What are your thoughts on the final draft Land Use Plan as recommended by the citizen-led Land Use Advisory Committee?
9 registered statements
John McNamee inside Sugar Land
Name not shown inside Sugar Land
I support a 10% cap, not a 12% cap, on the total number of multi-family units as a percentage of the total number of housing units in the City and ETJ. Based on a document provided by the Planning Department at a January 2016 P&Z Meeting, Sugar Land currently has 9.7% multi-family residential units as a percentage of the total housing units. Based on the stated population, that statistic excludes Greatwood and New Territory. After the December annexation, the number of total housing units will significantly increase, and almost all of the increase will be from single-family homes. Thus, if there is a 12% cap on the total number of multi-family units as a percentage of the total housing units in the City and ETJ, this will allow far more than a 20% increase in apartments and condos.
Dan Weber inside Sugar Land
As a 17 year resident of Sugar Land, I would like to contribute the following comments to the Land Use Advisory Committee:
1. Given the recent developments dealing with Hurricane Harvey, I would like to see specific wording which addresses the impact of current / future development on managing drainage and flooding. In the draft there are vague mentions of this topic. I prefer to see something specific.
2. I prefer setting a cap on the total number of multi-family units as a percentage of the total housing units in the City and ETJ at 10%. Doing so would keep the percentage of multi-family units from growing significantly and possibly prevent high density population corridors - which in my opinion would lead to future hot spots of crime, traffic, infrastructure needs and property devaluation of the surrounding area(s).
Ray French inside Sugar Land
As a 24-year resident of Sugar Land, I would like to contribute the following comments:
1. Overall the draft Land Use Plan is well presented and documented, reflecting the good work of the Land Use Advisory Committee.
2. The draft Land Use Plan does not address the impact of development/redevelopment on drainage/flooding. In the Vision section, there are a few brief mentions of “floods” (p. 50), “flood plain” (p.58) and “storm water management” (p. 55), but considering recent events, residents would expect a more in-depth discussion.
3. Having “Protecting Single-family Neighborhoods” as the first goal is good to see and reflects the priorities of most current residents.
4. Page 71 includes a formula for the maximum number of dwelling units permitted in an Activity Center: “3 dwelling units per developable acre”. It is quite helpful that under the section for each Regional and Neighborhood Activity Center, the maximum number of dwelling units under this formula is explicitly stated.
5. Specifying a cap on the total number of multi-family units as a percentage of the total housing units in the City and ETJ is a good step. Having this cap as part of the plan should, at least, provide a good starting point for objection if any parties try to ignore/exceed the cap. The value of 12% is difficult to assess without knowing what is the current value. In an agenda for a P&Z meeting of January 12, 2016, there is a table which suggests that the value at that time was 9.7%. So, a cap of 10% would seem reasonable, as that would keep the percentage of multi-family units from growing significantly. In contrast, a cap of 12% would allow more than a 20% increase in the percentage of multi-family units relative to the current percentage.
Name not shown inside Sugar Land
Ask yourself: does this plan actually limit multi-family residential developments? or does it guarantee that in the future, 12% of the housing stock will be multi-family residential developments? This plan will not only allow, but encourage the building of a great many multi-family residential developments.
The basic fallacy presented is that Sugar Land must have a bit of everything to be successful, That Sugar Land is some sort of island, that must be self contained. This ignores the fact that we are part of a larger area, that has a much greater diversity of both work and housing options.
I would feel better about the outcomes of this effort, if the "citizens" that were selected for the advisory committee were not selected by the City Council who receive significant campaign donations from the developers, and the eco-system of companies that profit from real estate development.
Carol Scott inside Sugar Land
Most of Texas' flood plain maps, including Fort Bend County's, are based on 50-year-old rainfall data, according to an investigative report by the Houston Chronicle.
In Fort Bend's case, flood modeling is based on rainfall averages computed in 1961 to calculate the 100-year flood plain. Any old-timer, though, knows that the worst drought in Texas history lasted from 1949 to 1957, Texas' driest period in 600 years. Lower rainfall averages, though, lead to smaller flood plains, more land development and fewer homeowners buying flood insurance.
