FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6, 2001
AUSTIN, TX-- Today the Senate voted for Senate Bill 517 by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., (D-Brownsville) that will provide Border counties limited local ordinance making authority to combat the proliferation of colonias. State Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco, added an amendment to the legislation expanding this authority statewide.
"During the interim, Border counties requested from the state limited local ordinance making authority to try to combat the development of colonias," stated Sen. Lucio, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Border Affairs. "SB 517 is the tool that counties need in order to curb the growth of substandard housing along the Texas-Mexico Border and other parts of the state."
"I'm pleased to coauthor this landmark legislation with Sen. Lucio," said Sen. David Sibley, Chairman of the Business and Commerce Committee. "For years we have spent state money trying to clean up colonias that already exist. Now, for the first time, counties will have the authority to set building standards that will keep more of these substandard housing divisions from ever being built."
Hidalgo County Judge Eloy Pulido recently argued that, "The rapid growth in rural areas, especially along the Border, must have planned, regulated development in order to maintain reasonable standards and a decent quality of life for residents. SB 517 will help us do just that. This bill will give us the code enforcement we need to better regulate county land," added Judge Pulido.
The bill, which first passed out of the Senate Subcommittee on Border Affairs, was then approved by the seven members of the Business and Commerce Committee, who all co-authored the legislation.
SB 517 allows counties to adopt rules that affect: the size of lots; the height, number of stories, size and number of buildings on a lot; the percentage of a lot that may be occupied; and the location of buildings or other structures on a lot. The measure also allows counties to adopt building codes to promote safe and uniform building, plumbing and electrical standards in unincorporated areas of Border counties.
For the past 10 years, Border officials have attempted to grant ordinance making authority to counties. SB 517 has received overwhelming support because it contains several provisions that protect the interests of businesses, municipalities and counties. First, the bill specifically stipulates that the purpose and intended use of the new ordinance making authority is to combat the proliferation of colonias. Second, it provides a safeguard for cities by stating that if a new order adopted under the act conflicts with an ordinance of a municipality, the municipal ordinance prevails within the municipality's jurisdiction to the extent of the conflict. Third, the bill provides a safeguard for counties by stating that the measure does not affect the existing authority of the commissioners' court to adopt an order or ordinance under current law.
"This bill offers the Texas Legislature the opportunity to remedy a major problem by allowing counties to institute reasonable regulation of development," stated El Paso County Judge Dolores Briones. "Cities already have this authority. Most developers already adhere to these standards. However, along the Texas-Mexico Border, we have experienced a rash of construction that ignores the long-term, well-being of the families who will live in the developments."
"This is a very sensible, comprehensive well-thought measure that gives counties the authority they've been lacking all along the Border," said Sen. Lucio. "This is landmark legislation that further complements the Colonia Omnibus Bill I authored last session to bring water, wastewater and electric hook-ups to colonias."
Sen. Lucio expressed appreciation for the support the Border counties, contractors and the Texas Municipal League offered this measure.
The bill must now be referred to a House committee and then the full House Chamber must vote on it.
NOTE: Director of Legislation and of the Subcommittee on Border Affairs, Mr. Daniel Esparza, is handling SB 517.