Every construction project endures its fair share of red tape. Local laws and regulations can dictate whether a project gets off the ground or crosses the finish line. More than 4,000 bills became law this legislative session, with a handful of them aimed at construction and development.
One of the bills signed into law is House Bill 3167. The bill, which took effect on September 1st, brings various changes to the plan and plat approval process.
What is House Bill 3167?
House Bill 3167 amends Section 212 of the Texas Local Government Code to provide a straightforward timeline for city and county officials to review development plans. Under the new law, officials responsible for approving plans must approve, approve with conditions, or deny the plan within 30 days after the date it’s filed. According to the bill, a plan includes a subdivision development plan, subdivision construction plan, site plan, a land development application and a site development plan.
Both plans and plats requiring approval by a governing body and a planning commission must be approved or denied by local officials within 30 days after it’s approved by the planning commission. Both parties can agree to extend the deadline by an additional 30 days, but the plan or plat will be automatically approved if local officials fail to approve it within that time.
Changes to Approval Procedures
In addition to the approval timeline, H.B 3167 changes approval procedures. Now, any governing body that conditionally approves or disapproves a plan or plat is required to provide an applicant with written conditions that clearly articulates the reason for their ruling. Their reason cannot be arbitrary and must include citations from the law, including a statute from the municipal ordinance.
Developers are also granted the opportunity to submit a written response that satisfies each condition for the conditional approval or disapproval. The governing body cannot establish a deadline for a written response from the applicant, though they are required to approve or disapprove the previously conditionally approved or disapproved plan or plat within 15 days after the response is submitted.
Additional changes to Section 212 of the Texas Local Government Code include:
- Applicants have the right to request an alternative approval process that allows for a shorter approval period
- Applicants have the right to take legal action for a disapproved plan or plat
- Applicants must attend a hearing for replatting that requires a variance or exception
How Could House Bill 3167 Impact My Project?
Before the bill, municipal authorities were only required to approve plats within 30 days; plans did not have a designated approval period. This ordeal caused a major back log in the permitting process in metropolitan areas like Austin, which is known for its lengthy permit process.
Under previous regulations, some developers would go through the permit process three times. Each application must be reviewed then go through a comment period, creating a lot of back and forth. The city had tried to speed up the permitting process multiple times in the past, but nothing ever got off the ground.
Some municipalities are setting their own guidelines when the bill takes effect. The City of Leander, for instance, is planning to require a seven-day completeness submittal prior to starting the approval process while Austin intends to opt-out of the 30-day timeline for site plans and only establish a timeline for plats.
A lot of uncertainty surrounds how H.B 3167 will play out on the city level. While it’s expected to benefit developers, government authorities may have a difficult time adjusting, especially in areas with high volumes of development.
Consult with Jones|Carter to learn more about House Bill 3167 and how it could impact your next development.