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City Council takes stand against SB 2038


When Kit Marshall was the mayor in Aledo, her administration worked with the City of Fort Worth to have 228.24 acres of the Dean Ranch that makes up the northeast corner of the Rolling Hills Addition, commonly referred to as Aledo’s “front door,” brought into Aledo’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. 

Fort Worth retained 321 acres of the property within its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). 

However, since Sept. 1, 2023, that parcel of property, along with countless others like it across the state, have become embattled in a legal struggle with the state government.

During the 2023 Texas state legislative session, State Senator Paul Bettencourt, from Houston, authored Senate Bill 2038. This allows landowners to pull their property out of a city’s ETJ simply by providing a petition signed by 50-percent of registered voters in the city holding the ETJ, or a majority in value of the holders of title of land in an area.

The state legislators passed the bill, then it was signed by Governor Greg Abbott before going into effect on Sept. 1, 2023.

Within the first month after the law went into effect, the city of Fort Worth was petitioned with the release of 1,600 acres of ETJ land. Since Sept. 1, 2023, that number has increased to around 2,000 acres. 

Following the passage of SB 2038, Bettencourt released a statement saying, “No government should be able to impose rules and regulations on your property when you have no say on the rules or regulations, no say on who’s creating the rules and regulations and no pathway to remove yourself from it until today.” 

Matter of constitutionality

But opponents of the bill say this isn’t a matter of property owner rights. It’s a matter of constitutionality, of unintended consequences, and of pulling governance away from local communities and centralizing power in Austin. 

Landowners are permitted to leave an ETJ if they do not like the regulations and statutes in one municipality and having neighboring cities compete for more favorable terms for the property owner to bring the property into their ETJ. Fort Worth Assistant City Manager Dana Burghdoff refers to the practice as “city shopping,” telling the Fort Worth Report, “Now, the property owners are in a position to cherry-pick which city they want to work with. So it creates competition, if you will, between the communities. But it also can kind of mess up your planning for infrastructure planning and land use planning if property owners can try to come and go.”

Grand Prairie lawsuit

Back in October 2023, the city of Grand Prairie filed a lawsuit in Travis County to halt SB 2038. Since that time numerous cities across the state have joined with Grand Prairie in the lawsuit. The City of Aledo elected to join the lawsuit in February.

“Our City Council is committed to maintaining a high quality of life for every family in every part of Aledo, and that includes taking a stand against legislation that threatens our community like SB 2038,” stated Mayor Nick Stanley in a press release. “Perhaps the most concerning part of SB 2038 is that it allows a razor-thin majority of landowners to remove property from an ETJ for the property owner’s interests without regard to public health and safety.”

More than own land

One of the unintended consequences of SB 2038, according to the press release by Mayes Media Group on behalf of the City of Aledo, is that not only can a property owner have their land removed from an ETJ, but they can also remove other property owners’ land from the ETJ without their knowledge or consent. With a majority of value of the holders of title of land in an area being able to pull property from the ETJ, there is no requirement to notify those holding the minority of value of title for the property. 

The new law also allows property owners to force an election to remove property with just five-percent of registered voters petitioning for the election where only landowners who reside in the area are allowed to vote. Any landowners of the property involved in the election living outside the area are ineligible to vote and would have no say in what will happen with their property.

Prior to the passage of SB 2038, in order for a landowner to have their property removed from an ETJ, the landowner would have to apply to the city for removal. The city council would deliberate and vote on whether or not to allow the removal from the city’s ETJ. That process has been nullified by the passage of SB 2038.

Petition to remove

In the past two months Aledo’s City Council has been petitioned to remove the 228.24 acres of Dean Ranch from the city’s ETJ. In February, the petition was nullified due to the fact that the request was brought by the original property owner, rather than the current owner.

Fast forward to Thursday, March 28, when the city council was petitioned once again, this time by the current landowners, Brothers in Christ Properties, LLC. With Aledo involved in a pending lawsuit along with Grand Prairie and a myriad of other municipalities across the Lone Star State, the motion was denied pending the outcome of the litigation. 


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