A Vague Opt-Out Provision for Houston’s 16 Historic Districts

A VAGUE OPT-OUT PROVISION FOR HOUSTON’S 16 HISTORIC DISTRICTS Will each existing historic district get to vote on whether it wants to be governed by new, toothier preservation regulations than the ones they signed up for? Maybe: “City officials will hold public meetings from the end of July to mid-August to gauge public reaction to the proposal. If it appears a majority of residents who live in one of the city’s 16 historical districts oppose the ordinance, officials will allow them to vote on whether to remain a historic district, said Councilwoman Sue Lovell, chair of the council committee dealing with preservation issues.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]

17 Comment

  • But how will they define the majority at this point? The old 51% or the new 61 or is it 67%? And will they be able to “change the boundaries? Houston Renaissance did that when everyone changed their mind. To make sure that it didn’t matter.

    “If it appears a majority of residents who live in one of the city’s 16 historical districts oppose the ordinance, officials will allow them to vote on whether to remain a historic district…”

    Appears to whom? Sue Lovell? So if she decides it doesn’t appear that a majorithy opposes it, no one will vote? It will just be another done deal? Another sleazy done deal at City Hall?

  • I am SO glad I don’t live in one of the “16”. My old heart couldn’t take the stress.

    And yeah, like this whole majority thing is gonna fly.

  • It’s a done deal, she’s just playing politics and acting like the decision isn’t already made. She and the Mayor have been working on this for YEARS and they are not about to allow public opinion get in the way of of what they want to do. Look out Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and Timbergrove because she has publiclly stated that they will be Historic Districts, and my money is on them being designated before the end of next year. Complain all you want citizens, they know what is best for you.

  • If you live in the Heights or any other historic district you better read the proposed ordinance. It is VERY restrictive.

    They are proposing to regulate size, shape, materials and more. The ordinance actually gives them the ability to regulate house colors. I would hope they would never do that, but the ordinance does technically give them the power.

    There is no real appeal process. If they don’t like what you plan to do to your home you can only appeal to the Planning department, the same folks that rejected your plan.

    Get involved if you disagree with this. Go to the City of Houston Planning Department website and educate yourself. If you don’t like what you see make yourself heard by writing to City Council.

  • It should be called the First Colony Ordinance.

    Anyone want to take bets on when the first lawsuit will be filed challenging it?

  • The current has destroyed development in the Sixth Ward. Bill White lied to the city when we said the the Sixth Ward was the only area this would apply to. What makes anyone think the current mayoris doing anything different.

    These ordinances are clearly zoning ordinances. the city has a requirement that any zoning ordinance must be put to a vote of the enitre city. When is the city going to be required to follow there own rules.

  • The reason why I said it should be called the First Colony Ordinance is because, as has been pointed out, there is the “hidden danger” contained in the “inherent power” being conveyed to the commission.

    Things were fine in First Colony until some decided they didn’t like certain colors, certain types of front doors, certain types of window screens, certain types of landscaping. The list is endless.

    It makes buyers think twice when they’re told the sellers can’t close because they haven’t corrected the problem of the landscaping. And that does happen. Happened to me. Have never forgotten it.

    Some probably would like to sue. It is a little too late. Hopefully it won’t be too late in Houston. These “zoning by ordinance” supporters, including our current and former mayor, need to be challenged finally even it if does cost the taxpayers a bundle. Although the cost of doing so should serve as a reminder as to why the politicians who support it should not ever be voted back into office.

    If they can’t read the City Charter, they had no place in office to begin with.

  • If you care about this issue please pay attention and do your research.

    The City Council scheduled public meetings on this issue are posted at…


    Please read up and give your input to City Council.

    I moved to the Heights to AVOID restrictions. This proposed ordinance is scary.

  • I attended the public meeting on the 27th. From the feel of the room, the questions asked, and the things people clapped to – I’d guess that 2/3 of the room were very against the planned changes. Lots of very concerned property owners trying to figure out what they can do to stop a small minority of busy-bodies backed by Sue Lovell and the Mayor, from pushing something through in a undemocratic way.

    Feeling particularly misled were residents in the, about to be finalized, Heights South district who supported the historic district soft rules very recently, and are now in the middle of a horrible bait and switch. The director of planning acknowledged that they had received countless statements from people wanting to retract their signatures!

    Here’s the bottom line: The #1 way for people to preserve historic homes is for the owners to maintain them. If they have value, no one will ever tear them down!

    Sue Lovell talked about the new designation process of sending out addressed cards to property owners and why they felt it was better than petitions. However, when asked why they wouldn’t use the same system, with the same 67% threshold to approve the new restrictive rules, she didn’t want to answer that one.

    The Mayor and Lovell are driving this through. Interesting that they choose to live close, but outside of the area that they are going to condemn to crumbling houses and vacant lots – just like what’s happened to the Sixth Ward!

  • And just where are all these wonderful little cards sent to? Sue Lovell?

    “72% have voted to retain the historic district.” According to her. And the mayor of course will issue a statement verifying that she personally counted each card. But of course the city cannot release the cards to anyone for them to count themselves. But you can trust her.

