History of LWV-TX Action on Land Use

1975-1984: Land Use advocacy has often focused on coastal issues. From the late 1970's to early 1980's, League members played key roles in the development of a Texas coastal zone management plan, but the plan was not approved by the governor. The League supported the national celebration of COAST WEEK during these years.

The League worked for the establishment of the Big Thicket National Preserve in 1973-74. We have continued to support legislation that would add areas of unique biological diversity and/or essential components of ecologically viable systems to the preserve. The League also played a key role in the 1984 designation of 34,000 acres of east Texas national forest land for wilderness purposes, and we cosponsored a Wilderness Pow Wow and supported beach cleanup programs during these years.

2003: Most of the bills introduced in the 78th session followed by the League, dealt with county authority to regulate development. (This was also true of border issues.) Issues addressed in bills that did not pass included elections to require a subdivision to use a central water or waste water system and standards for (a) minimum amounts of open space or limits on the amount of impervious surfaces; (b) rights of way; (c) drainage; (d) utility connections; and (d) the location, use, and occupancy of housing. A bill prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle in or on the beds or banks of Texas rivers passed and was signed into law. This issue was examined during the 2002 interim and drew interest statewide from people on both sides of the issue.

2007: HB 12 (Hildebran) passed and became law. It appropriates $170 million more dollars to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and also transfers 18 historical sites to the Texas Historical commission. HB 3447 (Rose) failed to pass. This bill would regulate land development in a county wholly or partly located in a priority groundwater management area designated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that contains a territory from seven or more counties.

2011: Activity was concentrated primarily in making eminent domain procedures and property owners' associations fairer to property owners. In both instances, these powers are widely perceived to have been abused in the past. In the case of eminent domain, the process and method of calculating reimbursement were spelled out in more detail, and the definition of who can wield eminent domain authority was tightened. This topic was deemed an "emergency" by Governor Perry at the beginning of the 2011 session, so passage was streamlined and nearly guaranteed. Natural gas pipelines, however, were specifically omitted from this legislation.

Property owners' associations, particularly in unincorporated areas, wield great power, but regulations governing the operations of the associations have been ill-defined. In the most egregious example of an over-reaching POA, a home was foreclosed for relatively small arrears in POA dues. New regulations are intended to result in better notification procedures and more open decision-making.

NOTE: A concurrence entitled "Homeowners Association Reform" was adopted by the 2012 LWV-TX Convention. This position includes protection against unreasonable foreclosure on homesteads, and priority of payments so that assessment payments apply first to delinquent dues, and then to non-assessment items such as interest and penalties (Beginning in 2013, LWV-TX added a separate issue topic of "Homeowners Association Reform." See that Issue for subsequent legislative history.)