Planning and Zoning 

 The Planning and Zoning Division administers zoning, land use, and subdivision regulations to promote orderly growth and development in the City of Pharr in accordance to the City’s comprehensive plan and other applicable codes and ordinances.   

 Planning and Zoning staff provides support to the Planning and Zoning Commission, Board of Adjustments and City Commission.  For information on these boards, future meetings, public hearings and agendas can be found on the city’s main page at  

 City Planners review development projects and assist in the physical development of the City.  The division ensures conformance with the City ordinances such as: zoning ordinance, subdivision ordinance, Standards Manual: Construction and Development Guide, and all applicable design guidelines.  

Development Process


As part of our continuing effort to provide clear and concise guidelines for business, civic and neighborhood groups to successfully develop property, the Development Services Department has provided illustrative guidelines to explain the overall development process. This development process and flowchart provides our customer groups with an outlined look at our processes and provides applications, guidelines, and links for more information.


The purpose of this development process is to assist property owners and developers to understand City procedures and process for new development. The Development Services Department has worked with all City Departments that have an impact on the development of real property within its city limits or ETJ. The City of Pharr has established a simple step flowchart that provides users with an overview of the overall development process (see below).

Step 1:  Pre-Development Process

Step 2:  Verifying Zone District

Step 3:  Platting

  • Pre-Application
  • Preliminary Plat Submittal
  • Preliminary Plat approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission
  • Construction Phase
  • Final Inspection
  • Final Plat approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Commission
  • Recording Phase

Step 4:  Building Permits

Step 5:  Inspections

Step 6:  Certificate of Occupancy


Zoning is the city’s way of promoting orderly growth and land use while protecting existing property owners by grouping together compatible development.

Before land is developed in the city, it must be zoned and platted. Property in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) is subject to platting only. The Planning and Zoning Commission reviews all zoning requests and City Council approves or denies the request after receiving recommendations.

Click here (hyperlink to Zone Requirements PDF) to open the Zoning Requirements

What is Zoning?
Zoning is the city’s tool to implement the Land Use component of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Through the use of district classifications, zoning helps to regulate land use, promote orderly growth, and protect existing property owners by ensuring a convenient, attractive and functional community. The City Council along with several city boards and commissions, especially the Planning and Zoning Commission, make decisions on land uses, compatibility and other zoning matters.

The purpose of zoning land in the City of Pharr is to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the public. The Zoning regulations and districts have been adopted in accordance with a comprehensive plan and have been designed to:

  • Lessen traffic congestion;
  • Provide safety from fire, panic, and other dangers;
  • Provide adequate light and air;
  • Prevent the overcrowding of land;
  • Avoid undue concentration of population; or
  • Provide and facilitate adequate provisions for transportation, water, sewers, schools, parks, and other public requirements.

Currently, the city has 17 land use categories ranging from Agricultural, Single Family Residential, General Business, to Heavy Industrial. The land use/use district is the zoning category for the property. The land use/use district has a list of permitted uses, conditional uses (require permit) and prohibited uses for development and/or use of the property.


Why is Zoning Needed?
Zoning is the dividing of a municipality into districts and the establishment of regulations governing the use, placement, spacing and size of land and buildings it allows various land uses, promotes orderly growth and protects existing property owners by ensuring a convenient, attractive community. A city must have a blueprint to locate streets, parks and business and residential areas. City Commission along with several city boards and commissions make decisions on how to zone property and on other zoning matters.

How Do I Change a Property’s Zoning?
When an owner wants to change the use of his property to a purpose not permitted in the current classification assigned to the property, he must apply for a change of zone. The process is approximately 30-45 days with specific application deadlines. This time frame may vary depending on when the application is submitted and if there are delays in decisions by the Planning and Zoning Commission and/or City Commission during the public hearing process.

Step 1: Request for a Change of Zone
Meeting with a Planner is a must. Applications may be found under the resources tab, picked up in person or emailed. Applicant must submit the Change of Zone Application to the Planning and Zoning Staff by deadline date (25 days prior to the meeting date), the application and accompanying documents will be reviewed and if deemed to be complete it will be placed on the next agenda for a motion.

Step 2: Public Hearings
A legal notice will then be prepared and published in an official newspaper or a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality advising of the time and place of the hearings. All surrounding property owners within 200 feet of the area being rezoned will be notified by mail before the Planning and Zoning Commission Hearing. The notice advises property owners of their right to appear and express their opinion at the hearing or submit written comments.

