Highlights of Major Platting Laws Applicability, Exceptions and Substantive Requirements

This section summarizes key features of the major Texas laws requiring preparation and approval of a plat when land is subdivided in Texas. The focus is to show the similarities and differences in various requirements, including those under special laws that apply near the border or in economically distressed (EDAP) areas. In distilling this information, especially the substantive requirements, numerous details have been omitted. Refer to the statutes and rules cited for particulars.

Cities in Texas generally review and approve plats under Chapter 212 of the Local Govt. Code (LGC). Counties do so under LGC Chapter 232, which includes four different subchapters applying under different circumstances. Some cities and counties also apply the Model Subdivision Rules of the Texas Water Development Board, codified as Chapter 364 of Title 31 of the Texas Administrative Code. Thus, the laws are described in the following order:

City Approval

City or County Approval

County Approval

City Approval Under Subchapter A of Chapter 212, LGC (statewide)

Applies:

  • within city limits and its extraterritorial jurisdiction [212.004(a), 212.001 and Chapter 42, LGC]
    Note: In a border county, a city with population (by federal census) of 5,000 or more has 5-mile ETJ for Subchapter A purposes [212.001(1)]
  • when tract is divided into two or more parts to lay out a subdivision, lots, streets, etc. [212.004(a)]

Exceptions:

  • does not include division into parts greater than five acres, where each part has access and no public improvement is being dedicated [212.004(a)]
  • city may define and classify divisions that will be exempt [212.0045(a)]
  • city may require a development plat instead (see Subchapter B of Chap. 212) [212.0045(b)]

Substance - plat must:

  • describe the subdivision by metes and bounds, locate it, state the dimensions of each part [212.004(b)]
  • be acknowledged by owner/proprietor or agent [212.004(c)]
  • be filed and recorded with county clerk in accord with Property Code 12.002 [212.004(d)]
  • comply with city rules for plats and subdivisions [212.010, 212.002, but rules in ETJ are limited by 212.003]
  • comply with city's general plans for streets, parks, utilities, etc., and extensions [212.010]

City Approval Under LGC 212.0105 and 212.0106
(residential, border and EDAP)

Applies:

  • in border counties and counties where a political subdivision has received EDAP funds
  • when a plat is otherwise required under Subchapter A, and
  • when plat creates lots of five acres or less intended for residential purposes [212.0105(a)]

Exceptions:

  • incorporates exceptions in Subchapter A [212.0105(a)(3)]

Substance:

  • plat must have certain information (including certification by an engineer) about water and sewer facilities, including costs and operability date [212.0105(b), (c)]
  • city may require bond, cash deposit, letter of credit, or other financial guarantee conditioned on installation of water and sewer facilities in compliance with Model Rules by operability date (as date is stated on plat or subsequently extended) [212.0106]

City or County Approval Under Model Subdivision Rules of TWDB (31 TAC Chapter 364)
(residential, near border and EDAP)

Applies:

  • when creating two or more lots of five acres or less intended for residential purposes [364.11, 364.15]
  • any lot of five acres or less is presumed residential unless it is restricted to nonresidential purposes on plat and in all deeds and contracts [364.11, .15]
  • city approval required for land in city and its ETJ if city has adopted the Model Subdivision Rules [364.81(2)]
  • county approval required for land outside city limits [364.15(a) and Water Code 16.350(b)]

Exceptions:

  • a city or county receiving EDAP assistance may grant an exemption to model rules requirements only if the city or county supplies the subdivision with water supply and sewer services that meet the standards of the model rules [Water Code 16.350(d)]
  • relaxed criteria may apply to land subdivided prior to Sept. 1, 1989 [364.57 and Water Code 16.343(b)(2) and 16.343(c)(2)]
  • delay or variance sometimes available as to setbacks and number of dwellings for lots in older unplatted subdivisions [Local Govt. Code 232.043]

Substance:

  • subdivider must provide water and sewer meeting minimum state standards [364.31]
  • plat must include final engineering report regarding water and sewer [364.52]
  • subdividers must have 30-year contracts with water and sewer utilities [364.32, .33]
  • subdivider and county/city must enter into "Subdivision Construction Agreement" backed by financial guarantee (bond, letter of credit, etc.) assuring construction by promised operability date of water and sewer facilities not built at time of final plat approval [364.54, .55]
  • no more than one single family detached dwelling per lot [364.37 and Water Code 16.343(d)]
  • setbacks of 10 feet from roads/rights-of-way and 5 feet from adjoining lots required except where fire code is satisfied and lines are sized for fire protection [364.36 and Water Code 16.343(e)]
  • plat must be approved and recorded prior to lot sales [364.15(b)]

County Approval Under Subchapter A of Chapter 232, LGC
(generally statewide; non-residential near border)

Applies:

  • outside city limits
  • when land is divided into two or more parts to lay out a subdivision, lots, or streets, alleys, parks, etc., for use by the public or the lot owners
  • includes a division by any method [232.001(a), (a-1)]

Exceptions:

