The Houston Planning Department and Houston City Council are currently in the process of drafting an ordinance to curb the development of high-rise buildings in residential neighborhoods. The proposal fulfills a campaign promise by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and it comes several years after homeowners in one Houston neighborhood worked to halt the development of a high-rise building on the corner of Ashby and Bissonnet. The new proposed ordinance is meant to discourage high-rise development in locations adjacent to single family residences where neighbors would not expect such development to occur.

On June 23, the Houston Planning Department released its first draft of the proposed High Density Development Ordinance for public comment. After several weeks of meetings and public hearings where stakeholders could weigh in on the proposals, the Planning Commission voted on August 4 to make its official recommendations to the Houston City Council.

The Houston Planning Commission’s recommendations call for a 30-foot buffer between proposed high rises and single family residential properties. The draft ordinance would limit the placement of machinery and loading docks within the 30-foot buffer, and it would require a 10-foot landscape buffer and an 8-foot high solid masonry fence along the abutting property line. Additionally, the ordinance would provide for certain lighting restrictions and parking garage screening on abutting developments.

The proposed restrictions would apply to buildings greater than 75 feet in height built along local and collector streets in Houston. The ordinance would not apply to developments along major thoroughfares, transit corridors and the following eight specially designated “major activity centers” : Westchase, Energy Corridor, Medical Center, Greenspoint, Memorial City, Uptown, Greenway Plaza/Upper Kirby and Downtown.

As advocates for the interests of both residential and commercial REALTORS and property owners, members of the HAR Governmental Affairs Advisory Group (GAAG) and HAR Governmental Affairs Department staff continue to communicate with elected officials and other like-minded organizations as the draft ordinance is crafted. Now that the Planning Commission has made its recommendations, the draft ordinance moves to the Houston City Council’s committee on Development and Regulatory Affairs. Committee members will continue work through the details of the ordinance and ultimately send the ordinance to the full city council for approval. That vote could come within the next few weeks or months.

HAR will continue to be engaged in the coming weeks as the ordinance moves through committee and ultimately the full city council.