Step 3: The Planning and Zoning Commission Meeting
The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing for the request for the Change of Zone. At this time, Staff will have made a recommendation regarding the property based on Future Land Use, Comprehensive Plan and other factors generally related to avoiding adverse impacts on the neighboring area. The city requests that the applicant or representative be present at the hearings to present evidence in support of the request. Other parties may present information (including petitions) in support or in opposition to the change.

Step 4: Recommendations Made to City Commission
After weighing all evidence and facts presented at the public hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission will take action that is a recommendation to the City Commission to grant or deny the request. The rezoning request will then be forwarded to the City Manager’s Office to be scheduled to be placed on the next City Commission Agenda.

Step 5: City Commission Makes the Final Decision
The City Commission holds a second public hearing on the request at which time the applicant, supporters, and opponents again present their evidence. At this time, the Council makes the final decision to grant or deny the request. They may uphold or reverse the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation.


If a valid protest of 20% or more of the land area within the 200-foot notification area is filed with the City, a rezoning shall not become effective except by a favorable vote of three-fourths of all the City Commission.

Applicants may withdraw an application (in writing) at any time during the rezoning process, however, the city will not refund application fees after the application has been submitted and deemed complete.

On any change of zone application denied by City Commission, reapplication will not be permitted until six (6) months have elapsed after the board’s action.

It is important to understand that approval of a rezoning cannot be construed as amending the Building Code, Fire Code, or any other applicable ordinances.

What is a Comprehensive Plan?
The Comprehensive Plan is the City of Pharr’s official guide for making decisions about growth and development within the city. This plan includes a Land Use Plan which takes into account existing land use, development trends, and policies, which guide zoning decisions in the form of a map of proposed land use patterns. Each lot is assigned a specific zoning classification to further regulate development. In the end the Comprehensive Plan is a summary of the goals, objectives, policies, strategies, programs, and projects that will enable the city to achieve its mission of focusing on the future, working together to build strong neighborhoods, develop a sound economy, and provide a safe community.

How does the city use the Comprehensive Plan?

  • Functional plans/programs such as the Operation Clean Sweep, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), TIRZ, Thoroughfare Plan, Parks Master Plan are all incorporated in the Comprehensive Plan;
  • Departmental business plans;
  • Budget priorities;
  • Capital Improvement Program (CIP);
  • Annexation programs;
  • Development standards; and
  • Zoning and subdivision cases.

More Information
For more information about Zoning, City Ordinances (, or the Comprehensive Plan, you may visit the Planning and Zoning Division at 308 West Park Avenue or call (956) 402-4242 and speak to a City Planner


What is a plat?
A plat is an official map or chart representing a tract of land showing the division of that tract into one or more separate parcels. Plats indicate the placement and length of property line, streets, easements and other pertinent information. A plat must be prepared by a licensed land surveyor or Civil engineer in the State of Texas. After plats are approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Commission, it is filed with the County of Hidalgo and becomes a legal lot of record for which a building permit can be issued.

 When is a plat required?
In accordance with Sec. 212.004 of the Texas Local Government Code, platting property is part of the development process and it is required when you own a tract of land within the limits of the municipality or in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of a municipality who divides the tract in two or more parcels for purposes of development of the parcels. The City of Pharr has established a simple step flowchart that provides users with an overview of the overall development process (see below).

For more information, please contact or visit with a City Planner.


Platting Process:  Step by Step

Step 1:  Pre-application

Project engineer submits two (2) pre-application copies of a subdivision plat to the Development Services Department along with a utility layout. The plan layout should show all existing and proposed utilities including water, sewer, paving and drainage with details. If the subdivision has more than 1 lot, the utilities must be presented on different displays (sheets).

Planner examines the plat against a checklist derived from city ordinance and mails an acknowledge letter with comments to the project engineer so he/she may make corrections to the subdivision plat. Any additions or major modifications will require the project engineer to go through the pre-application process again. Approval of the pre-application layout does not guarantee approval during the preliminary plat review.


  • Subdivision application.
  • Warranty deed (owner shall provide articles of incorporation for proof of ownership)
  • Filing fee indicated within package.
  • One letter size preliminary plan.
  • One digital copy of the preliminary plans (PDF format).
  • 18 set copies of the preliminary plans (Fold plans or bind plans).
  • Tree survey or letter from project engineer indicating that no protected trees exists on property.
  • Owner shall apply at the Hidalgo County Irrigation District #2 for a petition for exclusion. (shall submit at recording phase)
  • Provide 4 approved drainage reports.

