A new draft ordinance prepared by the city’s planning department aims to make it tougher to build tall buildings next to single-family homes. The proposal is called the High Density Ordinance, but many of its restrictions would apply to any structure more than 75 feet tall, no matter how tightly packed or slow-witted the folks are inside. Well, with some exceptions: The restrictions wouldn’t apply to buildings in “major activity centers” of the city. Districts could apply for that designation, but the planning department includes maps of 8 of them right off the bat: Downtown, Greenway Plaza, the Galleria area, the Med Center, Greenspoint, the Energy Corridor, Westchase, and the stretch of I-10 between Memorial City Mall and CityCentre. Also exempted from most of the proposed rules: Any tall building where all the adjacent streets are designated major thoroughfares. (In other words, a new office tower built on property in the middle of a Westheimer block apparently wouldn’t have to meet the new restrictions, but one at the corner of Westheimer and a smaller street like Woodway would.)
Any other new or embiggened tall building (and yes, aspiring Ashby Highrise copycats, they’re apparently looking at you) would be required to leave a 50-ft. buffer on every side of the property that’s either directly adjacent to or sits within 30 ft. of an existing or planned single-family home. (The buffer would have to include 10 ft. of landscaping and an 8-ft.-tall masonry wall, but the rest of it could be used as a surface parking lot.) Also, the building would be subjected to an additional setback of up to 100 ft., defined by a line with a low slope starting 40 ft. above the property line.
The proposed ordinance also imposes a few extra landscape and lighting requirements for the sides of all new buildings adjacent to single-family homes or lots outside of the major activity centers — no matter what their height — and requires otherwise open-ended parking garages to keep themselves a little better dressed on their residential sides. The first planning commission hearing to discuss the ordinance is scheduled for July 21st.
- High Density Ordiinance Proposal [Planning and Development]
Diagram: Planning and Development Dept.