Those eight years of drought likely distorted rainfall expectations, which means so-called 500-year rain events like the Memorial Day 2015 and Tax Day 2016 floods are likely far more common than we think.
In the past 3 years, we have experienced two consecutive years of 500 year floods and just recently an 800 year flood. 1800 years of flooding in 3 years.
A mix of federal, state and local officials is responsible for updating flood maps, but it's an expensive process. Congress promised the Federal Emergency Management Agency $200 million to update the nation's maps but then cut the funding and slowed progress. The Texas Legislature has declined to pay for new maps, and county officials certainly don't have the money.
Has LUAC considered following the City of Houston’s innovative ideas of encouraging more permeable spaces?
The recently renovated One Allen Center on the west side of downtown opened. The park contains a wide-open plaza and a linear lawn.
The company created the park prior to Hurricane Harvey, primarily to attract a new generation of tenants in innovative businesses. But a national parks expert said that such small civic gestures can have significant environmental benefits, especially when they are multiplied many times across cities.
"There's no space too small to create the benefits of parks,"said Adrian Benepe, director of civic park development at the Washington, D.C.-based Trust for Public Land. "Private property owners have to be part of the solution."
Even an acre of"green infrastructure" can make a positive difference for the environment: Trees enhance air quality and reduce heat islands, also improving storm-water absorption.
Much of the above information has been taken from the Houston Chronicle
Name not shown inside Sugar Land
The plan refers to the floodway (Brazos river) but does not seem to address issues related to rain-saturation flooding. This flooding does not just occur when pumps/river flooding are in play. When we first moved to First Colony 26 years ago there was never street flooding and lots of unpaved areas (on both sides of the freeway). Gradually these spaces have all been paved over, even the areas with trees where you enter neighborhood/exit freeways (e.g. Sweetwater & 59.) Massive stores & their parking lots have used up more “soaking” areas for rain water. ) Even “park” areas (e.g. Memorial Park, Oyster Creek Park) have large parking lots. I can’t help but think that more urbanization will contribute to the problems. Also, Figure 5 (no citation?) seems to suggest that there are only two options for Sugar Land – up (more development) or down (decay?). This is a false dichotomy. Things can stay the same or even go down/up, up/down. We do not have to become a larger city or a slum. Like an earlier post said – we moved here for a suburb, not a city. We should focus on becoming a quality suburb. The developers may benefit from more businesses/apartments/industrial growth, but the rest of us may get flooded or end up having to move even farther out. In summary, I’m in favor of no more commercial development. If something is to be built with concrete, it should only be built if it replaces a larger amount of existing concrete at approximately the same location.
Jim Uschkrat inside Sugar Land
I commend the LUAC for looking closely at walking and biking trails around our great city. There are many best practices in the public realm from across the US and even from the Houston metro area for making them safe, including special paint for road surfaces, barriers, and access across natural barriers like levee's and so on. What again I will ask....." Is there some way we can make use of our levee system and improve the top surfaces to allow easier access for bicycles and hikers, that preserves the integrity of the levees, yet allows for public access?" Recently CenterPoint Energy was able to craft a hold-harmless clause to allow trail usage under their transmission right of ways. Seems like the State and Federal regulations should be enlightened enough to encourage more mobility and recreation by allowing for mixed use.
Daniel Wu inside Sugar Land
It's not an update but rather a brand new plan written for the sole purpose of getting rid of of original Land Use Plan IMO. The main theme of the new plan is promoting urban life style while ignoring the fact that most people who chose to live in Sugar Land is because they wanted to escape from the urban life style. The new plan only lightly touches on the subject of Protecting Single-family Neighborhoods without specifics. I would like to see the language in City Council Resolution No.15-37 be written into the Land Use Plan.
I would like to enter the following comments and observations with regard to the draft Land Use Plan document (the "Plan").
Good Points of the Plan:
• It promotes the protection of existing neighborhoods and places a priority on preserving the suburban design that has made Sugar Land a desirable place to live.
• It promotes the preservation of historic neighborhoods. However, it does not provide sufficient detail about how the process should be implemented.
