Development of Public Parks and Recreational Lands

June 2, 2015 by Ricardo De Camps

Chapter 26 of the Parks and Wildlife Code provides that generally any public land used as a park, recreation area, scientific area, wildlife refuge, or historic site may not be taken or used for development unless there is “no feasible and prudent alternative” for the proposed development and steps are taken to minimize harm to the public land from the development.

piney parkDevelopment on public lands is generally discouraged by state law and regulating authorities.  While a developer may desire to use public lands in certain circumstances, such as constructing utilities to tie into existing public infrastructure, the regulating authority will not approve the use if the authority determines a “feasible and prudent alternative” exists, even if the alternative is more costly to the developer.

A developer who seeks to develop on a public land must apply to the appropriate regulating authority and comply with Chapter 26 of the Parks and Wildlife Code.  The developer must understand the feasibility of the development and alternatives prior to pursuing this option.  The process for developing under Chapter 26 can vary by jurisdiction.

streamTypically a developer cannot engage in the Chapter 26 process without a City Department sponsoring the case.  Staff will review the proposed project and present the findings in a series of public hearings.  The case must be reviewed by the Parks Board, Planning Commission, and City Council.

The required public notice and subsequent public hearings allow residents to provide feedback on the project and be informed of the nature of the project and potential impacts to the public property.  Once the public hearing is completed, the findings must be presented to the site plan review staff for approval.  A developer must pay the required mitigation fees once the public development is approved.

Do you have questions about the permitting and development of public lands in Texas? Contact us today to learn how we can help. At BIG RED DOG, we’ve done this before.

Written by Ricardo De Camps

Ricardo De Camps

Mr. De Camps is a shareholder and Vice President for BIG RED DOG Engineering | Consulting. He has over 10 years of land development experience including multi-family, retail, and office building projects. Mr. De Camps is passionate about the quality of Austin’s growth and is an advocate for smart and innovative development. He is a graduate of Florida State University and holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering. He is a registered professional engineer in the State of Texas.