    What everyone should do is make a copy of them so that everyone in each “district” will know who did and did not vote to approve it. Of course the mayor will claim that only the cards themselves count. Backed by Sue Lovell of course.

    You all voted for these two. I didn’t. Hate to say I told you so but I told you so.

  • The mayor lives in a 1907 mansion on Westmoreland St. In Westmoreland neighborhood.

    If you’ll check out the little square ad for “Historic Houston Homes” right here on this page, you’ll see that several neighborhoods are on the agenda to be deemed ‘historic’. Well, that may not be exactly what the ad says but that’s what I get out of it.

    Westmoreland neighborhood is on that list. As well as my neighborhood and I’m more than steamed at that.

    I think those little square ads rotate so if you don’t see it right away, just wait a few minutes. It’s one of the blue ones.

  • There are actually several Texas landmark homes in Westmoreland Place including the Waldo Mansion – I doubt the application for historic designation has anything to do with Annise Parker who only recently moved into Westmoreland Place. They also resurrected their deed restrictions and enforce them. What they might want her to do is find a way to start condemning all the apartment complexes. But then what do you build? More Waldo Mansions? Not likely to happen.

    This will go the way of Chapter 42. A total mess. Maybe she’s trying to balance out Chapter 42 which mainly benefitted developers. So now the homeowners can say no. Unless they build what the homeowners want. Of course the developers may say, no thanks. And move on. In Westmoreland Place and probably quite a few other areas including Heights the land value is such that most developers are moving on anyway. There are just so many buyers for $1 million plus homes in these “historic districts.” As for townhomes Westmoreland Place has a “two per lot” restriction as I understand it. Not much profit in that.

    I suspect this will end up as another lawsuit against the city. Nothing like mayors wasting taxpayer dollars to defend the rights of spoiled brats is there?

  • I went to the public meeting on the 27th to get clarification on the changes that were made to the preservation ordinance. No one was allowed to verbally ask questions. Questions had to be written and submitted. These question after careful scrutinization were then read and answered. One good question did slip by the discerning eyes and I discovered a horrifying fact.If my house burns down tomorrow I cannot rebuild it like, kind and quality because it is not architectually appropiate. So now I know that my historic Savannah style home and a contemporary style home and who knows what other architectual style home will take the brutel ax in the hands of our city planners if God forbid there is a fire.
    All materials, cladding, window and roof styles used on the exterior of our homes MUST conform to a board approved list. Flat roofs be it on a residence or commercial building will not be allowed to be replaced in that style come replacement time. If you have one you may want to replace it before Sept. 30th.
    Gee, do you think this will affect home values? Historically neighborhoods that have adapted these preservation ordinances
    have lost land value. The smaller one level homes over 50 years old and not remodeled will take the biggest hits in that case. Is this what home owners wanted when they signed the original petition? NO! Their concerns were about
    land mass and structure; living next to a house that was more like a skyscraper or a single family lot that had 2- 3 level structures built on it.
    We were assured the homeowners voice and will would preside over this matter in a
    67% “yes” vote quota, except the votes will be counted not by actual ballot votes. The city is sending out voting slips to be returned by mail. From those returned slips if 67% come back yes the neighborhood is under preservation law.
    The problem with that is when you send out voting slip a very slim percentage of
    homeowners return the voting slips. It averages only 9 or 10%. 67% of 10% is NOT
    representative of Heights South homeowners. This should be put to ballot vote.
    Are the City Council Members
    still alive? They cared about us when they
    asked for our vote. Can and will they stand up for us against the pressure of our new Mayor? Keep tuning in.

  • Are the City Council Members
    still alive? They cared about us when they
    asked for our vote. Can and will they stand up for us against the pressure of our new Mayor? Keep tuning in.


    I wouldn’t count on City Council to do much of anything except lie about it all when elecdtion time rolls around.

  • I live an one of the historic districts, and I STRONGLY support the proposed changes to ordinance.All of my neighbors to whom I have splen about this issue also support the changes. If you do not live in one of the existing historic districts this change will not affect you. And if you do not live in an historic district your opinion, which you are free to express, is like my opinion on the laws in Chicago or New York: irrelevant.

  • Dennis, that’s nice that you and your neighbors want to preserve your houses. Write some deed restrictions and protect them. However, your neighbors who do not want the ordinance, should not have to follow it. Their property rights are far more important than your desire for uniformity in your area. It’s really none of your business what type of siding your neighbor uses, or the type of windows.

    And while it’s true the ordinance affects a small number of properties now, there’s nothing to stop the control freaks from coming to Timbergrove and telling me what my 58 year old house has to look like. after all, it’s over 50 years old, it must be historic.

  • Dennis,
    Except that, and this is just my ‘understanding’, if this gets pushed through then other neighborhoods (mine most likely) will fall to the same fate.

    Irrelevant?? I think not. Everyone who owns a home inside the loop is or will be affected.

    Please. Don’t think you are singularly entitled. How could you even begin to think that this decision ONLY affects you and your neighbors?

    I may not own a fishing business in LA but the oil spill will affect me.