Residents of Pecos recently packed the city council chambers at a mid-September hearing to speak out against a new “overlay ordinance” which they say threatens property rights.
On September 4, the city sent a letter to residents living in a new overlay zone demanding they rapidly bring their properties within compliance of the new ordinance or face a hefty $2,000 criminal fine. The letter outlined a long list of prohibitions, some of which have alarmed residents who say they can’t afford them.
The new ordinance requires residents to keep their roofing in “like-new condition,” the paint on their homes “maintained in a fresh state,” and their lawns “well-manicured” and free of weeds. The list of prohibited items would require residents to get rid of backyard tool sheds and remove or replace any chain link fencing.
The city has also outlawed existing manufactured housing and modular homes. That provision leaves some residents having to choose between losing their homes or facing hefty criminal fines.
Outraged at the possible impact of the law, residents took a stand before the city council, speaking out one after another against it. “We consider this ordinance to be a complete government overreach, and probably even violates constitutional rights,” argued Dave Espy, who added this was the most onerous city ordinance he had ever seen.
Citizens levied numerous other complaints. One noted that the elderly and those on fixed incomes wouldn’t be able to comply with the costly burdens the law imposes. One citizen alleged that the law wasn’t properly submitted to the zoning board before being ushered through, and another speculated that certain Christmas decorations could be prohibited, infringing upon First Amendment rights.
Texas Scorecard reached out to City Secretary Syra Nichols, who confirmed many residents opposed the new ordinance. Nichols said that although the ordinance had already passed, the city has decided not to enforce it until they can revisit and address many of the concerns being raised. A provision of the ordinance regarding compliance states that all properties must be compliant with the code within six months of the date the ordinance passed.
The city has scheduled a special public hearing in the city council chambers on Wednesday, September 26 beginning at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the new overlay ordinance. Citizens are encouraged to attend.