Abbott charges Texas developer

Nick Rees Mar. 29, 2010, 3:10pm

Greg Abbott (R)

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - A developer in the Cameron County subdivisions of Los Fresnos and El Jardin has been charged by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott with violating the state's colonia-prevention laws.

Manuel J. Montemayor and the M.A.M Family Trust are alleged to have failed to install sewer and water services on residential lots that it offered for sale or sold in the Los Fresnos and El Jardin subdivisions.

The defendants are also alleged to have failed to post a bond in the alternative to ensure installation of the services. Additionally, the state has charged the defendants with failing to obtain plat approval from local officials.

"The state's enforcement action charges the defendants with failing to comply with Texas' colonias-prevention laws," Abbott said. "Texas law requires border-area developers to guarantee that basic water and waste-water infrastructure will be installed before lots are sold to purchasers. State colonia investigators have learned that the defendants not only failed to guarantee these basic requirements, but also failed to obtain the county commissioner court's approval before marketing these lots."

Montemayor, Abbot's enforcement action alleges, subdivided a tract of land into several smaller lots for residential use without first obtaining the Cameron County Commissioners Court's approval of a plat. At least seven of the lots were sold, though the purchasers of the lots have not been able to build homes on them due to the lack of basic services.

The enforcement action against Montemayor and M.A.M Family Trust seeks an injunction to require them to comply with anti-colonia laws and to provide water and waste-water services to lots that have already been sold. An injunction is also sought to prevent the defendants from selling additional lots in Los Fresnos and El Jardin until those properties obtain necessary water and waste-water services or the financial guarantees. Civil penalties of up to $15,000 for each lot conveyed in violation of the law are also sought by the state.

Residential subdivisions lacking adequate water or waste-water services in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border are commonly referred to as colonias. Most colonias, which lack basic infrastructure, are outside of city limits or located in isolated ares of a county.

Colonia prevention laws in Texas were strengthened in 1995, when enhanced platting, selling and utilities requirements for residential land sales outside city limits in any county within 50 miles of the Texas-Mexico border were added.

Abbott's lawsuit marks the second time action has been taken against Montemayor for illegally developing land in violation of the anti-colonias laws. A court ordered Montemayor and his company, MG Joint Venture, to pay $30,000 in civil penalties in February 2008 for unlawfully subdividing and selling property without providing sewer and water services for residents and without obtaining plat approval.

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