Overview of Requirements Related to Platting, Selling, and Connecting Utilities to Residential Subdivision Lots in Border-Area Counties
In border-area counties of Texas, requirements related to platting, selling, and connecting utilities to residential subdivision lots depend upon several factors. This summary contains an overview of how and where different requirements may apply. Other sections of this website provide further explanations, and the statutes and rules themselves must be consulted for their many details and exceptions.
City Extraterritorial Jurisdictions ("ETJ'S")
Incorporated cities in Texas have limited authority for various purposes in areas beyond their city limits. This so-called "extraterritorial jurisdiction," or "ETJ," is defined by § 42.021 of the Local Government Code ("LGC") to extend for different distances (½ mile, 1 mile, 2 miles, 3½ miles, or 5 miles) depending upon the number of inhabitants in a city. Nearby cities can apportion their ETJ's, and other areas can be added to an ETJ with the consent of the landowners. Under a special state law (LGC § 212.001) that applies in counties actually bordering the Rio Grande, the ETJ of a city with a federal decennial census population of 5,000 or more is expanded to five miles for purposes of subdivision and development regulation (including utility connection) under Subchapter A of Chapter 212. Cities are required by law (LGC § 41.001) to keep up-to-date maps of their city limits and ETJ's. Check with the city clerk, the city engineer, or the city planner for a such a map.
Applicability of City and County Platting Requirements
Within the 28 Texas counties some part of which is within 50 miles of the border, state law (Local Govt. Code § 242.001) requires subdivision plat approval by:
(1) only the city if the land being subdivided is inside the city limits,
(2) both the city and the county if the land is outside city limits but inside the city's ETJ as determined by Chapter 212,
(3) only the county if the land is not within any city or its Chapter 212 ETJ.
Outside a city but inside its Chapter 212 ETJ, if a city regulation conflicts with a county regulation, the more stringent provision prevails.
In reviewing plats, a city will apply its subdivision ordinance and state laws, particularly Chapter 212 of the LGC. If the city is receiving EDAP funds, it must also apply the Texas Water Development Board's Model Subdivision Rules (or equivalent requirements) to residential developments with lots of five acres or less. For a subdivision of two or more lots intended primarily for residential use, the county will apply the county subdivision regulations and state laws, particularly Subchapter B of Chapter 232 of the LGC. The county will also apply the TWDB's Model Subdivision Rules to residential developments with lots of five acres or less.
Advertising and Sales Restrictions
Subchapter B requires ads to describe utility availability and forbids the sale of a lot lacking water and sewage facilities (except by the resident owner). These laws apply to all subdivisions of two or more residential lots outside city limits. Subchapter B and Chapter 5 of the Property Code also have special requirements when a contract for deed is used in the sale of a residential lot.
Requirements for utility connections depend upon such factors as the location and the use of the land to be served, the history of the subdividing and selling of the property, the history of utility service, and the availability or feasibility of water service. In counties within 50 miles of the border, a certificate from the county or a city (and sometimes from both) is typically required before a utility may provide water, sewer, gas, or electric service to subdivided land. Even with the certificate or certificates, sometimes further conditions must be met to receive utility service. The principal requirements are found in LGC §§ 212.0115 and 212.012 (city certificates) and §§ 232.028 and 232.029 (county certificates). In general, for land within a city's limits, a utility must receive a certificate from the city before it may provide utility service. For a residential lot outside the city but within its ETJ, the utility generally needs a certificate from the county and sometimes one from the city also. For a residential lot beyond any city's ETJ, a utility must generally receive an appropriate certificate from the county. Typically, being platted will make a lot eligible for utilities as far as city certificates are concerned. As to county certificates, platting is usually necessary to obtain water or sewer service, and getting electricity or gas generally requires sewer service or septic-suitability, plus water service. Some limited exceptions can apply.