This article below is from the Austin Business Journal today. It’s a recurring scenario for Austin, where those who don’t like the local Austin laws or ordinances passed by Austin Lawmakers take their case to the State Legislature and push for laws that supersede or nullify local Austin laws. The Texas Legislature is forbidden by the Texas Constitution from passing laws that target specific cities, but somehow they wiggle around that by passing State Laws which in fact accomplish the same thing. Now, they are going after Austin’s so-called McMansion Ordinance, which was approved last June 2006, and which limits the sizes of homes that can be built in certain areas.
I’m neither for or against the Austin McMansion Ordinance. It’s one of those issues where I can clearly see both the pros and cons, but the issue was studied to death and the law was a compromise between many different factions with opposing interests. I can live with that.
Bill takes hard look at home sizes
Austin Business Journal – Wednesday, February 28, 2007
A bill recently filed in the Texas Legislature could essentially nullify an Austin city ordinance that restricts home sizes in certain neighborhoods.
Rep. Edmund Kuempel (R-Seguin) has filed House Bill 1736, which would require that cities only regulate home size on one of three criteria: impervious cover, footprint of the lot or floor-to-area ratio. An ordinance passed in 2006 by the Austin City Council limited home sizes on all three criteria–an effort to stem new construction not in keeping with the character of Austin’s more established neighborhoods.
Ned Munoz, director of regulatory affairs for the Texas Association of Builders, says the group has been lobbying for legislation that would ease restrictions on new home construction. TAB also supports another bill filed by Kuempel, House Bill 1732, which would require a municipality to give proper notice before changing housing regulations. Munoz emphasizes that both bills would apply to municipalities across the state that might try to place so much restriction on new construction that it takes away from property value.
“What has happened with this ordinance is that people who own land are very limited on what they can do with it,” Munoz says.
The ordinance is essentially a one-size-fits-all law, says Munoz, putting the same restrictions on both small and large lots and penalizing the owners of smaller lots.
“This is impacting property values,” Munoz says. “People will not be able to get the same price for their land.”
Both bills are currently pending before the Land & Resource Management Committee.
“The impact of the bill is to gut the ordinance,” says Austin Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman. “This won’t allow us to regulate in areas covered by the ordinance.”
Huffman says the city council put together a 16-member taskforce comprised of people representing development and neighborhood interests. “That strikes a balance of those who are interested in remodeling homes, constructing new homes and protecting the character of our urban neighborhoods.”
Huffman says the taskforce held meetings for five months before making its recommendations to council in June 2006. The ordinance’s implementation was delayed until October to give the city time to get the word out to stakeholders and ensure staff was prepared to process requests based on the changes.
Huffman says Kuempel has asked the city to participate in discussions on the bill, but she adds that the city is opposed to any legislation that would gut its own ordinance.
Kuempel could not be reached for comment.