What’s Regulated in the City Limits vs. Extraterritorial Jurisdiction?

Some of the most common questions we receive about zoning and land development regulations are how they relate to new developments. The answers really depend on location. That’s because many regulations that apply within city limits, by law, do not apply in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction or ETJ. I’ll explain further along in this post.

First, if you aren’t already familiar with what an ETJ is, it’s an area surrounding a city’s boundaries where the city has a very limited ability to review new development. Dripping Springs is unique in that we have a very large ETJ for a city of our size. We have to take a look back in history to understand why. In the 1980s, the City of Austin wanted to expand its boundaries close to Dripping Springs. The two cities worked out an agreement to allow interested landowners to petition to be included in Dripping Springs’ ETJ. If you look at the map of our ETJ, you’ll notice several “donut holes” where landowners are not included in the ETJ. These landowners made the choice to not be included in the ETJ.

ETJ map jpeg

When it comes to city regulation in these donut holes, there are none. The city has no jurisdiction. A current example is a piece of property along FM 1826 at Darden Hill Road. It’s a donut hole in which billboards are being proposed and the city has received numerous inquiries regarding neighbor’s concerns. If the property were in the ETJ, then the city could enforce its sign ordinance which does not allow billboards but again, because it is not, by law the city has no authority in this area.

The Texas Local Government Code specifically restricts the ability of a city to regulate development in their ETJ.  The City of Dripping Springs only has the authority to enforce the following regulations in the ETJ:  subdivision, site development, water quality protection, and signs.  Site development permit applications in the ETJ are also reviewed for fire code compliance by the applicable Hays County Emergency Services District.

To learn more about regulations for properties located in the city limits versus ETJ, take a look at our fact sheet and maps posted on our city website.

About the Blogger

Megan Will Headshot

As City Planner, Megan Will works on the pre-development process or the steps taken before buildings are erected. Megan has over 15 years of professional planning experience, having worked in municipalities such as the Town of Fort Myers Beach, Florida, and for private engineering firms including Jacobs Engineering. Will holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Historic Preservation from Mary Washington University and a Master of City Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology.


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