Layers Upon Layers

Layers Upon Layers

Update: 2020-11-27
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On today’s show we’re talking about what happens when there are multiple levels of government involved in the purchase of a property. It’s common these days to find properties that are outside the boundary of a municipality. In that case, the rules are set by the county in which the property resides.


But there are so many cases where multiple levels of governing bodies are involved and it’s incredibly easy to make assumptions about whose rules you need to meet. Let me give you a few examples because I want you to be sensitized to the web of complexity the exists in reality.


Imagine you had a property that was legally in the county, but a city street needed to access the property was located in the city. The zoning and construction in that case would be approved by county as you would expect. But there could be an extra layer of city approval required since the property would rely upon a city service in order to access the property. The city may require you to conduct a traffic study in order to approve the extra traffic that would be in the future be loading the city owned street. But the city may overload its traffic approval by imposing additional requirements that have nothing to do with traffic whatsoever.


This may seem unfair at first. After all, the city has no jurisdiction over the property. But cities have a tendency to grow. When that happens, they want lands that are annexed into the city to follow city guidelines. So often these rules are imposed by contemplating the future possibility of annexation by the city.


I’ve seen cases where the property in the county may require you to drill a well and septic. City services for water and sewer may be close by. In order to use those services, you might be required to meet the city’s zoning rules for a property that is not in the city. These examples of government over-reach exist all over the place.


Earlier this week I had a conversation with the Mayor of a town. He acknowledged that the property was in the county. But the services were provided by the city, and the road is owned by the state. In order to gain access to the services, the property would need to be annexed into the city, and the state would need to approve access to the road. So if you wanted to put in an extra driveway, approval from a third level of government would be required.


We had another conversation with the planning department of a city in Texas. They acknowledged that the property was in the county. Subdividing the property would fall within the approvals of the county. Zoning would be approved by the county.


But the property falls within the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city. That’s an important term that you need to become familiar with. Extraterritorial jurisdictions are the legal ability of a government to exercise authority beyond its normal boundaries. Any authority can claim ETJ over any external territory they wish.


For this particular 9 acre property in question, the county would happily approve the subdivision of the land into two parcels. The back parcel would gain access to the road with the granting of an access easement, a 40 foot wide strip of land for a nice wide driveway. So far so good. Everything seemed to check all the boxes.


But then the city planner notified us that the property fell under site plan control of the extra-territorial jurisdiction. In order to build on the property, it would require a minimum of 130 feet of frontage on the road. Anything less and the building permit would not be approved.


As you think about that, pay very close attention to all the different government and regulatory bodies that could control what you build on your property.

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Layers Upon Layers

Layers Upon Layers

Victor Menasce