Step 2:  Preliminary Plat Submittal
Project engineer will submit eighteen (18) copies of the plat and the utility layout, one (1) set in legal or letter size and four (4) copies of the approved drainage report by Hidalgo County Drainage District #1 to the Development Services Department.

  1. The developer shall submit proof of ownership of the property being subdivided (warranty deed).
  2. A subdivision application which must be signed by the owner of the property and all filing fees shall accompany the plat.
  3. The project engineer must apply with the Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 2 for a waiver of irrigation service and consent to exclusion of the proposed subdivision, or portion thereof, not requiring raw water.
  4. Meetings are scheduled by the planning staff with all department representatives including the project engineer to review the proposed subdivision and utility layouts. The developer should request in writing any variances they would like the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider and the variance request should include any necessary cost estimates.

Step 3:  Preliminary Plat approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission
The proposed plat is placed on the agenda to be considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission for Preliminary Plat approval.

The project engineer and client may attend the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting.

After the Planning & Zoning commission hearing the project engineer may submit construction plans only if the commission approved the preliminary plat.

Step 4:  Construction Phase
After the subdivision has been presented to the Planning & Zoning Commission and has been approved, the project engineer shall submit eight (8) sets of construction plans and profiles, signed by the project engineer, and must be submitted to Development Services Department for review and approval at least two (2) weeks prior to the anticipated construction start date. After approval of the construction plans and prior to beginning any construction, a pre-construction meeting must be scheduled between the project engineer, the contractor and city staff (see requirements for pre-construction meeting in the City of Pharr Standards Manual).  If the project engineer does not have a City of Pharr Standards Manual, contact Development Services for a digital copy.

Step 5:  Final inspection
As-built plans shall be submitted by the project engineer to Development Services Department.  Plans shall be signed and sealed by the engineer of record.  The subdivision will not be recorded until the as-built drawings have been received.  Six (6) copies of as-built plans, one digital DWG copy (geo-referenced) and certificate of completion from project engineer signed and sealed must be submitted.  Once submitted, a final inspection will be conducted onsite.

Step 6:  Final Plat Approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Commission
Once the final inspection has passed the subdivision will be placed for final plat approval.

Step 7:  Recording Phase
Original subdivision plat must be submitted for signatures.  Recording documentations and recording fees must also be submitted.

Items needed for recording:

  • Tax certificates from the tax office (must be paid with a zero balance)
  • Irrigation tax certificate (this certificate can be obtained from the irrigation office)
  • Petition for exclusion from Hidalgo County Irrigation District #2 office
  • Approved drainage report
  • A copy of the drainage receipt in the amount of $475.00 from Hidalgo County Drainage District #1
  • A copy of the recording fee receipt in the amount of $106.00 from Hidalgo County Courthouse

After recording, the plat will be sent back to the City of Pharr Engineering Department for plat addressing.  City of Pharr GIS manager will address the subdivision plat and once all addresses are completed the plat will be returned to project engineer for their records.

Conditional Use Permits

What is a Conditional Use Permit?
In our Zoning Ordinance, land use activity is permitted in zoning classifications either as a use by right or by a Conditional Use Permit (CUP.) A use by right is a land use activity which has been deemed appropriate and correct for the zone where it is to be located. A Conditional Use Permit allows with conditions and requirements a use that the Zoning Ordinance may not allow. It requires specific case by case approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) and/or City Commission.

How do I obtain a Conditional Use Permit?
A Conditional Use Permit may only be granted upon application to the City by the owner of a property, and through a public hearing process. The City requires you consult with a Planner once applicant has a location and what the use will be. Planner will advise if it is necessary obtain Conditional Use Permit and provide all guidelines and requirements. If applicant wishes to proceed, the planner will explain the application, deadlines, and place of meetings for the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Commission. All fees are nonrefundable.

What documentation is required to submit for a Conditional Use Permit?

  • A copy of the property’s Warranty Deed and if you are a representative for the property, you must bring a letter signed by the owner stating his consent for the request being applied for.
  • A completely filled out application
  • A processing fee (nonrefundable)
  • A site plan of your property. Site plan shall contain the following:
    • Location of all structures on the subject property, to include all setbacks and dimensions
    • Landscaping and/or fencing of yards
    • Existing and proposed uses/changes
    • Design of egress and ingress
    • Off-Street Parking and Loading Facilities

 What is the Conditional Use Permit process?
Applicant must complete the application for the appropriate conditional use permit and file with the Development Services Department by deadline provided.

