United States District Court, S.D. Texas
OPINION ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT
N. Hughes United States District Judge
Houston Community College System sued the City of Houston for
violating the Constitution of the United States. The City
required HCC to pay impact fees before it would certify its
construction projects for occupancy or connect utilities.
Public school districts are excused from paying these fees.
Because the City's condition is a taking in violation of
the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, it
a public junior-college district with campuses in Houston,
Missouri City, and Stafford. Its board of trustees ordered a
bond election for the construction and renovation of its
buildings. The voters approved $425 million in bonds.
City declined to issue occupancy certificates or allow
utility connections to HCC's construction until it paid
impact fees to the City. Some campuses were given temporary
permits but denied permanent ones until HCC paid the water
and wastewater impact fees on the construction projects.
fees are regularly imposed on construction in the City. HCC
did not pay the fees because school districts are exempt from
them. The City assigned an officer to decide whether a junior
college is a school district. He said HCC is a school
district and, thus, is exempt from the fee. The City rejected
his conclusions and refused to issue the permits.
like the City of Houston may charge impact fees to new
developments within its boundaries. Municipalities are limited
by the Texas Local Government Code; it exempts public-school
districts from these fees.
junior-college districts are treated as school districts,
excusing HCC from the fees. The City argues that HCC is not a
school district, requiring it to pay the fees.
Texas Constitution, Education Code, and Local Government Code
treat junior-college districts as school
districts. In 2013, Texas's Attorney General
concluded in an opinion that junior-college districts are
City, arguing that junior colleges should not be treated as
school districts, cites the Texas Insurance Code, Civil
Practices and Remedies Code, Tax Code, and Water Code. These
codes merely list both school districts and junior college
districts together. In each instance that both are listed,
they are treated identically. Listing both does not
necessarily imply that they are separate entities, but is a
precise and inclusive way of writing a law that applies to
Texas Constitution is the most potent authority in defining a
school district, followed by the Education Code and Local
Government Code. These sources treat junior colleges like
they do school districts. HCC, a junior college, will be
treated as a school district.
Impact Fees ...