Leander is among hundreds of Texas cities throughout the state grappling with losing their ability to regulate building materials for most building exteriors and facing a “shot clock” style speed up of when plat applications must be approved following the recent passage of two bills by the Texas Legislature.
“You look at developments that people ‘want to hang out in,’ like The Domain or Southlake Town Square or the future of Northline, and they have high standards. So, people seem to like it. It’s just odd that the Legislature would go against what people are looking for,” said Leander Mayor Troy Hill.
The Leander City Council received an overview presentation from Leander Planning Director Robin Griffin about H.B. 2439 and H.B. 3167 during its Thursday meeting.
City staff is currently working to bring portions of the city’s Composite Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision ordinance into compliance with the laws and present the revisions at the Aug. 8 Leander Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the Aug. 15 council meeting for a public hearing and again at the Sept. 5 meeting for final reading.
In response to questions from Hill and other council members, Griffin explained that H.B. 2439 removes a city's ability to regulate building materials for residential or commercial buildings and only requires those building to comply with the International Building Code’s requirements, which allows everything from metal to vinyl to wood to brick. She confirmed it ends certain city regulations, such as requiring at least 85 percent masonry on certain building exteriors, but doesn’t prevent regulation architectural features, which pertains to how many windows, columns and other features are allowed or required for a building.
The city’s aesthetic goals could still be achieved by offering economic incentives or waiving certain building requirements in a development agreement in exchange for meeting these architectural standards, Robin said. However, developers will always have an option to ignore the incentives and building outside of these standards under this approach.
Hill asked whether anybody had legally challenged H.B. 2439 yet. Griffin said nobody has yet because the law doesn’t take effect until Sept. 1. However, she said she has read about the City of Dallas considering a legal challenge.
Griffin also explained that H.B. 3167 changes the subdivision platting process, and requires cities to approve or disapprove development applications within 30 days. The city is working to amend several city ordinances in order to comply with the new requirements before Sept. 1, which will include changes to the city's development application submittal process and related fee schedules.
Staff noted in the agenda item text that they occasionally ask applicants to waive the 30-day time frame to address any comments about the project. Under the new law, staff anticipates having to recommend more applications be denied unless they can address all comments within the limited timeline.
Going forward, Griffin said staff will meet later this month with potential applicants, normally surveyors and engineers, about what to expect beginning Sept. 1.