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New Houston Heights Historic Guidelines Now in Effect

December 2018

Small Town Main Street America with Old Buidling Facades

In 2015, the City of Houston Planning Department began a process to adopt design guidelines for the Heights historic districts of East, West and South. This process included numerous public meetings and presentations from consultants, residents and city staff.

These guidelines are meant to help maintain the historic character of those districts and provide criteria for building and remodeling within the boundaires of said districts. This criterial covers a multitude of things including windows and doors (both new and replacement), ridge lines, setbacks, materials, floor area ratios (FAR), additions, etc.

The GHBA supports the creation of design guidelines for all historic districts. We believe that guidelines can increase the Historical Archeological and Historical Commission’s (HAHC) efficiency and streamline its workload, as well as provide clear instruction to builders, remodelers, property owners and Realtors about the type of development permitted.

That said, while we acknowledge that the intent is to tailor design guidelines for districts to provide much-needed predictability and consistency, we propose finding a moderate balance between prescriptive zoning restrictions and a property owner’s freedom to choose what they do with their property.

The GHBA, along with other stakeholders and the public, provided the city with comments on the proposed guidelines as the project progressed. We worked with city staff to address some of the concerns that we had with the draft guidelines and achieved some compromise regarding side setbacks, plate heights and finished floor heights and increased exemptions from FAR and lot coverage maximum requirements.

We ultimately did not submit a letter of support for these guidelines, primarily because we believe the proposed limits on FAR and size will negatively impact property owners, but through our work with the city we were able to get some positive changes included in the document.