Building Permits: Navigating Bureaucracy to Move your Project Along

BY OMAR IZFAR, ATTORNEY, WILSON CRIBBS+GOREN

A variety of building permits are typically required for new construction and renovation of buildings. Building permits are issued as a matter of right if the plans and specifications submitted by an applicant for a permit comply with a city’s or county’s building codes. Almost every local government in America has some form of building codes adopted from a nationally promulgated form. National code writers will release a new version of a code every few years. A city will formally adopt a version of the code and often also adopt local amendments to the code that contain specific provisions that regulate development in a manner specific to that city. For example, the City of Houston has adopted the 2012 International Building Code with local amendments while the City of Pearland has adopted the 2015 International Building Code with local amendments. What that means for you is that building codes are, at least, slightly different almost everywhere you look.

Sometimes submitted plans do not comply with the adopted building codes and the plans are rejected. While that can be incredibly frustrating and expensive, it is much better than having plans approved and permits issued in error, then revoked. Alternatively, plans and specifications may comply with local building codes, but are rejected anyway, often requiring special intervention
on behalf of the applicant to show the city or county that they are wrong.

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How updates to floodplain mapping will impact Texas

BY: ROBERT PAVUR, P.E, CFM

Natural disasters, such as catastrophic flooding, challenge the very essence of a community.

The state of Texas has seen many dangerous floods in the last 20 years resulting from extreme rainfall. Nearly 5 years ago on Halloween of 2013, 12-14 inches of rain fell in Central Texas, causing Onion Creek to rise 11 feet in 15 minutes and crest at a record 41 feet between Wimberley and Driftwood, Texas. Two years later during the 2015 Memorial Day weekend, those areas again saw 12-13 inches of rainfall over a 4-6 hour period, causing the Blanco River in Wimberley to rise more than 35 feet in 4 hours to a new record flood stage. Just last year, Hurricane Harvey dropped as
much as 50 inches of rain over a seven-day period in parts of the Houston/Beaumont area. Communities across the state are still seeing the effects of that storm.

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Opportunity Zones and New Real Estate Opportunities

BY: OMAR IZFAR, ATTORNEY, WILSON CRIBBS+GOREN

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 establishes a federal tax incentive for deferring andpartially exempting capital gains for investments made into a “Qualified Opportunity Fund” which may own business property within “Qualified Opportunity Zones.” In March, Governor Abbott designated 150 Opportunity Zones in the metro Houston area and 628 state-wide.

While the designated Opportunity Zones are supposed to be low-income communities as defined in the Internal Revenue Code, the designated areas include some prime areas for real estate investment, such as downtown Houston, parts of midtown, and much of east downtown, and many other potentially great places to park capital gains from a real estate sale. There are real tax incentives that give you 1) a deferred tax on your capital gains from the sale of real estate; 2) receive a stepped-up basis on those gains after some time, and 3) allow you to eventually take your appreciation tax-free from the sale of property held by your Qualified Opportunity Fund.

 

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New Ruling on Short-Term Rentals

BY: TRAVIS HUEHLEFELD, ATTORNEY, WILSON CRIBBS+GOREN

The Supreme Court of Texas recently issued an opinion that has a major impact on short-term rentals in Texas and the interpretation of deed restrictions.

In Tarr v. Timberwood Park Owners Association, Inc., the Supreme Court of Texas held that phrases in deed restrictions such as “used solely for residential purposes” are not broad enough to prohibit short-term rentals. The case resolved a split among Texas courts relating to the interpretation of deed restrictions containing such language. Prior to Tarr, lower courts reached opposite results despite being faced with similar language.

Tarr concerned language in deed restrictions affecting San Antonio’s Timberwood Park subdivision. The language is very similar to language found in many residential deed restrictions. The restrictions stated that:

  • All tracts shall be used solely for residential purposes, except tracts designated … for business purposes, provided, however, no business shall be conducted on any of these tracts
    which is noxious or harmful by reason of odor, dust, smoke, gas, fumes, noise or vibration ….

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Dealing with Deed Restrictions

BY: Omar Izfar, Attorney, WILSON CRIBBS+GOREN

 

 

 

 

 

Private covenants and restrictions, often simply called “deed restrictions,” run with the land, bind future owners, and usually affect what you can do with your property. Deed restrictions for residential neighborhoods contain a variety of rules that impact development, such as land use controls, setback, lot size, and frontage rules.

I often see extremely old deed restrictions that don’t adequately address the needs of the current property owners, yet they are still in effect and enforceable. As cities continue to urbanize and developers find infill opportunities, outdated restrictions clash with modern development goals. Modifying these deed restrictions can be challenging and often requires professional assistance.

Restrictions on commercial property, unlike restrictions for residential neighborhoods, are typicallymore recently drafted and often easier to amend, but may still contain land use restrictions and other provisions that interfere with new development plans.

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Floodplain Ordinance Revisions

BY: OMAR IZFAR, ATTORNEY WILSON CRIBBS+GOREN
& JAMES JONES, PE, JONES | CARTER

Houston City Council voted just last month to approve revisions to its controversial Floodplain Ordinance. Here are some of the highlights of what the revised Ordinance does:

Regulated Area

Previously, Houston’s code applied to new permits and plats in the 100-year floodplain. The new revisions extend this to the 500-year floodplain. Land in the 100-year floodplain has a 1% chance of flooding in a single year while the 500-year floodplain has a 0.2% chance of flooding. As you know, we managed to experience a series of events that met or exceeded the 100-year rainfall intensities in the past few years. The City intends to regulate new construction to the 500-year floodplain

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