When the application is submitted a date for the public hearing will be scheduled. Normally the request takes between 4 to 6 weeks.

Legal notices are advertised in the Advance News Journal. All property owners within 300 feet of the proposed property will be notified at least 15 days prior to the public hearing date.

Staff conducts field reviews and evaluates the CUP request with applicable city ordinance requirements. Staff prepares a report to be presented at the P&Z meeting. Any questions regarding the report, should be directed to the Planner assigned.

Depending on the type of CUP there may be other departments involved in the review process.

List of Conditional Use Permits:

  • Home Occupations
  • B.Y.O.B for Venue or Event
  • Church
  • Life of the Use
  • Parking Lot
  • Outside Storage
  • Accessory Use Structure
  • Cellular Towers/Co-Location of Equipment
  • Daycare

For more information please contact:
Development Services
118 S. Cage Blvd
Pharr, Texas 78577
(956) 402-4242
[email protected]


The Annexation Process
Annexation is the process by which cities grow by bringing in additional territory into the city limits.  Territory may be annexed by request of a property owner or can be initiated by the City.  Petitioning for incorporation into the City of Pharr can be a valuable opportunity for the landowners of the property located outside the City’s corporate limits.

Terms of Annexation
The State of Texas grants authority to cities to annex territory in accordance to state law. The following terms for annexation apply:

  • The maximum amount of territory a City may annex each year is normally 10% of its existing area.
  • The minimum width of an area being annexed is normally 1,000 feet.
  • Certain public notification requirements exist as does a requirement to hold up to two public hearings.
  • A municipal service plan must be provided for the annexed area.

Property Eligible for Annexation
Property that lies within the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) and is contiguous to the existing city limits is eligible for annexation. The City’s ETJ generally covers an area that extends three and a half (3.5) miles from the city limits. A map of this area may be obtained from Planning and Zoning.

 City of Pharr – Voluntary Annexation Procedures

Action Step Statutory Time Frame
Petitioner requests incorporation into the City Limits in writing to the City Property owners are required to submit a request to be annexed and provide detailed metes and bounds, legal description of the property or properties to be incorporated as an attached file and directed to the attention of the City Manager.
Determine applicability of Section 43.016 and act accordingly.
Petition submitted for City Commission Staff receives the submittal and prepares for City Commission. Petition of owners and negotiate and execute written service agreement (include development agreement, if applicable)

Written service agreement must include: 1) a list of each service the city will provide on the effective date of the annexation; and 2) a schedule that includes the period within which the city will provide each service that is not
provided on the effective date

Resolution presented to CC Resolution for annexation submitted to CC, must include petitions, development agreements, exhibits, and declaration of the City’s ETJ.
Notice of public hearing must be posted in the newspaper of general circulation and must be posted on the municipality’s internet website (only one public hearing required)
  • Must be published on or after the 20th day but before the 10th day of the date of the hearing (43.0673 d. 1)
  • Must be posted on City’s internet website on or after the 20th day but before the 10th day of the date of the hearing and must remain posted until the date of the public hearing (43.0673 d. 2)
Certified mail notice to public school district in accordance with 43.905 Notice must be sent on or after the 20th day but before the 10th day of the date of the 1st public hearing
Certified Mail Notice to Public Entities in accordance with 43.9051 Notice must be sent on or after the 20th day but before the 10th day of the date of the 1st Public Hearing. NOTE: Additional provisions apply where the content of this notice is concerned, and 43.9051 MUST be reviewed carefully to ensure the
notice includes the proper detailed information.
Public Hearing Hold Public Hearing – Regular CC Meeting
1st, 2nd, and 3rd and final reading of Annexation Ordinance Present annexation ordinance in 3 separate readings (43.0673 and City Charter Article I, Section 5)
Annexation complete Complete post annexation procedures:

  • Comptroller and Appraisal District Notification
  • Send boundary changes to county voter registrar
  • Filing with County Clerk
  • Prepare Map of Municipal Boundaries and ETJ and Notice o ETJ expansion (must include date of ordinance and number of ordinance and a reference to the minutes or ordinance records in which the ordinance is recorded in full, LGC 41.001)
  • Notify PUC
  • Notify electric provider
  • Notify cable and video providers
  • Notify retail gas and water companies

Properties become a part of the city limits and can proceed with submitting for subdivision and building permit.

For more information please contact:

Planning and Zoning Division
Pharr, Texas 78577
(956) 402-4242
[email protected]