City of Pharr v. Tippitt, No. B-9657

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Writing for the CourtPOPE; McGEE
Citation616 S.W.2d 173
PartiesCITY OF PHARR, Petitioner, v. E. A. TIPPITT, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. B-9657
Decision Date13 May 1981

Page 173

616 S.W.2d 173
CITY OF PHARR, Petitioner,
v.
E. A. TIPPITT, Respondent.
No. B-9657.
Supreme Court of Texas.
May 13, 1981.
Rehearing Denied June 17, 1981.

Page 175

William E. York, McAllen, for petitioner.

Jones and Lewis, John Lewis, McAllen, for respondent.

POPE, Justice.

E. A. Tippitt and fourteen other landowners filed suit against the City of Pharr, Mayfair Minerals, Inc., and Urban Housing Associates seeking a judgment declaring a zoning ordinance invalid. The district court upheld the ordinance, but the court of civil appeals nullified it. 600 S.W.2d 951. We reverse the court of civil appeals judgment and affirm that of the trial court.

Mayfair Minerals, Inc. is the owner of 10.1 acres of land which the City of Pharr rezoned from R-1, single-family residence use to R-3, multi-family residence use. Urban Housing Associates, the developer, made the application for change of the single-family classification so that it could build fifty family units consisting of duplexes and quadruplexes. The Planning and Zoning Commission rejected its staff's recommendation that the zoning request be approved; but the City Council, by a four to one vote, enacted an ordinance which rezoned the property. After the district court upheld the validity of the zoning ordinance, Tippitt was the only person who appealed from that judgment. Tippitt's single point of error, which point was sustained by the court of civil appeals, was that the City acted arbitrarily because the amendatory ordinance was spot zoning that was not warranted by any change in conditions in the area.

The land in question is a rectangular 10.1-acre tract. It is on the west side of a larger 60-acre tract. The 60-acre tract and additional large expanses of land to the south and southeast are vacant farmlands. The lands were zoned in 1974 for single-family residences. The tract in question is about two blocks east of Highway 281, a major highway that runs from north to south toward Mexico. The land along the highway is rapidly developing as a commercial strip by reason of a proposed new bridge that will cross the Rio Grande River into Mexico. Sam Houston Street is a major traffic artery that runs from west to east. The tract in question is south of and separated from Sam Houston Street by a 2.6-acre tract of land known as the Aycock tract. Moving clockwise from the north around the 10.1-acre tract, the Aycock tract is zoned for single-family residences. Farther north of there, on the north side of Sam Houston, there are many city blocks of land that were zoned for multiple-family residences. That area, however, was built as single-family residences. The land on the east, southeast, south, and southwest are undeveloped farmlands, all zoned for single-family residences. Bordering the 10.1-acre tract on the west is Richmond Heights Subdivision, which has been developed as single-family residences on the north end, but is not yet developed toward the south. Three hundred feet to the northeast of the tract, but south of Sam Houston, there is an area that is zoned for multiple housing. Two hundred feet to the west of the 10.1-acre tract is a small area that is zoned for industrial use.

Zoning is an exercise of a municipality's legislative powers. Thompson v. City of Palestine, 510 S.W.2d 579 (Tex.1974); Arts. 1011a, 1011b, 1011c, 1011d, 1011e. 1 The validity of an amendment to City of Pharr's comprehensive zoning ordinance presents a question of law, not fact. In making its determination, courts are governed by the

Page 176

rule stated in Hunt v. City of San Antonio, 462 S.W.2d 536, 539 (Tex.1971): "If reasonable minds may differ as to whether or not a particular zoning ordinance has a substantial relationship to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare, no clear abuse of discretion is shown and the ordinance must stand as a valid exercise of the city's police power." See also City of University Park v. Benners, 485 S.W.2d 773 (Tex.1972). We wrote in City of Fort Worth v. Johnson, 388 S.W.2d 400, 402 (Tex.1964), that "a zoning ordinance, duly adopted pursuant to Arts. 1011a-1011k, is presumed to be valid and the burden is on the one seeking to prevent its enforcement, whether generally or as to particular property, to prove that the ordinance is arbitrary or unreasonable in that it bears no substantial relationship to the health, safety, morals or general welfare of the community." See Thompson v. City of Palestine, supra; City of University Park v. Benners, supra; City of Bellaire v. Lamkin, 159 Tex. 141, 317 S.W.2d 43 (1958); City of Waxahachie v. Watkins, 154 Tex. 206, 275 S.W.2d 477 (1955).

