The proposed Houston Heights Design Guidelines have undergone a few changes as a result of feedback received earlier in this summer’s public comment phase. The second draft of design guidelines is available here at the Planning Department’s Project Page.
We shared a brief recap of the push for guidelines in June ahead of a very well attended community meeting at the Heights Fire Station, where over 150 Heights residents and stakeholders reviewed the proposed guidelines.
In case you missed it, here is a video of that meeting:
Well, in response, the City of Houston will delay sending the draft of the Design Guidelines to City Council until after October 6th while a second public comment period is completed. The first draft of the guidelines received less than enthusiastic support from the community at the June 20th meeting, with many residents having cited the calculation of lot coverage and floor-to-area ratio as either restrictive or simply hard to understand. Other residents find the guidelines covering materials to be overwhelming.
Like the first draft, the new draft of Design Guidelines in question would only affect the three Houston Heights Historic Districts: Houston Heights East, West and South. It’s been almost two years since the Design Guideline implementation process started following amendments to the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance in the Fall of 2015. The original deadline for the completion of new design guideline came and went, so last August, the City was forced to amend the target date. The new deadline to send the guidelines to City Council has arrived and the guidelines are once again considered to be too contentious to send to Council as-is, hence the second public comment phase.
According to the Leader, Mayor Sylvester Turner has committed to more public engagements and stakeholder input, quoted as saying “We aren’t going to move forward with this until there’s a strong consensus” and that “we aren’t there yet.”
The Chronicle heard from various residents and stakeholders who expressed their opinions and concerns with the proposed new guidelines. For many, having guidelines of any sort bring Houston one step closer to realizing its long push to enact a historic preservation that works for both property owners and the broader imperative to preserve the city’s architectural heritage. On the other hand, one Heights stakeholder exclaims, “Things have gotten way out of hand,” referring to the potential impact these guidelines would have on a homeowner’s right to add on to their home with good economic incentive. Suffice it to say that feelings are mixed.
Once this phase concludes, the plan is to present the draft to the Houston Archaeological and Historic Commission before sending on to City Council for a vote.
We know this is a lot to keep track of, so here is a link to the Design Guidelines Project Page to see how the whole process has unfolded.
So what’s changed from the first draft?
The major changes we’ve noticed fall into two categories: organizational and measurable standards about lot coverage.
- Organization of the document to make it easier to understand and follow the guidelines:
- The ordinance language and explanations are provided at the beginning of the document.
- The measurable standards and the qualitative design guidelines are a single section and the sections are organized by type of project (alterations, additions, new construction).
- Additionally, some information was formatted to be more clear or explicit.
- Measurable standards regarding lot coverage:
- Added a process for property owners to request the use of different numbers based on the contributing buildings in their context area.
- Lot coverage:
- Now excludes up to 400 square feet for a detached garage (was 250 square feet).
- Now excludes accessory buildings (whether conditioned or not).
- Now excludes all open or screened porches.
The idea is that the community can chime in one more time to see if these changes to the draft guidelines are satisfactory, and the guidelines might be revised again before a final draft is sent to Council for approval in the Fall.
Suffice it to say that if you live or build in Houston Heights, you will definitely want to dig into the guidelines and send your comments or feedback. We’ve read them and, rather than bore you with the details, encourage you to reach out with any specific questions about how they might affect you.
The current comment period will be until October 6th, 2017 and any input should be sent to Steph McDougal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next meeting will be held at The United Way of Greater Houston Building at 50 Waugh Drive on September 28th from 6-8 PM. We’ll be there, you probably should too.This entry was posted in Resources
- buying a historic home
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- Historic Commission
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- Houston Archaeological
- Houston Heights historic district
- Mayor Sylvester Turner
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