7/24

Action Needed! Contact Your Reps About These Special Session Bills

Preservation Austin is monitoring the following bills during the Texas Legislature’s special session, which opened on July 18 and may last up to thirty days. These bills not only impact historic preservation, but threaten to erode the ability of local citizens and local governments to decide what is best for their communities. The special session is moving very quickly; it is imperative to write your state representatives and senators as soon as possible!

Look up your elected officials on our Advocacy Tools page HERE, and feel free to copy, paste, and personalize the following form letters:

House Bill 164/Senate Bill 13

These bills would hurt neighborhoods and local landmark commissions by significantly shortening cities’ review periods for building permits. This could negatively impact effective review of certificates of appropriateness for landmarks and for buildings within local historic districts. By condensing the timeframe for review, Austin’s own Historic Landmark Commission would have to meet at least two times a month, if not more to meet the state mandated timelines. Public input could be truncated and transparency weakened. Most cities have review timelines written into their land development codes, meaning that every city would be forced to rewrite their ordinances, costing staff time and, possibly, tax payer money. SEE THE BILL'S LANGUAGE HERE.

Dear _________,

I am writing in opposition to House Bill 164 and its companion Senate Bill 13 (85(1)) which will intervene in the authority of local governments with regard to permitting processes. 

These bills threaten to erode the ability of local governments to protect our special and unique historic places and sites by condensing timeframes for reviewing building permits.

While review of permits by local governments generally apply to a finite set of established parameters, review of existing or potential historic sites or properties necessitates research and review that is unique to that particular property or structure.  As such, application of arbitrary review periods may threaten the processes by which Texans protect structures and sites of historic significance.

Historic preservation is a vital and necessary component of our identity as Texans and as part of our economy.  In recognition of its importance to Texans, historic preservation is enshrined in our Texas Constitution (Article 8, Section 1-f).  Yet this legislation, as proposed, may undermine the primary mechanism by which preservation is achieved and ensured by local governments. 

For these reasons, I strongly encourage your opposition to House Bill 164 and Senate Bill 13.

Thank you for your service to the state of Texas. 

House Bill 188/Senate Bill 12

These bills would lock properties into the zoning category that was applied at the time of the current owner’s purchase. For example, a property purchased in 1975 would only be subject to the zoning and land use regulations in effect in 1975; any subsequent regulatory changes, including historic zoning, would not apply to that parcel. Properties throughout Austin would be subject to different regulations, making comprehensive land use planning impossible. Enforcement of design standards, and demolition review, within local historic districts would be impossible as well since these regulations would only apply to properties purchased the same year of the district’s establishment. SEE THE BILL'S LANGUAGE HERE.

Dear _________,

I am writing in opposition to House Bill 188 and its companion Senate Bill 12 (85(1)) which will establish a vested right to use and site development regulations for real property based upon date of acquisition.  Simply put, these bills undermine the basic notion of zoning and comprehensive land use planning that have existed in Texas and across the United States for close to a century. 

These bills threaten to erode the primary land use mechanism by which Texans, acting through their local communities, have chosen to protect our special and unique historic places and sites.

Historic preservation is a vital and necessary component of our identity as Texans and as part of our economy.  In recognition of its importance to Texans, historic preservation is enshrined in our Texas Constitution (Article 8, Section 1-f).  Yet this legislation, as proposed, would directly undermine the primary mechanism by which preservation is achieved and ensured. 

For these reasons, I strongly encourage your opposition to House Bill 188 and Senate Bill 12.

Thank you for your service to the state of Texas. 

House Bill 70/Senate Bill 14

These bills erode cities’ ability to pass heritage tree ordinances, along with the ability of other entities such as HOA’s to have agreements with property owners. SEE THE BILL'S LANGUAGE HERE.

Dear _________,

I am writing in opposition to House Bill 70 and its companion Senate Bill 14 (85(1)) which will override the authority of local governments to reasonably protect and preserve trees.  These bills threaten to erode local control over community issues and to compromise the economic and environmental health of communities across the state. The citizens in these communities have chosen to improve their quality of life through the establishment of tree ordinances.

Trees are often a part of these distinctive places and their loss could negatively impact our historic  neighborhoods and places.

It should be noted that a 2014 report developed by Texas A&M and the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined that the compensatory value of trees in Austin alone is estimated at $16 billion. Additionally, trees reduce Austinites annual residential energy costs by an estimated $18.9 million, and the city saves $1 billion annually because trees provide natural storm water controls.

I urge you to oppose the Governor’s call to use the power of state government to override local tree ordinances.  While advertised as legislation designed to curtail the powers of local governments, the bills also extend to private arrangements relating to tree protection or preservation between consenting private property owners as part of dedicatory instruments, not only prospectively but in rendering existing covenants or deed restrictions null and void.

Local tree ordinances help to protect the quality of life in Austin, our historic sites and places, and the health and well-being of the citizens of this community.

Thank you for your service to the state of Texas.