The City of Houston’s Department of Planning and Development has proposed changes to Chapter 42 of the Code of Ordinances, the land development code. Generally, the City regulates land development in Houston and within its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) through Chapter 42. The City of Houston does not have zoning, but development is governed by codes that address how property can be subdivided. City codes do not address land use.
The City’s proposed changes to Chapter 42 are summarized below. We have also included detailed presentations provided to HAR by the City of Houston, feedback and concerns given by Houston’s Super Neighborhood Alliance and a letter of support from the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA). All are below. HAR is welcoming our members to review the City’s plans for Chapter 42 and to provide feedback to the HAR Governmental Affairs Department. Please leave any comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Summary of Proposed Changes
Removing the Urban Area Designation:
Chapter 42 has a core set of rules that apply to the City and the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). This amendment removes the “Urban Area” designation and establishes optional, city-wide performance standards for single-family residential developments and reduced building lines for commercial, retail and multi-family developments located along major thoroughfares with a planned right-of-way of 80 feet or less.
Optional City-Wide Single Family Performance Standards:
This amendment establishes a minimum lot size of 3,500 square feet in the city and allows for the use of lot size performance standards to reduce the lot size below 3,500 square feet, reduced building lines for certain single-family residential developments and allows single-family residential lots to take access from a shared driveway. The amendment also expands the optional Special Minimum Lot Size Requirement and Special Minimum Building Line Requirement city-wide.
Average Lot Size/Average Lot Width for Single-Family Residential:
Any lot in the city that is less than 3,500 square feet will be required to meet compensating open space requirements or optional lot size performance standards, as applicable. Key points to the amendment are as follows:
• Allowing for lots less than 1,400 square feet if the average area in the subdivision or block face is a minimum of 1,400 square feet, as applicable.
• Allowing for a minimum lot width of 15 feet if the average width in the block face is a minimum of 18-feet.
There are concerns about fire protection, access and turning movements and the adequacy of a shared driveway width, length, geometrics and minimum setbacks adjacent to shared driveways for firefighting purposes. This concern has led to amendments related to the shared driveway provision for single-family residential development inside the city. Key points to the amendment are as follows:
Additional Parking for Certain Single-Family Residential Developments:
The practice of subdividing larger, single-family lots into multiple single-family lots continues throughout many neighborhoods in the city. These new, higher-density, single‐family residential developments typically provide only the minimum number of parking spaces required by code. As a result, there is often a lack of parking in these redeveloping areas. The proposed amendment requires one additional parking space for every six dwelling units for single-family residential developments with six or more dwelling units when they are developed on a shared driveway or 28-foot permanent access easement.
Optional City-Wide Building Line Performance Standards along Certain Major Thoroughfares:
This amendment allows for reduced building lines for commercial, retail and multi-family developments located along major thoroughfares within the city with a planned width of 80 feet or less. The optional performance standards create a more pedestrian-focused development by moving the buildings closer to the public street and moving parking to the side or the rear of the development.
Building Line Encroachments:
This amendment eliminates encroachments into any building line less than ten feet and specifies the type of encroachments allowed into a Chapter 42 building line of ten feet or greater. Key points to the amendment are as follows:
• An encroachment of up to 30 inches is allowed for roof eaves, bay windows, balconies, fireplace
chimneys or decorative features that are cantilevered into the setback line.
• An encroachment of up to 5 feet is allowed for open stairways or wheelchair ramps into the
building setback line.
There is a provision that allows for encroachments into the 3-foot building line along a shared driveway.
Existing Conditions Survey for Single-Family Residential Developments:
This amendment requires certain information be shown in a site survey for each subdivision plat with single‐family residential within the city. This is to assist staff review of site development elements earlier in the development process and identify potential problems that may arise during permitting.
Subdivision Name Requirements for Certain Partial Replats:
Neighborhood residents are concerned that a new replat application with a different subdivision name will remove the property from the deed restrictions. To ensure name continuity, new applications for partial replats of single-family residential subdivisions containing separately filed deed restrictions must be sequentially numbered and refer back to the original subdivision plat name. For example, the first partial replat of “Sunny Land Subdivision” would be named “Sunny Land Subdivision partial replat No. 1.”
Special Minimum Lot Size Requirement:
The amendments to the special minimum lot size requirement expand the provision city-wide and will make it easier for neighborhoods to protect themselves from unwanted redevelopment within the core residential area of their neighborhood. A provision will be added for establishing a “Special Minimum Lot Size Area” that would allow residents, a civic club, or a homeowners association to apply for an area not to exceed 400 lots with a provision to go up to 500 lots if all lots are within the same subdivision plat.
Special Minimum Building Line Requirement:
This amendment expands the provision city-wide and clarifies the ordinance language related to the special minimum building line requirement to make it easier for residents to understand the application requirements and establishment process.
Lift Station Reserve Requirements:
This amendment resolves the conflicts found between Chapter 42 and the PWE Infrastructure Design Manual regarding allowable lift station reserve sizes.
Side Setbacks Adjacent to Single-Family Residential:
The code allows for the construction of buildings on the property line when the construction includes the appropriate fire rated wall. The amendment includes a change to Chapter 10 of the Code of Ordinances requiring a construction repair and maintenance agreement with the abutting property owner when construction is within three feet of a single family residential property line.