provided counties with such direct regulatory control over building standards in the unincorporated areas of a county, also added provisions requiring sometimes costly inspections at various stages of any residential construction project.

At the August hearing, county associations' representatives confirmed their intention to seek stronger penalties for "substandard" residential construction within the unincorporated portion of a county which had adopted the IRC pursuant to the provisions of H.B. No. 2833 and indicated their intention to seek additional legislation to give counties regulatory control over such items as road construction, incompatible land uses and "buffer zone" authority. Providing counties with the additional authority to levy impact fees on developers, particularly to pay for road construction within the unincorporated portions of a county, was also supported by county representatives at the hearing.

Additionally, several representatives of a coalition of 15 Texas Hill Country counties testified at the hearing and reaffirmed their intention to continue to seek legislation which would give those counties even more robust authority on a whole range of land-use issues. That coalition had supported the passage of H.B. No. 3265, filed by State Rep. Patrick Rose (D-Drippings Springs) in the 2009 legislative session. That bill had been favorably approved by the County Affairs Committee but was not passed by the full State House of Representatives or directly considered by the Texas State Senate. Representatives of the Hill Country Coalition of Counties – originally consisting of Bandera, Blanco, Burnet, Comal, Edwards, Gillespie, Hays, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Llano, Mason, Medina, Real and Uvalde counties – made clear their intention to again seek legislation similar to the provisions of H.B. No. 3265 in 2011.

If you have questions related to the information contained in this alert or governmental relations advocacy, please contact Partner Arthur Val Perkins (vperkins@gardere.com or 713.276.5008) or any other member of the Gardere Government Affairs Team.

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