Small cities support legislation exempting them from building material rules

Cities with populations of fewer than 25,000 people may have relief from a law enacted in 2019 if a bill advanced in this year’s legislative session is passed.

House Bill 233, filed in November by state Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Kerrville, would exempt those small municipalities from the provisions of HB 2439, which prevents local governments from regulating the materials used for new construction.Instead of localized rules regarding building products and methods, the law set nationally accepted codes as the only standards for cities to regulate construction within their boundaries.

Oak Ridge North and Shenandoah, which each have around 3,000 residents, opposed the measure in 2019, but Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law, and it took effect in September of that year.

Shenandoah City Council members passed a resolution in support of HB 233 at a Feb. 10 meeting.

According to City Administrator Kathie Reyer, under HB 2439 the city cannot regulate the types of building materials or installation methods used in construction beyond the national model code.

“This allowed developers/contractors to reduce the quality of materials and/or installation below the standards that cities might prefer,” Reyer said in an email.

Reyer said the concerns the city has about the bill include safety and aesthetics as well as the ability of the city to maintain property values and attract homeowners and business.

As of March 16, the bill had been referred to the House Committee on State Affairs.

Texas Municipal League, a nonprofit that advocates for Texas municipalities, included the bill on its list of “Bills to Watch” but had not yet taken a position on the bill in early March.

“TML ... will take a position depending on how the legislative process progresses,” TML spokesperson Jennifer Stevens said in an email.

John Beisert, director of community development in Oak Ridge North, said he believed the city would be in favor of seeing HB 233 pass.

“I’m sure the city wants some protections based on what I’ve heard in planning and zoning and city council in regards to not having straight metal buildings or whatever. I’m sure they’re in favor of it passing. I believe it will pass, but that’s just my personal opinion.”

Ben Thompson contributed to this report.
By Andrew Christman
Andrew joined Community Impact Newspaper in early 2019 after moving from Indiana. He is a 2015 graduate from Indiana State University, where he received degrees in English and journalism. He has written for a number of small town publications throughout his career as a reporter.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.