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Council taking up highrise ordinance

And the Chapter 42 overhaul gets underway as the revamped highrise ordinance makes it onto Council’s agenda.

The proposed rules, inspired by a planned 23-story high rise at the corner of Ashby and Bissonnet, would require that buildings over 75 feet tall in residential neighborhoods be at least 30 feet from the houses around them. The maximum buffer zone would be 40 feet.

The proposals came after years of complaints from residents that a high rise could loom over their properties and disrupt the character of neighborhoods.

The proposed ordinance has the backing of builders, but some residents complain the restrictions are too weak.

“As the city gets more dense (city officials) also have to recognize that the neighborhoods that are there have value, as well, and they need to strike a balance,” said Erik Eriksson, president of the University Place Super Neighborhood in the Rice University area. “I think that they can strike a better balance that’s more protective.”


Some residents and neighborhood groups are calling for a larger buffer – as much as 50 feet – between houses and high rises, as well as limits on the locations of loading docks and noise levels for mechanical equipment.

The restrictions have been up for discussion for months, with several opportunities throughout the summer for neighborhood organizations to offer feedback on the proposals, said Joshua Sanders, a lobbyist for the developer-backed Houstonians for Responsible Growth.

The ordinance initially called for 50 feet of buffering space, as well as the possibility of a greater setback after a building reached a certain height. Those restrictions, however, were removed or adjusted during planning hearings and other discussions.

The latest proposal calls for different buffers depending on the width of the road on which a high-rise development is planned. The maximum buffer would be 40 feet of space between a high rise and the closest homes.

The neighborhood folks took to the op-ed pages on Tuesday to press their case for a bigger setback requirement. Fifty feet doesn’t seem too unreasonable to me – I’m not really sure what the fuss is at this point. Be that as it may, the item was tagged, so the vote will take place next week.

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  1. […] had been tagged last week. Other agenda items, including parking requirements, Chapter 42 revisions, and auto […]