Looks like Houston is going to get some form of zoning after all.
Zoning around Houston's three airports came a step closer to reality on Wednesday, as City Council approved the creation of an Airport Commission to finalize the affected areas and impose building restrictions on them.
The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the city to control development around its airports or risk losing future federal funding.
"These are provisional conditions for development, but compatible development," said Councilman Mike Sullivan, whose District E includes Kingwood and Clear Lake. "In short, land use that makes sense near an airport."
Airport officials have been careful not to use the word "zoning," preferring the phrase "land use regulations."
The Airport Commission will convene this summer and hold public hearings. But city planners already have sketched out preliminary boundaries for the three concentric "tiers" of land around each airport: George Bush Intercontinental, Hobby and Ellington Field.
The innermost Tier 1 would be closed to new construction of homes, hospitals, schools, movie theaters and other noise-sensitive uses. Warehouses and other commercial uses would be OK.
Existing homes in Tier 1 could be renovated or enlarged if owners install soundproofing, at their own expense.
Tier 2, somewhat farther from airport runways, would allow new construction of many different sorts, if it includes soundproofing.
Tier 3 would encompass a large swath of land -- a total of 141 square miles around all three airports -- but officials say they are planning no restrictions on that land now. They will inform property owners or potential buyers, however, that the Tier 3 land is subject to the city's regulatory reach.