• The proposed cottage style close-spaced housing areas provide single family housing options for senior adults to age in place without the traditional demands of yard care. They also provide privacy and independence not found in high density high-rise structures. Many senior citizens in this area are used to living in a single family setting and find high-rise apartment or condominium type living unappealing. This design also promotes the goal of more walkable neighborhoods and increases the housing density of land use without the extreme high density of traditional townhomes or condominiums. This type of development should be counted toward the Plan's goal of 12% higher density housing.
• It calls for cooperative communication between the city and school districts to manage growth with respect to school impact.
• It advocates support for the Sugar Land Airport and placing limitations on the type of construction allowed near the airport is very encouraging. However, to that end, I am concerned that development off the south end of the runway, across Highway 90, is encroaching too close to the departure path of the runway. (Refer to Land Use Map, page 99) The current corridor for lateral spacing may meet FAA standards, but is too narrow for long-term cohabitation between the airport and the surrounding structures. Other cities, such as Santa Monica in California, have experienced significant conflict between their citizens and the airport because they allowed development too close to the approach and departure lanes from their city-owned airport.
Points of Concern:
• The plan advocates a limitation of 12% of residential construction for high-density multi-family type structures in both the existing city and the planned ETJ annexation areas. However, the current multi-family percentage of 9.7% considers only the existing city limits. The ETJ areas have a very low percentage of multi-family construction. Since the ETJ addition represents approximately a 40% expansion of the city, a 12% limit would represent a very significant increase in high-density structures. The Plan limit should be lowered to 10%.
• Some of the listed areas for redevelopment into a NAC are long and narrow, and may not allow sufficient set back to adjacent neighborhoods to allow for mid or high-rise construction. The Plan, and the Planning and Zoning Commission must take a position to protect the neighborhoods in lieu of allowing any variances to height restrictions.
• The implementation of store fronts and offices in redevelopment planning should be limited to Activity Centers and not in residential infill.
• The plan recommends a considerable development of pedestrian trails in existing parks and through neighborhoods. Often referred to as "hike and bike" trails, they assume that both pedestrians and cyclists will use them. However, as experience in other cities has shown, this often results in considerable conflict between pedestrians and bicycles, often leading to accidents and safety issues. Unless the City can provide separate lanes, or find a way to allow for the mixed use to coexist, the widespread development of such trails may be problematical.
• Section 7 b of the Plan (reference Figure 19) discussed the establishment of pedestrian and bicycle pathways within existing cul-de-sac neighborhoods. The assumption is that such pathways would encourage walking between sections of the neighborhood. This is doubtful since most people wish to commute to the public amenities (i.e. stores, businesses, etc.) on the major streets and not to other private dwellings across a neighborhood. Such pathways would be expensive, difficult to build and provide little use to the citizens.
• The plan devotes a great deal of discussion to maximizing taxable value of land and development. While it is important for the city's long term financial stability to have a viable tax base, it appears that the main message of the Plan is to maximize tax revenue as opposed to preserving the value and viability of our neighborhoods. To follow the logic of the discussion, we should encourage the eventual elimination of any single family development in favor of all high density development. This is especially true in the sections on infill and redevelopment of older neighborhoods. I think this conveys the wrong message to the citizens and gives the P&Z Commission subliminal marching orders to promote only higher density development planning.
• The plan does not place any limitation on the total number of housing units within any Activity Center or MDMU building for an infill or redevelopment project. There should be a limitation on the maximum number of units that can be incorporated into any area, both in terms of each structure and in multiple structures within a project.
In conclusion, the current draft of the Plan is an improvement over previous attempts, but still requires considerable input on the part of citizens and the Planning and Zoning Commission. Unfortunately, current city standards, such as the Development Code, create potential problems. For example, the requirement that mid-rise construction within Activity Centers be a minimum of four stories high is a significant conflict with the intent of the set-back provisions. Many of the "inspiration" photographs used in the Land Use Plan show mid-rise structures less than four stories high, which is a direct conflict with the current standard. The Development Code standard should be revised to eliminate the minimum height requirement.