County OKs measures dealing with oilfield boom-related housing issues

Howard County commissioners unanimously approved revisions to the county's Flood Damage Prevention Order and subdivision and manufactured home rental community regulations Monday, making efforts to deal with the boom brought about by the Cline Shale formation.Aided by Charles R. Kimbrough, an attorney with Austin-based Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP, the commissioners court has been working through the changes for several months now.According to County Judge Mark Barr, the regulations accomplish what the court set out to do, although they won't likely bring about big changes anytime soon.“When we began this process, our goal was pretty simple,” Barr said. “We wanted to take measures to help protect Howard County residents who may have their lives and their properties impacted by the boom in the oilfield. I feel like we've accomplished that with these new regulations, although they don't represent a huge change like some folks seem to think they do.“The county simply doesn't have a whole lot of authority over these types of issues. The real authority falls to agencies like the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). We aren't able to zone (like cities can) and we're unable to tell many of these developers what to do. What we can — and have done — is level the playing field, however, by making sure everyone has to play by the same rules.”Barr said the subdivision and manufactured home rental community regulations will require developers to submit to the county detailed plans for their subdivision, along with an engineer's report.“Once we have all of that information, the commissioners court will either have to sign off on it or send it back to the developer,” Barr said. “Either way, these regulations will force anyone planning to develop a subdivision to follow the same rules, which was our intentions from the beginning.”