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Subdivision Texas planners: What is a "residential improvement area" as it pertains to platting?


TLC Chapter 212 allows amending replats to be admin approved if they among other things, create six or fewer lots in an existing plat yadda yadda yadda but in an area designated by Council or PZ after a public hearing as a "residential improvement area". Is this related to HUD and CDBG? Is it a Houston carve out?



Dear Leader
Staff member
Bumping this, because it deserves an answer.

I worked for a Texas municipality for about a year, and never came across the term. Googling around, it seems like the term is used a lot, but definitions are nearly impossible to find.

I looked through state law, and only found this, again with no definition.

(a) The municipal authority responsible for approving plats may approve and issue an amending plat, which may be recorded and is controlling over the preceding plat without vacation of that plat, if the amending plat is signed by the applicants only and is solely for one or more of the following purposes: ...

(10) to make necessary changes to the preceding plat to create six or fewer lots in the subdivision or a part of the subdivision covered by the preceding plat if:

(A) the changes do not affect applicable zoning and other regulations of the municipality;

(B) the changes do not attempt to amend or remove any covenants or restrictions;  and

(C) the area covered by the changes is located in an area that the municipal planning commission or other appropriate governing body of the municipality has approved, after a public hearing, as a residential improvement area;  or ...

Again, no definition. Here's a reference to the problem: (page 10)

The section of the UDC is carried over verbatim from Texas Local Government Code Section 212.016 regarding amending plats statewide. This provision is never allowed to be used here in San Antonio because the City has no definition for "residential improvement area". Currently, the planning commission, after a public hearing, hears and approves planned unit developments (PUD's) and master development plans (MDP's) which denote areas designated for residential improvement. In addition, during public hearings our City Council decides on zoning changes to base and/or overlay districts for residential development (i.e. improvement) areas, such as the R-3, R-5, or NP districts.

Past argument against allows land owners to use 35-441(a)(10) to amend a plat is that since a church or school is allowed in any zoning district, our city does not have a zoning district that truly classifies any to be for (solely) residential improvement. A State law that grants a land owner the ability to amend their plat cannot be superseded by a blanket municipal regulation to remove it its entirety the right of said land owner. The UDC must be clarified as to what constitutes meeting the burden of 35-441(a)(10(C) to respect land owner rights granted by the Texas Local Government Code.

Page 13 of this document from Haslet, Texas reads:

Residential Improvement Area" means the approximately 108.41 acres proposed to be developed as approximately 312 single family residential lots.

That tells me the term could be context dependent; that it means whatever the municipality wants it to mean, but it has something to do with residential development. Not a great answer, I know. . Legal language is supposed to have a precise meaning, though, and if you can't tell the "plain and ordinary meaning" of a term from the law, the courts will have issues with it too.