From Texas to Mars- How a Little South Texas Village Has Become the Epicenter for the Colonization of the Red Planet
“Mars Colony 1 to Starbase, over”….“Copy Mars Colony 1, this is Starbase, go ahead” – These are phrases we have only dreamed about through our favorite Sci-Fi movies and books, but what if the reality of a colony on Mars was closer than any of us realize? Better yet…what if the staging point for that reality was being planned right now, right here, in the great state of Texas? Well, guess what, it is here and it has taken the form of one of the world’s leading innovators and entrepreneurs, Elon Musk. On March 2, 2021 Elon Musk officially announced via Twitter in his typically cryptic fashion, “Creating the city of Starbase, Texas” “From thence to Mars, and hence the stars.”
What Mr. Musk is actually saying is that he is attempting to incorporate the village of Boca Chica, located on the southern Texas coast in Cameron County. Musk intends to incorporate the City and change the name to Starbase, Texas. Why would one of the world’s most innovative billionaires choose the southern coastal area of the Lonestar State to begin the colonization of the red planet, and then the stars beyond? Simple…location, location, location. The fact that Boca Chica is located on the coast and relatively close to the equator makes it the ideal spot for space exploration. As reported by many different news outlets since early March, the Cameron County Judge announced that they had been approached by Elon Musk, but made it clear that “If SpaceX and Elon Musk would like to pursue down this path, they must abide by all state incorporation statutes…” As many City Attorneys know throughout Texas, this is not the easiest endeavor and will take skilled guidance to accomplish.
In order to accomplish such a task, the first thing that needs to be addressed is population size. The population size of an unincorporated town or village will determine whether it can be incorporated as a type A or B municipality. Under chapters 6 and 7 of the Local Government Code (LGC) each type has three requirements that must be satisfied before an application for incorporation can be submitted. Two of the requirements are the same for either type A or B and are as follows: (1) the area must constitute an unincorporated town or village; and (2) the area must meet the territorial requirements prescribed by Section 5.901 of the LGC, which says in part, “A community may not incorporate as a general-law municipality unless it meets the following territorial requirements: (1) a community with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants must have not more than two square miles of surface area…” Once these two items have been met the town or village needs to determine its population size. If the town or village has a population ranging from 201 to 9,999 inhabitants, then it meets the requirements to incorporate as a type B municipality. In order to incorporate as a type A municipality, the population size must be 600 or more inhabitants. According to these requirements, the best chance Mr. Musk has of incorporating the tiny village of Boca Chica would be as a type B municipality since the population is currently so sparse.
However, another option would be to incorporate as a type C general law municipality under Chapter 8 of the LGC. The population size is similar to the requirement for a type B municipality and the other two requirements are the same mentioned above for both type A and B cities. The benefit of incorporating as a type C city is the fact that a type C municipality operates under the commission form of government with the governing body called the commission and made up of a mayor and two commissioners. Further, under a type C you only need to file a petition signed by 10% of the inhabitants of the town or village in order to incorporate, other than that, the process of incorporation is relatively the same as described below.
Once all three requirements discussed above have been satisfied the residents of the town or village must submit an “application to incorporate” to the County Judge. According to section 7.002 of the LGC, the application must be signed by at least 50 qualified voters who are residents of the community, state the proposed boundaries as well as the name of the new municipality, and be accompanied by a plat of the new municipality showing only the territory to be used for municipal purposes. Once the application has been properly submitted and the population size is confirmed, the County Judge will then order an election where all qualified voters who reside in the proposed municipality will vote on the incorporation. Within 20 days of receiving the returns showing a majority vote in favor of incorporating, the County Judge must make a record of the same in the records of the County Commissioner’s Court and the incorporation of the municipality is effective as of that date. One last important note to make here is that under section 7.008 of the LGC, an election to incorporate may not be ordered “earlier than three years after the date of the most recent incorporation election…” This means that a town or village wishing to incorporate needs to be certain it is what the qualified voters of the area desire, as it is a once every three years shot, and three years is a long time when aiming for the stars.
As you can see the process to incorporate is not the easiest, but with the proper planning and professional guidance, Mr. Musk shouldn’t have too many issues incorporating the village of Boca Chica. Maybe Mel Brooks had it right all along when he made the infamous Sci-Fi classic Spaceballs. The future of space travel is composed of rogue Texans similar to the movie’s renegade Starship Captain Lone Starr, who travel the galaxies in their Starship Winnebagos saving Druish princesses from the grubby little clutches of Darth Helmets all over the universe, with his trusted mawg Barf at his side. Sounds like a great future to me! Ludicrous speed ahead Mr. Musk, and damn the torpedoes!!
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