Statement About HB 770
I am allowing House Bill No. 770 to become law without my signature because of concerns about language that would prevent the commissioner of the General Land Office from effectively enforcing the Texas Open Beaches Act on Bolivar Peninsula. The language in question specifically prohibits the Texas Attorney General, or a county or district attorney, from obtaining an injunction to remove a home that now lies partially across the vegetation line if the home was previously on the landward side of the line before a meteorological event that occurred before January 1, 2009. The bill also allows homeowners that are covered by this provision to rebuild and repair their homes if they were damaged or destroyed by the meteorological event that moved the vegetation line.
The provision affecting the Texas Open Beaches Act is vague, broad and incomplete, and will likely result in litigation between homeowners and the state. Allowing homeowners to rebuild their homes partially across the vegetation line directly conflicts with sections of the Texas Administrative Code that prohibit repairing or rebuilding a home located across the vegetation line, and that prohibit activities that compromise the dunes on the peninsula. Additionally, the administrative code does not require the land commissioner or local officials to approve building permits or utility connections for homes located across the vegetation line, which also conflicts with language in the bill.
Allowing homeowners to rebuild or repair homes on the public beach will negatively affect projects to restore the peninsula’s beaches and dunes. The bill prevents the General Land Office from restoring dunes lost after Hurricane Ike that provided protection to many other properties on the peninsula, while other projects, such as beach nourishment, could be delayed.
This bill also sets a precedent for other areas hit by future storms, allowing homeowners in other parts of Texas to seek an exemption from the Open Beaches Act after a major storm. The bill also fails to provide equal protection for all coastal homeowners who have been affected by recent hurricanes.
There is a need for a frank discussion about how the Open Beaches Act is enforced and whether any changes may be necessary, and those discussions must include policymakers, property owners, conservation groups and those who use the beach. I want to protect the rights of property owners while ensuring that the state’s beaches remain open for the public to use and enjoy.
Governor of Texas
COBY SHORTER, III
Deputy Secretary of State
For a detailed view of this bill, visit http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=HB770.
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