City officials shared their concerns about the impact House Bill 2439 — which has been sent to the governor’s office — could have in regulating materials used in the exterior of housing and commercial buildings.
According to HB 2439, a governmental entity may not adopt or enforce a rule, charter, provision, ordinance, order or building code that prohibits or limits the use of building products or materials — approved for use by the national model code within the last three code cycles — in residential or commercial structures.
The bill, authored by state Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, further states that governmental entities may not establish a standard for aesthetic methods in construction, renovation or altercations of residential or commercial buildings.
Hudson Oaks and Annetta officials said they want Gov. Greg Abbott to veto the bill.
“Hudson Oaks requires that all of our commercial buildings meet a 100-percent masonry requirement — whether that is brick, stone, stucco or another approved material. We are not specific in what material you have to use, so we don’t say you have to use 100 percent brick, we say you have to use this percentage and you can get some architectural approvals using the variety from that. But we do have facade requirements,” Hudson Oaks City Administrator Patrick Lawler said. “The residential requirement is 75 percent. So you can do up to 25 percent of your house — not including windows and doors — in any material that you would like to do it in that meets the building code, but 75 percent of it has to meet the city’s masonry requirements.”
Lawler said HB 2439 would significantly change the character of the city’s residential subdivisions.
“In the city’s opinion, it could be highly detrimental to the property values of homes that are inside the city of Hudson Oaks,” Lawler said. “We are a very small community and our residents are extremely outspoken about what they want our community to look like. They want people to meet a certain standard of look and value in what they invest in their homes and their properties so it doesn’t have a detrimental impact on an adjacent property.”
Annetta also has construction requirements and standards, Zoning Ordinance 192, which states that exterior wall material must be 80 percent brick or stone masonry, utilized exclusively, in combination with each other, or in combination with other complementary accent materials such as stucco.
“These all work in unison to achieve a goal that defines our community. The people that live in Annetta helped to establish these standards through the adoption of a comprehensive plan,” Annetta Mayor Bruce Pinckard said. “In Annetta, the overwhelming desire from citizens was to preserve and protect as much as possible a high standard of living in a semi-rural environment with dark skies and open spaces.”
Pinckard said HB 2439 is a great concern to local communities.
“The bill would strip a city’s ability to set higher standards in construction materials for residences and other structures. This would include siding types like masonry as well as roofing materials, both which have a substantial ability to affect fire ratings,” Pinckard said. “The more obvious side effect would be that homeowners would no longer have any expectation that their neighbors would build or maintain their homes to a uniform standard, thereby decreasing the likelihood of maintaining one’s property value.”
Lawler said the city of Hudson Oaks has specifically requested Abbott’s office veto the bill.
“We are strong believers in personal property rights, but person property rights stop at the point you have a negative impact on your adjacent property,” Lawler said.
Pinckard said lowering a standard has never raised the value of anything.
“It is quite insane to think that a duly elected representative government of the people within a town or city would have their collective rights tossed out the window in the name of affordability. Many Texans choose to move to nicer and nicer neighborhoods as their incomes grow as they see real value in having a nice community to raise a family. Part of that comes with building and construction standards, which are above what might be found only in affordable types of housing districts,” Pinckard said. “This naive goal of working to obtain affordability all too often results in diminishing property values and leads to urban blight. This bill looks to me like a back door effort toward social engineering that hides behind the mantra of protecting the individual property owner from the ‘big bad city.’ What it may really do is take away a fundamental process that allows each individual, freedom loving Texan to have a voice, through their duly elected city council members in setting a higher, more worthwhile goal of striving to achieve greatness rather than sameness.”
Hudson Oaks Mayor Marc Povero wrote a letter to Abbott’s office and said he believes people come to cities like Hudson Oaks with the expectation of a certain standard of excellence in building requirements.
“Cities in Parker County that have zoning ordinances are very concerned that stripping those regulations away from local elected officials would jeopardize the hard work we’ve put in to establish minimum building material standards that protect our property values and attract reputable businesses to our communities,” Povero said. “The citizens of my city do not want galvalume steel homes built next to their  percent required masonry residences — drastic example, but legal under [HB] 2439. Without local zoning ordinances regulating building materials, this is what can happen.”
Pinckard said great achievements were never obtained by doing just enough to get by.
“I urge the governor to consider a veto of this bill and send it back for more thorough and thoughtful consideration of what may and may not be acceptable for cities to regulate and under what circumstances and with what citizen input necessary to establish such reasonable regulation,” Pinckard said. “Great achievements were never obtained by doing just enough to get by. What will communities look like in the future when they are all managed to the lowest acceptable standard? I think we all know and we don’t have to go far to see it. For many of our residents, that is why they left where they previously lived and moved to Annetta.”
Povero said he doesn’t believe setting local standards is government overreach.
“These local ordinances may be changed on any given council meeting if the public pushed for change,” Povero said. “I don’t believe it is government overreach. I believe it is a standard set by the representatives of the governed.”
According to the ordinance, Aledo requires 90 percent masonry on the front of a home and 80 percent on each side and the rear, and requires 90 percent masonry materials on the front elevation and 80 percent total on the side and back of general commercial buildings; however, the percentages can vary slightly depending on the zoning.
Weatherford requires at least 75 percent of the total exterior walls constructed of masonry for residential and 75 percent copper, limestone, rustic, wood, stucco, marble and glass for nonresidential, according to the zoning ordinance.
“Strict adherence to this rule shall not be such as to prevent architectural creativity for altercations or repairs, or for residences located in a subdivision in which more than 25 percent of the lots have been developed,” according to the ordinance.
Willow Park Communications and Marketing Specialist Rosealee Kertok said the city does have ordinances requiring masonry, but it varies depending on zoning.
“The city does have certain requirements in place for materials used on the exterior of buildings. It is still too early to tell exactly how HB 2439 will affect those guidelines,” Kertok said. “As we do at the end of every legislative session, we will evaluate all bills that impact us, and consult with staff and our city attorney to see how we will need to handle these matters going forward.”