Zoning in Houston? Buffer wanted between resi, commercial

City Council considering code changes this week

(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

The City of Houston is considering an ordinance that would create buffer zones between residential and commercial developments.

The largest city in the United States without zoning, Houston is home to some strange juxtapositions, where McDonald’s could take up residence across from McMansions.

Some homeowners are looking for a little help managing their multifamily and commercial neighbors.

The city’s planning and development department has proposed changes in city code that would create 15-to-40-foot buffer zones between mid-rise buildings and single-family homes. They would also set citywide lighting and dumpster requirements, Community Impact reported.

Buildings taller than 75 feet would have to be 30 to 40 feet from single-family and multifamily homes. And buildings above 65 feet would have to be 15 feet away. They would also have to be separated by fencing and landscaping.
Intrusive lighting would also be addressed.

Exterior lighting that faces public streets or residences would be required to have a low maximum color temperature, giving off a neutral-warm tone rather than the icy blue color of LED. Commercial properties would also have to shield exterior lighting from adjacent residences.

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Parking garages that are next to or across from residences would have to provide 50-inch shields from vehicle headlights. The current standard calls for 44-inch shields.

Besides that, the code would require dumpsters to be screened if they’re on public streets or next to homes.

“The most recent development is about 12 stories, right in the middle of the neighborhood,” Sandy Stevens, president of the Museum Park Neighborhood Alliance, told the outlet. “And those folks whose properties abut that high-rise have had some real issues with garage lighting.”

The planning commission and Livable Places Committee has been working with residents on proposed changes since April 2021. The Houston City Council, which adopted noise-ordinance changes for residents and businesses last May, is expected to vote on the matter at its Jan. 18 meeting. If approved, the new code requirements will take effect 30 days after the meeting.

Last month, the ​​Austin City Council approved a change to the land development code to allow residential properties to be developed on land zoned for commercial use.

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— Victoria Pruitt