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Thread: Texas planners: schools & zoning regs question

  1. #1
    Aug 2001

    Texas planners: schools & zoning regs question

    Looking for statutes or cases regarding public schools and zoning. Are primary and secondary schools required to abide by a City's zoning requirements, or are they immune? Have run into this a couple of time in different locations, and I haven't received a clear ruling on it, and I have not read any statutes regarding the issue.

    Its seems like its usually the school saying no we don't have to do anything we don't want with the City on the other end of the spectrum. Ofcourse, life / safety issues I think its pretty clear... My thoughts are to handle them similar to a church, zoning is ok... However, they must meet parking requirements, building materials, landscape, etc...

    Any comments? Thanks...

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub
    Public schools are exempt from use regulations in a similar manner to how churches are treated under RLUIPA and, in Texas, TRFA (Texas Religious Freedom Act). I can't quote you chapter & verse from Texas Statutes, but its in there somewhere. I'll have to dig for it.

    However, and this is a big HOWEVER, they are not exempt from development standards. If you require facade articulation, then they have to abide by that. If you require a parking ratio of 1:xxx square feet, then that applies. If your regulation requires 100% masonry, guess what, it applies. Impervious cover restricted to 75%? Yep, it applies. On-site detention, sign regulations, height restrictions, FAR... applies. You get the idea.

    Don't let schools fool you into thinking they are exempt from everything; they are only exempt from use regulation.

    Even then, you can't always save school districts from themselves. They will still do stupid crap like build an elementary school on a major arterial, with inadequate space for parent drop-off causing cars to back onto the street and placing a playground right next to the road. The high school I went to was dropped on the corner of what was already documented as one of the most dangerous intersections in the county. The result: several students in my graduating class over a 4-year period were killed/critically injured in accidents going to/from school at that intersection.

    EDIT: Part of how we've addressed this issue is through TIA requirements. In order to comply with TIA stuff, it makes infinitely more financial sense for the district to locate schools within neighborhoods with good connectivity than along a major transportation route. Otherwise, they end up paying through the nose for road improvements, etc. It has pretty much forced them to adopt reasonably decent planning thought (not great) in their location decisions.
    Last edited by Suburb Repairman; 19 May 2008 at 2:14 PM.

  3. #3
    Jun 2007
    Oklahoma City
    State statute aside, I think it's kind of sad that most Texas cities try to treat them like a church - with delicacy and appeasement. I think it's in effort to "build bridges" or some such nonsense, despite most school districts telling local governments to "f*#k off, I do what I wunt" and then go and place all their schools on or along regional arterials instead of back in neighborhoods where students can travel safely to and from them. I'm not bitter, though [bastards.]

    Just kidding... sort of.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
    Dec 2001
    We use kid gloves when dealing with the school districts. My understanding is because we view them as a tax exacting entity we do not treat them exactly the same as another development in use restrictions. However, several of our school sites are not yet legal lots and have been opened for decades.

    I think it would be nice for proposed subdivisions to work with the local school districts and Parks and Rec to determine if parks can be built in conjunction with school sites as well as ensure there are enough classrooms for future development, etc. Not to mention the location of schools, although I think the reduced speeds around high schools should be stopped- it's called natural selection and if by high school you do not yet know how to safely cross the road... well... (okay, I might be kidding, but seriously, kids these days!! )
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

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