COH

The city of Houston is growing fast, and along with it are coming more mid-rise and high-rise developments. And the city is considering several measures officials say would give those living close to such developments more peace from the bustle of such industrial and commercial developments.

During a Jan. 11 council meeting, the Houston City Council listened to proposed amendments to its residential buffering standards in Chapter 42 and Chapter 39 of its code of ordinances relating to subdivision platting and development; amending the National Electrical Code, and its solid waste and litter control standards for such development.

Since last September, principal planner Suvidha Bandi said the city’s Planning and Development department has been working with the Livable Places Action Committee (LPAC) to update portions of the city’s development code in Chapter 42 to create more opportunities for walkability, affordability and equity.

The changes, she said, entail new residential buffering standards for lighting requirements for midrise and high-rise developments as it relates to those that share streets with residential family developments. City council was set to vote on the proposed amendments on Wednesday.

Chapter 42 is the ordinance that establishes the general rules and regulations governing plats, subdivisions and development of land within the city and its extraterritorial jurisdiction area to “promote the health, safety, and orderly development of the city,” according to the filing.

“The purpose of this committee is to create opportunities within our development standards that encourage housing variety and affordability,” Bandhi said.

Residents in the Heights have faced challenges from similar developments in recent years, such as Big Tex Storage on 11th Street that drew controversy upon its construction and entering into the area in late 2021. District C council member Abbie Kamin, whose district includes the Heights, urged the planning department to continue looking into what could be done for residents living next to developments that were built prior to the new standards.

Changes to the ordinances would include changing residential buffering standards, garage screening and lighting standards, mounted lighting fixture standards, and dumpster screening standards.

“The ordinance amendments will address the effects of newly constructed mid-rise and high-rise structures that may arise when they abut single-family and small scale multi-family residential structures,” the filing reads.

In the proposed amendments, high rise structures (75 feet or taller from the ground) abutting local or collector streets must provide a buffer from all single family residential and multi-unit residential developments, while mid-rises (taller than 65 feet) must provide a 15-foot buffer. Developments with garages abutting or across the street from residential units must provide a cover 48-inch exterior cover.

Additionally, outdoor mounted light fixtures for commercial developments when abutting or facing developments or public streets must not create a light trespass of more than 0.24 candles and must be fully enclosed, according to Bandhi.

It also proposes that commercial developments provide screening when they are located adjacent to streets or residential properties and include the dumpster location on site plans. Currently, screening is only required for dumpsters on the address side of the development.

Bandi and Planning and Development director Margaret Wallace Brown said the propositions were made based on input from the community as well as the city’s planning department. The planning commission held a public hearing on the proposed amendments on Sept. 29, 2022 and approved the amendments unanimously last Dec. 1.

“This is truly an effort that has been collaborative in nature, and we believe will move Houston forward progressively as we increase density in our city,” Wallace-Brown said.

For more information on the proposed changes, visit letstalkhouston.org/livable-places.

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