Legislature House Bills passed affect the City of Sanger, Building Code and Plan/Plat changes
At a recent Sanger City Council meeting discussion was held about House Bills passed by the Eighty-Sixth Legislature as they relate to Development Services. Director of Development Services for the City of Sanger, Ramie Hammonds said the House passed several bills that affect cities and summarized a few of them as they relate to development.
H.B. 2439 became effective September 1, 2019, provides with some exceptions, that a governmental entity including a city may not adopt or enforce a rule, charter provision, ordinance, order, building code, or other regulation that (1) prohibits or limits, directly or indirectly, the use or installation of a building product or material in the construction, renovation, maintenance, or other alteration of a residential or commercial building if the building project or material is approved for use by a national model code published within the last three code cycles that applies to the construction, renovation, maintenance, or other alteration of a residential or commercial building if the standard is more stringent than a standard for the product, material, or aesthetic method under a national model code published withing the last three code cycles that applies to the construction, renovation, maintenance, or other alteration of the building.
Hammonds noted that HB 2439 is known as “The Materials Bill” and basically states that the City can no longer regulate materials as it pertains to architectural, interior and exterior building product if the materials are allowed by a national code. She gave an example of 100% masonry and noted that this or any other percentage of masonry could no longer be required. That basically any material that meets code can be used in construction and the City has no way to regulate this. She noted that this also pertains retroactively to any requirements put into planned developments, etc., that they no longer stand. “There may be some changes in a few years, but until then we have to figure out how to address this and make it work in our City,” said Hammonds.
Hammonds advised that the City of Sanger currently have some architectural criteria in the Central Core District
which allows the construction of homes on a point system. The scoring criteria worked by giving points for various architectural features (examples: roof pitches,expanded porches, decorative windows). There was discussion as to the various items that would give points. She said that staff is looking at possibly applying the point system to building of homes. There was brief discussion regarding modular homes and container homes. Hammonds said this will be market driven and they will still want to build homes that will sell. This will possibly be more of a problem on the infill lots where there is one individual coming in to build a home. She reiterated that the City can not specify materials but can specify architectural requirements. An example that the City could require 40% windows on the front of a home, but can not tell them what windows they have to use but the product used has to meet code, and if it meets code they can put whatever they choose to put in.
This also applies to Commercial and provided photos of some of the buildings allowed in various cities. “If we do not move in a direction that would also limit architectural design of Commercial Buildings that we may end up with some undesirable structures along our central corridors,” stated Hammonds.
Hammonds said the staff was possibly looking at using the architectural scoring criteria requirement for the entire City and not just in the Central Core. There was discussion of also requiring an attached garage. It was noted that the point system with revisions for architectural features may be a good idea to carry through the whole City, as well as adding the requirement of an attached garage. If these changes were made, and they find that something is not working or prohibiting building, that amendments can be made. The revisions would have to go through the Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z) first, and would then come to City Council.
Hammonds said that staff would start working on this and present it as soon as possible. They are attending meetings with other cities on these new bills and if there are any better ideas out there they can bring those forward to Council and make revisions. Also, applicants can always bring forward something different in for a variance. In conclusion, they will work on putting this together and bring the changes forward to Planning and Zoning and City Council.
Hammonds noted another bill that affects Development Services is HB 3167, and is called “The Shot Clock Bill”. This bill says that a plan or a plat has to be approved or denied or approved with conditions within 30 days. A government is allowed an additional 30 days if there is a two step process. The City of Sanger has the two step process with the Planning and Zoning Commission approval being required before City Council approval. “We have conferred with the City Attorney and we can keep our scheduled submission dates based on our Planning and Zoning meetings,” Hammonds said. She summarized the steps that staff would be taking. They would do a nine day completeness review and carefully review them and make sure that everything the city needs is in them. Once staff accepts them, after the completeness review the clock starts and the city has 30 days to get them to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and 30 days to get them to Council. The Planning and Zoning Commission will likely approve with conditions. “They will try to work out the conditions and then the plat will go forward to City Council. If by the time the plat is moved forward to City Council and the conditions are not met, staff will recommend denial (which is what we already do). The difference is once the City Council denies the plat the applicant still has the opportunity to correct it. Once they correct it and submit it back to staff, the City has 15 days to get it back to City Council or it is administratively approved,” said Hammonds.
She noted that one of the things they are going to do is require a preapplication conference and require them to come in before the project is even considered so the city can tell them exactly what is expected and what needs to be on the plat. Hopefully, issues woud be worked out up front before submittal of the plat. One of the checklist items will be to have approved civil plans because it is hard to get civil plans approved in 30 days and does fall within this deadline; however, the City can ask for a waiver for civil plans, but can not ask for a waiver for the plat. The applicant can request a onetime 30 day waiver but the City can not.
It was noted the requirements expected will be posted online, etc. The staff has been in contact with other cities and TML and some of these suggestions came from TML. It was suggested that the City require the applicant to have all of their TxDOT permits and CLOMAR/LOMAR approvals, etc. prior to filing the final plat, which Sanger is going to do. It was noted that time will tell, but additional staff may be necessary.
In conclusion, Hammonds noted that there were several bills passed this session that did not affect the City of Sanger drastically, but there were other bills passed and this has created a lot of work for staff. City Manager, Alina Ciocan commended the staff for attending meetings on all of these changes and working with other cities to make sure that the City of Sanger is aligned with what other areas are doing. Hammonds added that City of Sanger staff is working with some groups proactively, so at the next session they have a bigger voice.