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High Rise Ordinance Faces Next Level of Scrutiny

by Houston Agent

Residential areas in Houston could look much different in the coming years, depending on how a new ordinance plays out.

The long-debated high rise ordinance, which would set guidelines for new high rise developments in residential neighborhoods, is facing a new round of scrutiny, this time by the Houston City Council in today’s session, according to The Houston Chronicle‘s Zain Shauk.

The ordinance, which has the backing of builders, would set a buffer zone of 30 to 40 feet between high rise construction zones and residential neighborhoods, based on the width of the nearest road.

Inspired by a 23-story high rise planned for the corner of Ashby and Bissonnet, Shauk reports that the ordinance would cover buildings taller than 75 feet.

Not everyone, though, is pleased with the ordinance, at least in its present form.

Erik Eriksson, for instance, the president of the University Place Super Neighborhood in the Rice University area, said the measure did not go far enough to counter urban sprawl.

“As the city gets more dense, (city officials) also have to recognize that the neighborhoods that are there have value, as well, and they need to strike a balance,” Eriksson said. “I think that they can strike a better balance that’s more protective.”

The ordinance originally called for a buffer of 50 feet, but the gap was decreased as the ordinance moved through planning committees and discussion sessions.

David Robinson, president of the Super Neighborhood Alliance, said in Shauk’s article that residents want the original 50 foot buffer returned to the ordinance. In addition, some residents are calling for restrictions on the high rises’ construction, such as limits on loading dock locations and noise levels.

Shauk writes that the ordinance is part of a larger effort by city officials, called Chapter 42, to update Houston’s development code and expand the city’s available land for developers. One possible change would involve expanding the city’s “urban area,” as Shauk calls it, from Loop 610 to Beltway 8, which would offer subdivide lots for high-density developments.

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