County can't get complete zoning authority is sought

A section of area sought belongs to a state organization

Zoning and El Paso County

EL PASO, Texas - Before state legislators have voted, El Paso County has already watched the area it wants to gain zoning authority over dwindle.

El Paso County commissioners are using their delegations' relationships to push a bill in the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate. The bill was intended to give zoning authority to El Paso County for 60 square miles around the Tornillo Port of Entry.

This week, the county was informed that some of the land belonged to the General Land Office. According to county staffers, 20 square miles belong to the Permanent University Fund. That means the county can't have control over that land.

An additional 5 square miles may be taken off the map. The GLO is researching whether it belongs to the Permanent School Fund.

"This is how they make money," explained Rosemary Neill to the commissioners.

Neill brought the topic up during a weekly explanation of Legislature topics ongoing with the county. Neill told commissioners that it may call for a re-write on how the bill is written.

Commissioner Vince Perez, who represents the area near Tornillo, said some jurisdiction is better than nothing.

"If you drive through Montana Vista you'll notice lots of junkyards," said Perez. "There are a lot of adult businesses. Not only is it unsightly, but it's not good for residents."

Zoning isn't a power given to counties in Texas. Instead, it's a right only given to municipalities. In the past, 21 other counties have gained zoning in special cases, however, they're only given powers typically in order to protect assets.

Perez points out that the Tornillo Port of Entry is the only border crossing in Texas located in an incorporated area. Without knowing what to expect, he said the county needs to be proactive in protecting the land.

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