Rapid population growth and aggressive annexation policies by Texas cities have extended municipal boundaries into areas that were once predominantly rural and dominated by agricultural land uses. In an effort to curb the ability of cities to annex legitimate farming operations and burden those uses with municipal regulations the Texas legislature in 2007 enacted House Bill 1472, which is codified as Section 43.035 of the Texas Local Government Code. This law offers limited protection from annexation and regulation to properties that meet the following criteria:
- The property is located in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of a city with a population of less than 1.9 million; and
- The property is appraised for ad valorem tax purposes as land for agricultural, or wildlife management use or as timber land under the Texas Tax Code.
A city may annex an eligible property only if it first offers the landowner a development agreement that would:
- Guarantee the continuation of the extraterritorial status of the land; and
- Authorize the enforcement of all regulations and planning authority of the city that does not interfere with the use of the area for agricultural, wildlife management, or timber; and
- The landowner declines to make the agreement.
Simply put, if you own a property that is appraised for agricultural purposes, a Texas city may not annex your property unless they first offer you an opportunity to enter into a development agreement. This agreement will guarantee your protection from annexation so long as the property maintains its “ag-exemption” and you abide by the agreement’s additional terms. These terms will mandate that you not attempt to develop the property for any use other than agricultural use, and single-family residential dwelling(s) consistent with the agricultural use. Since the mere act of filing an application for any type of development will trigger a breach of the agreement landowners need to be very careful when filing applications for city-issued permits. The institution of annexation proceedings by the city will usually follow a breach by the landowner. Also, when a city extends a development agreement offer they will include a response deadline. Failure to respond will constitute a denial by the landowner and the city may proceed with annexation. If you have any questions about protecting your property rights please contact our office.