There's a provocative subhead if ever I saw one: Houston panel urges zoning on development in neighborhoods. The reality sounds a lot less scary, though.
As the city continues to struggle with the impact of new development on its older neighborhoods, "the next issue is what we would call the McMansions," said Marlene Gafrick, Houston's director of planning and development.
In 2002, the city added provisions to its development code that gave residents inside Loop 610 more influence on development in their neighborhoods. The City Council in March made the measures simpler for neighborhoods to use.
The new concepts being discussed by the neighborhood protection committee would be the first regulations on the size of new structures. Using the same petition process, residents could establish a maximum height for buildings as seen from the street, and a maximum width based on the lot size.
By early May, [Mark Sterling, a University of Houston research physicist who serves on the city's Plannin Commission committee,] said, the neighborhood protection committee plans to recommend ways to help neighborhoods deal with aesthetic and practical impacts of new development in older neighborhoods.
A three-story townhome that fills a lot next to a one-story bungalow, he said, can intrude on the privacy of residents of the older house, restrict their views and block sunlight from their gardens.
"These ideas are not draconian in any way," said Sterling, who became active in such issues after fighting a condominium development in 2005. "They are just meant to leave a little elbow room for the folks in the neighborhood."