Ken Paxton

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Texas Attorney General Resolves Legal Action against Cameron County Colonia Developer

AUSTIN Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has resolved the State’s enforcement action against a Cameron County developer who unlawfully subdivided and leased several residential lots in violation of state colonias prevention laws.

Under a final judgment and permanent injunction obtained by the State on July 30, defendant Phillip C. Watrous must stop subdividing, selling or leasing property without approval from local officials and without providing correctly installed water and wastewater services for residents.

The judgment also ordered the defendant to bring all the residential lots they sold or leased in the Cameron County subdivision into compliance with Texas’s platting and colonias-prevention laws and to pay $464,500 in civil penalties. In the meantime, the defendant must immediately stop advertising the sale or lease of mobile home spaces in the unlawfully subdivided lots.

According to state investigators, Watrous unlawfully subdivided two lots containing less than one acre of land into multiple lots for residential use without seeking plat approval from the Cameron County Commissioners Court. The defendant unlawfully created a recreational vehicle park on the lots, which he leased to mobile home owners. Currently, the unlawfully platted lots are located in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the City of Port Isabel and have ten mobile homes and four efficiency apartments.

Under Texas law, unincorporated residential subdivisions near the U.S.-Mexico border are commonly referred to as colonias if they lack adequate water and sewage infrastructure. Most colonias lie outside city limits or in isolated areas of a county and lack even basic infrastructure or utilities. Residents often must haul water or go without electricity and risk higher incidence of disease.

Texans may file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office against developers or sellers who fail to provide water and wastewater services, or who subdivide land without first obtaining necessary county approval. Complaints can be filed on the agency’s website at or by calling (800) 252-8011.