The Denison City Council recently approved changes to the city ordinance that reduce restrictions on transportation network and ride-share companies. The ordinance update comes following the passage of Texas House Bill 100, which reduced the limits local municipalities can place on ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft.
This marks the second time within a month that Denison has changed an ordinance to reflect recent legislature that reduced the ability of cities to hinder specific industries. In August, the city approved an ordinance change related to the construction of cellphone towers within the public right of way — something traditionally overseen by local municipalities.
Despite the similarities, City Manager Jud Rex said the city is less concerned with the most recent change, as the state guidelines closely match the current ordinance. However, he said this can be seen as yet another example of state governance overreaching into matters best controlled locally.
“We did a comparison, and there are not a lot of differences,” he said. “We are definitely not giving up anything we are concerned about giving up.”
In mid-August, Uber announced it had started offering services in Grayson County with a specific focus on the Sherman-Denison area. Uber, like Lyft and other similar services, offers customers the ability to connect with affiliated drivers through a smart phone app. The service allows these drivers to use personal vehicles to offer transportation services.
In February, the city council approved an update to Denison’s taxi ordinance. This update added language regarding new services like Uber and Lyft that had become popular since the last update in the mid-2000s. The updated ordinance set standards for vehicle insurance and requirements to become a driver. Rex said these requirements are now handled at the state level under the new ordinance.
In 2016, when the ordinance update first saw work, Rex initially said this was setting the stage for when taxi services or other transportation providers would enter into the market. He added that he expected that as the region continues to grow and develop.
“We still don’t have a formal taxi service, and with Uber here, I think it is even less likely we will see one,” he said.
Despite agreeing with the terms in HB 100, Rex said the law still felt like a case of the state government reaching into an area that is within the purview of local cities. Similarly, the city of Sherman said it was weighing the benefit of reducing restrictions for these services against the possibility of government overreach.
“Issues of local control vs. the greater good are always going to be tricky for cities as they struggle against the state to retain their fair share of autonomy while also recognizing the need of certain industries to have a broader framework in place,” Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said in an emailed statement. “As far as Sherman is concerned, many citizens are simply excited to have access to this alternate form of transportation.”
Rex said it is very similar to legislation that recently passed and limited city restrictions on cellphone towers in the public right of way.
Earlier this year, Mobilitie, a cellphone infrastructure company, appealed a decision by the city of Denison to demand the removal of two cellphone towers that were built within the right of way. The two towers were built on Coffin Street and across from city hall on Chestnut Street.
While legislation reduced the restrictions the city can put in place on the towers, Rex said there are still ways the city can restrict the towers from certain areas, including the downtown historical district, and residential areas.