City governments struggling with new state zoning law

Zoning and land use are often some of the most important issues that cities and local governments handle. 

They are also often the most debated issues. Texas landowners can be protective of their property, and that can sometimes make zoning ordinances difficult to create and enforce. However, it seems that many cities are facing even more challenges with a new state law that impacts the zoning process. 

Does a new law eliminate city zoning powers?

Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott approved House Bill 2496. The new law requires cities to obtain a landowner’s consent to designate any landmark as:

  • Historically significant
  • Culturally important
  • Architecturally significant

Since the law puts the landowner’s decision first, it seems to substantially reduce the city’s ability to identify areas as significant landmarks. And the city of Austin is now facing many issues involving this law.

Old Austin grocery store barely protected

The law aims to protect individual landowner’s property rights. While that is a good thing, does it put a city’s zoning duties at risk? A new case in Austin sheds light on precisely that kind of a situation.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Austin’s Historic Landmark Commission suggested that the City Council preserve an old grocery store with a historic zoning designation. The property is now protected, but not until after a long legal debate and a close vote.

The landowner wished to demolish the building. And with the language of the new law that prioritizes landowners’ rights, that alone could have prevented the zoning designation altogether.

It is likely that this sort of situation will not be the last—for Austin or any other city in Texas. Therefore, it might be beneficial for public officials and local governments to review House Bill 2496, so they can prepare to handle future zoning issues effectively and efficiently.