Friday, April 06, 2007

Help Fight Anti-Neighborhood Laws in Texas

Note from Michael Rocco Cannatti on two upcoming bills currently under consideration by the Texas legislature. Take action!

Following up on an earlier request, I am writing to request the Dallas neighborhood associations help the other property owners and neighborhood associations throughout Texas. We need you to help stop the state legislature from passing laws (House Bills 1732 and 1736) that would prevent cities, such as Dallas, from passing their own residential construction zoning rules to address local problems. The proposed laws would also prevent cities from enacting local historic preservation rules. In particular, HB 1736 would prohibit a city, in the case of residential construction, from regulating more than one of the following: (1) the percentage of a lot that may be occupied; (2) the amount of impervious cover allowed on a lot; or (3) the limits on the floor-to-area ratio of the lot. As for HB 1732, it would require two years to pass before a zoning regulation would apply that affects the floor-to-area ratio, the impervious coverage, the vertical setback of a previously platted lot, the exterior appearance of a single family house or the landscaping of a single family residential lot.

These bills are currently in the House Calendars Committee, but if they are released for a vote, the legislators will need to hear from property owners and neighborhoods from all across the state. If there is any concern in Dallas about the state legislature's efforts to eliminate local zoning laws, such as historical preservation laws or anti-McMansion rules that Dallas may wish to enact in the future, it would help tremendously for the state legislature to hear from folks outside of Austin on this. Accordingly, we are asking you to inform your neighborhood associations about the concerns here. And if the bills are released for a vote by the House and Senate, we will ask you (and your neighborhood associations) to contact your representatives and senators (their emails are listed below) with your concerns. Also, please forward this message to anyone who will help us stop these bills and help us preserve and protect our neighborhoods.

As you can see the text of the proposed state laws at the links below, the proposed laws could have devastating effects on the quality of life and property value within neighborhoods, and would prevent other cities from finding a local solution to a local problem. For example, Dallas enacted a number of conservation districts in response to the teardown trend and to address concerns about overly large new houses (so-called “McMansions”). Indeed, it is our understanding that there are numerous neighborhoods in Dallas currently being studied for potential conservation district protections. Likewise, Austin’s recently enacted “McMansion Ordinance” was passed to protect its neighborhoods from tear-down activity in Austin. Other cities, such as Corpus Christi, Lubbock, Fort Worth, Texarkana, El Paso and San Antonio, have zoning rules that could be limited by these proposed bills. In addition to conservation districts, these bills could also impact historic districts in Dallas, and even existing historic zoning districts.

These bills raise a number of concerns for cities and neighborhoods across the state:

    • The bills are a dangerous interference by the State Legislature in the municipal zoning authority, in that they will eliminate the ability for a local response to local conditions, and will strip the cities and towns across our State of the power and decisions that must be tailored to the individual communities that we serve.
    • The bills may require changes to currently adopted development regulations for residential zoning and to historic preservation rules, especially since many Texas cities currently employ zoning regulations that would be prohibited by the bills.
    • The bills would retroactively be applied to nullify Austin’s “McMansion Ordinance,” as well as any other zoning regulations in Dallas or San Antonio that were enacted after January, 2006.
    • The bills would replace local/city zoning control with state-mandated one-size-fits-all zoning solution that seeks to override local building rules that enjoy substantial support from property owners in the affected area.
    • The bills are based on an erroneous belief that property values are hurt by local building rules, such as Austin's “McMansion Ordinance.” Contrary to exaggerated warnings, property values have not been hurt and development has not stopped in Austin. Indeed, property values have risen and development has continued quite briskly.

These are the two “pro-McMansion” bills currently being considered:

HB 1732 (which retroactively imposes a two year notice requirement before a new FAR or vertical setback zoning reg is effective) is available at A summary “Bill Analysis” is available at

HB 1736 (which allows cities to regulate only one of the following: percentage of lot that may be occupied, impervious cover, FAR, setback, population density, location) is available at A summary “Bill Analysis” is available at

Dallas Senators
Senate District 9--Senator Chris Harris

Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0109

Senate District 8--Senator Florence Shapiro


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0108

Senate District 23--Senator Royce West


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0123

Senate District 2--Senator Bob Deuell

Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0102

Senate District 30--Senator Craig Estes

Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0130

Senate District 16--Senator John Carona


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0116

Dallas House Members
House District 102--Representative Tony Goolsby


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0454

House District 111--Representative Yvonne Davis


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0598

House District 4--Representative Betty J. Brown


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0458

House District 109--Representative Helen Giddings


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0953

House District 100--Representative Terri Hodge


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0586

House District 65--Representative Burt R. Solomons


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0478

House District 67--Representative Jerry A. Madden


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0544

House District 112--Representative Fred Hill


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0486

House District 114--Representative Will Hartnett


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0576

House District 105--Representative Linda Harper-Brown


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0641

House District 106--Representative Kirk Thompson England


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0694

House District 107--Representative Allen Vaught


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0244

House District 104--Representative Roberto R. Alonzo


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0408

House District 89--Representative Jodie Laubenberg


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0186

House District 101--Representative Thomas R. Latham


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0464

House District 103--Representative Rafael Anchia


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0746


House District 113--Representative Joe Driver


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0574

House District 66--Representative Brian McCall


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0594

House District 108--Representative Dan Branch


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0367

House District 110--Representative Barbara Mallory Caraway


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0664

House District 115--Representative Jim L. Jackson


Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0468

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