About the Author
Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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Travis seeks to warn future county homebuyers
The Travis County Commissioners Court continues to look for a way to warn would-be county homebuyers about the limitations of its land use authority. The court’s latest effort would attach a cover sheet to the plat notes of homes in newly built or newly replatted subdivisions describing the limitations of their regulatory powers.
The move comes after officials with the city of Austin balked at an effort to put a note inside the plat itself. And though the county still enacted that measure, it only took effect in the fully unincorporated sections of its jurisdiction. The new policy would attempt to create a uniform warning system in both the county and the city of Austin’s extra-territorial jurisdiction.
The city isn’t the only party concerned about the initiative. Officials with the Austin Homebuilders Association have, along with area residents, expressed concerns about the proposal. Still, the court appears to be moving forward with the issue.
“We’re not trying to beat up anybody; we’re just trying to give some type of protection as far as what the legislature has given us authority to do,” said Precinct 1 Commissioner Ron Davis. “This is just another tool of letting someone know when you purchase your property out there … that the county has limited land use authority.”
County Transportation and Natural Resources Engineering Services Director Anna Bowlin told the court that the Homebuilders’ Association has three basic concerns about the plat cover sheet: that it won’t “capture all of the audience” in time because homebuyers receive so many documents at the end of the buying process, that the language of the sheet is “fairly negative,” and that the sheet should include a “disclaimer saying that (it) was a Commissioners’ Court mandate.”
Assistant County Attorney Tom Nuckols is Travis’ legal expert on the matter. He echoed Davis’ statement. “I think this is a case of we’re doing what we can do with the authority that we have,” he told the court. “To the homebuilders I would say, ‘Welcome to the world of having to address an issue with an inadequate set of legal tools.’”
Nuckols also addressed the concern that a homebuyer might not see a plat cover sheet until closing day. “The idea was the buyer would see it when they get their title commitment from the title company, which happens as soon as their contract is executed,” he said. “The buyer would be getting the plat long before closing.”
Neither the court nor county staff addressed either of the Homebuilders’ Association’s other concerns. They also didn’t discuss resident opposition to the plan, which is based around the idea that the plat cover sheets could make it harder to sell property in the county.
The item will be back on the commissioners’ agenda this week. Homebuilders’ representatives are expected to attend.
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