  • does not apply to a [residential] subdivision to which Subchapter B applies [232.0015(b)]
  • county may define and classify divisions that will be exempt [232.0015(a)]
  • does not apply if the land is for ag use or for farm, ranch, wildlife management, or timber production, and there are no streets, alleys, parks, etc., for use by the public or the lot owners [232.0015(c)]
  • does not apply if divided into four or fewer parts and the parts are transferred to someone related within the third degree and there are no streets, alleys, parks, etc., for use by the public or the lot owners [232.0015(e)]
  • does not apply if all the lots are larger than 10 acres and there are no streets, alleys, parks, etc., for use by the public or the lot owners [232.0015(f)]
  • does not apply if one new part is retained by the owner and the other new part is transferred to another who will further subdivide under Chapter 232, and there are no streets, alleys, parks, etc., for use by the public or the lot owners [232.0015(j)]
  • does not apply if all parts are transferred to persons who owned an undivided interest in the original tract and a plat is filed before any further development of any part of the tract, and there are no streets, alleys, parks, etc., for use by the public or the lot owners [232.0015(k)]
  • some other exceptions [232.0015]

Substance - plat must:

  • describe the subdivision by metes and bounds, locate it, state the dimensions of each part [232.001(b)]
  • be acknowledged by owner/proprietor or agent [232.001(c)]
  • be filed and recorded with county clerk in accord with Property Code 12.002 [232.001(d)]
  • comply with Subchapter A and county requirements under Subchapter A [232.002]

County Approval Under Subchapter B of Chapter 232, LGC
(residential, near border)

Applies:

  • outside city limits
  • in a county any part of which is within 50 miles of an international border
  • when land is divided into two or more lots that are intended primarily for residential use
  • a lot of five acres or less is presumed to be intended for residential use [232.022]
  • covers land divided for sale or lease [232.021(13)]
  • includes a division by any method [232.023(a)]

Exceptions:

  • does not apply if each lot in the subdivision is 10 acres or larger [232.022(d)]
  • does not apply when the subdivision is incident to the conveyance of the land as a gift between persons related within the third degree [232.022(b)]

Substance - plat must [under 232.023(b) if not stated]:

  • be certified by surveyor or engineer
  • define the subdivision by metes and bounds, locate it, number the lots, state the dimensions of each part
  • describe the water and sewer facilities and state operability date
  • include engineer's certification of utility costs and compliance with Model Rules
  • provide for drainage to:
    • avoid concentration to adjacent lots
    • drain away from all buildings
    • coordinate with general drainage pattern of area
  • describe how drainage requirements are met
  • identify the topography of the area
  • include certification by surveyor or engineer describing any area in any 100-year floodplain (not just FEMA floodplain areas) [see 232.021(4)]
  • have restrictive covenant for floodplain [232.024(b)]
  • include certification about utilities
  • be acknowledged by subdivider, who must also attest to veracity and completeness of matters asserted on plat [232.023(c)]
  • comply with Subchapter B and county requirements under Subchapter B [232.024(a)]
  • be filed and recorded with county clerk in accord with Property Code 12.002 [232.023(e)]
  • be accompanied by financial guarantee for unbuilt utilities in amount set by commissioners court [232.027]
  • only limited variances allowed [232.030(b)]

County Approval Under Subchapter C of Chapter 232, LGC
(residential, EDAP away from border)

Applies:

  • outside city limits
  • in a county eligible for EDAP assistance but not a Subchapter B county (i.e., not within 50 miles of the border) [232.071]
  • when land is divided in any manner that creates two or more lots of five acres or less intended for residential purposes [232.072]

Exceptions:

  • none

Substance - plat must:

  • describe the water and sewer facilities that will be constructed or installed to serve the subdivision and state the date by which they will be fully operable [232.072(b)(1)]
  • include engineer's certificate that the water and sewer facilities are in compliance with the Model Rules [232.072(b)(2)]
  • be filed and recorded with county clerk in accord with Property Code 12.002 [232.072(c)]
  • be accompanied by a bond, letter of credit, or cash deposit to ensure construction of the water and sewer facilities not built at time of plat approval [232.074]

Note: Typically, a plat of a residential subdivision in a Subchapter C county will also have to comply with the more general platting requirements of Subchapter A.

County Approval Under Subchapter E of Chapter 232, LGC

Applies:

  • in a county that adopts rules under 232.101

Substance:

  • Subchapter E counties are given broad power to adopt rules governing plats and subdivisions "to promote the health, safety, morals, or general welfare of the county and the safe, orderly, and healthful development of the unincorporated area of the county." However, some matters are not subject to regulation, including: land use; the bulk, height, and number of buildings on a tract; the size of a building; and the density of residential units. [232.101]
  • county can require wider rights-of-way on some roads, minimum lot frontages, and set-backs (up to 25' or 50') without time limitations [232.102-.104]
  • these powers are cumulative of powers under other laws [232.107]

Note: A county's powers to make rules for plats and subdivisions under Subchapter E are similar to a city's powers under Chapter 212 to make rules for plats and subdivisions within the city's ETJ. (Compare 232.101 to 212.002 and 212.003.)

 

 

Revised: May 06 2010