State hampers county RV park rules
Last updated 6/27/2023 at 9:29pm
As land across Orange County is being cleared to make room for RV parks to contend with an influx of construction workers at the new $8.5 billion chemical plant, County Commissioners found themselves stymied by a new state law.
County Engineer Corey Oldbury had prepared new regulations for the RV parks, but a decision was delayed pending an interpretation of a new state law.
Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill, which was passed by the Texas Senate and House of Representatives, last week. The new state law forbids local entities, including counties and cities, from implementing stricter laws than the state. That means cities like Austin and Dallas, which passed ordinances making employers give water breaks to outdoors workers in the hear, cannot enforce those ordinances now.
Assistant Orange County Attorney Denise Gremillion told commissioners Tuesday the new law means the county cannot add extra rules to the ones the state already has to regulate RV parks. "It does tie our hands," she said about the law.
The state regulations include that a park owner must provide water and sewer connections for each individual RV site.
The county will still revise its RV rules and will conduct a public hearing on the rules August 8. The Record newspapers will give the proposed rules before the public hearing.
Before the meeting began, Precinct 3 Commissioner Kirk Roccaforte said the new Dishon RV park on East Roundbunch Road is in county jurisdiction outside the city limits of Bridge City. He said about 100 RV sites are planned for the land, which is across the road from Dishon Plantation, an upscale subdivision.
Commissioners Court approved a proclamation supporting the Texas Department of Transportation taking over the maintenance of East Roundbunch Road and make it part of FM 1442. Currently, East Roundbunch, which begins in the city of Bridge City at Texas Highway 87, is an extension of FM 1442, also known as West Roundbunch Road in Bridge City.
Commissioner Roccaforte said commissioners when they went to the state capital in Austin talked to state officials about officially making East Roundbunch part of FM 1442 for state maintenance. That would include the old swing bridge, which the county has had to maintain.
"This (proclamation) doesn't mean it's going to happen, but it's the first step to make it happen," said County Judge John Gothia about the road request.
The swing bridge, which is older than 70 years, often has mechanical problems. It was closed for maintenance on Monday and Tuesday, right as new traffic lights and traffic patterns were going into effect on Texas 87 and FM 1006, known as Chemical Row.
Hundreds of plant workers use East Roundbunch Road to go to the chemical plants on FM 1006. In addition, the bridge will need to be opened more often in the future as Chevron Phillips brings in barges carry pre-fabricated pieces of the new $8.5 billion Golden Triangle Polymers Plant. That plant will be on 2,000 acres between Texas 87 and FM 1006 at FM 105.
As Orange County continues on its economic boom, Commissioners Court gave the final approval to the first phase of the new Orange Gardens subdivision being built off FM 105 by Texas Highway 62.
County Engineer Oldbury said all the rules and payments for the final plat has been approved and construction will be able to start on the 75 houses planned in the first phase. The subdivision is in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city of Orange, and city boards and officials had to also approve the plans.
The subdivision will have water and sewer service provided by the Orangefield Water Supply Company. The houses will be in the Bridge City school district.
Commissioners Court approved requesting $47,664 to help finish Bluebird Park and boat ramp off Simmons Drive in Orange. The county-owned park is along Little Cypress Bayou with straight access to the Sabine River.
Commissioners had allocated some of the money from the Chevron Phillips plant permit fees to be spent on a park in each of the four precincts. Bluebird is in Precinct 1 and Commissioner Johnny Trahan said the county's budget had run short.
The grant money from SRA, if approved, will help finish the wooden dock and concrete sidewalk, plus elevate the pavilion and the picnic area.
Commissioners voted to seek new bids for a new walking trail at Raymond Gould Park in Vidor. Precinct 4 Commissioner Robert Viator earlier reported bids were too high.
On Tuesday, he said the precinct's road and bridge workers will renovate the restrooms at the park. New bids will come soon for the walking trail.
The county had good news about one possible new state law. The Texas Senate had voted to outlaw voting centers right after Orange County worked years to implement the voting centers system.
Voting centers allow any registered county voter to go to any voting box on election day instead of the assigned neighborhood box, which may frequently change. The county had its first successful voting center election in May for cities and school boards.
Even with the elimination of the centers passing the state senate, the Texas House of Representatives did not vote on it and it died during the session.
So Orange County will be buying 12 more voter kiosks from Votec Corporation, the only company that manufacturers them. The Texas secretary of state's office will help buy the voting machines, which produce a paper ballot for each voter to proofread and then deposit in a locked box.