FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2005
AUSTIN, TX.--Today Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) filed Senate Bill 684, which would provide Border counties the necessary limited authority to regulate and plan development to help stop the proliferation of colonias.
"This is a local control bill," said Senator Lucio, Chairman of the Senate Committee on International Relations and Trade (IRT). "This measure would provide Border counties the tools to regulate development and adopt building codes for unincorporated areas in their effort to provide safe and healthy living conditions."
Specifically, SB 684 provides Border counties the authority 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 excludes agricultural or open-space land and uninhabitable commercial property. The bill would impact counties within 50 miles of the Border.
"The proposed bill gives fast-growing Border counties the tools we need to deliver on our residents' expectations for today and tomorrow. I appreciate Senator Lucio's support of our efforts to obtain authority to enact zoning and building code regulations," said Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa.
"Unregulated construction and development places the safety and quality of life of our residents at risk," continued Judge Hinojosa. "It threatens neighborhoods and the dreams of families for a better life, and it can impede the growth of our cities and the expansion of our economy. Zoning and building code authority will protect county
residents against the hazards of substandard construction and haphazard development. The new authority will allow for smart growth that preserves quality of life and promotes future prosperity."
Mr. John Henneberger, co-director of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service remarked, "The ability of counties to control development is absolutely essential if we are to make progress on the elimination of substandard conditions in the colonias."
"Together, local and state governments will form a stronger force to raise the standard of residential housing in colonias," stated Sen. Lucio. "Unscrupulous developers who build shoddy housing would be accountable to the local government."
During this last interim period, the IRT Committee heard from county officials and housing advocates urging the Committee to provide Border counties limited ordinance making authority. The bill addresses this concern.