The burden on the party attacking the municipal legislative action is a heavy one. Thompson v. City of Palestine, supra, at 581-82; City of El Paso v. Donohue, 163 Tex. 160, 352 S.W.2d 713 (1962); City of Dallas v. Lively, 161 S.W.2d 895 (Tex.Civ.App. Dallas 1942, writ ref'd). As expressed in Weaver v. Ham, 149 Tex. 309, 232 S.W.2d 704 (1950):

The City had the power to enact the basic zoning ordinance, and to amend it, if a public necessity demanded it. While the presumption would be that the enactment of the amendatory ordinance was valid, that presumption disappears when the facts show and it was determined by the court that the City acted arbitrarily, unreasonably, and abused its discretion; that the ordinance is discriminatory and violates the rights of petitioners under the basic ordinance, and does not bear any substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare; that it "constitutes unjustifiable spot zoning"; and that the ordinance is void.

These general rules for review of zoning ordinances have often been stated, but there has been little discussion of the actual legal criteria or standards against which legislative action should be tested. It has been suggested that such a statement would help to restrain arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable actions by city legislative bodies; improve the quality of the legislation; assist in eliminating ad hoc decisions, and focus the evidence from interested parties upon the real issues. 2 We call attention to some of the important criteria:

First: A comprehensive zoning ordinance is law that binds the municipal legislative body itself. Art. 1011c. The legislative body does not, on each rezoning hearing, redetermine as an original matter, the city's policy of comprehensive zoning. The law demands that the approved zoning plan should be respected and not altered for the special benefit of the landowner when the change will cause substantial detriment to the surrounding lands or serve no substantial...

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46 practice notes
  • Texas Workers' Compensation Com'n v. Garcia, No. 04-91-00565-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • August 11, 1993
    ...student from participating in varsity sports for one year because its irrebuttable classifications made it overbroad. Sullivan, 616 S.W.2d at 173. As Chief Justice Phillips pointed out, the " 'strict equal protection analysis' of Sullivan is reminiscent of intermediate scrutiny." Lucas, 757......
  • Lucas v. U.S., No. C-6181
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • May 11, 1988
    ...from participating in varsity sports for one year because its irrebutable classifications made it "overbroad and overinclusive." 616 S.W.2d at 173. Since the Supreme Court has been tolerant of overinclusive legislation under minimal scrutiny, e.g., Vance v. Bradley, 440 U.S. 93, 108, 99 S.C......
  • City of McAllen v. Ramirez, NUMBER 13-09-00067-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • July 18, 2013
    ...778 (Tex. 1972). The City retains its legislative authority to re-zone at any time as public necessity demands. City of Pharr v. Tippitt, 616 S.W.2d 173, 176 (Tex. 1981). In this case, however, appellees are not arguing that they possessed a vested interest in obtaining the conditional use ......
  • Powell v. City of Hous., 19-0689
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • June 4, 2021
    ...City of San Antonio v. Pigeonhole Parking of Tex. Inc. , 158 Tex. 318, 311 S.W.2d 218, 223 (1958) ; see also City of Pharr v. Tippitt , 616 S.W.2d 173, 176 (Tex. 1981) (noting that this burden is a heavy one). ANALYSIS As a home-rule city, Houston derives its authority from the Texas Consti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
48 cases
  • Texas Workers' Compensation Com'n v. Garcia, No. 04-91-00565-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • August 11, 1993
    ...student from participating in varsity sports for one year because its irrebuttable classifications made it overbroad. Sullivan, 616 S.W.2d at 173. As Chief Justice Phillips pointed out, the " 'strict equal protection analysis' of Sullivan is reminiscent of intermediate scrutiny." Lucas, 757......
  • Lucas v. U.S., No. C-6181
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • May 11, 1988
    ...from participating in varsity sports for one year because its irrebutable classifications made it "overbroad and overinclusive." 616 S.W.2d at 173. Since the Supreme Court has been tolerant of overinclusive legislation under minimal scrutiny, e.g., Vance v. Bradley, 440 U.S. 93, 108, 99 S.C......
  • City of McAllen v. Ramirez, NUMBER 13-09-00067-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • July 18, 2013
    ...778 (Tex. 1972). The City retains its legislative authority to re-zone at any time as public necessity demands. City of Pharr v. Tippitt, 616 S.W.2d 173, 176 (Tex. 1981). In this case, however, appellees are not arguing that they possessed a vested interest in obtaining the conditional use ......
  • Powell v. City of Hous., 19-0689
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • June 4, 2021
    ...City of San Antonio v. Pigeonhole Parking of Tex. Inc. , 158 Tex. 318, 311 S.W.2d 218, 223 (1958) ; see also City of Pharr v. Tippitt , 616 S.W.2d 173, 176 (Tex. 1981) (noting that this burden is a heavy one). ANALYSIS As a home-rule city, Houston derives its authority from the Texas Consti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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