Saturday, June 12, 2010

Renew Houston: The Devil is in the Details

I agree with the overall goal of Renew Houston. However, the devil is always in the details. Will this dedicated fund for street construction and maintenance derived from developers impact fees relieve METRO of having to transfer .25 cent of $1 of sales (consumption)tax revenue for general mobility? If not, why not? The city gets 67% of METRO’s .25 cent. Are we being asked to pay twice for the same service? Will we once again go back to using 85% of METRO's resources for 15% of its suburban customers? METRO has 10,000 bus stops but only 2,200 bus shelters. Must METRO inner city riders be left in the rain at bus stops forever?











Why do we keep building in or near flood plains anyway? Why do we insist on suburban style development in an urban core? Yes, private property is sacred in Texas, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should have to pay for some exercising their freedom. Are there going to be any changes to existing regulations to increase density or insist that those types of development that contribute to flooding pay their fair share?










Lastly, will the promised construction jobs and contracts developed from this proposal be a true economic opportunity for all or will the usual suspects be found feeding from the public trough again?

I need answers before I endorse this proposal.

24 comments:

  1. When Renew Houston comes to your neighborhood, you can raise these three issues so that the developers and engineering companies endorsing this fee understand that there must be fundamental changes in the way business is done.

    1) No more unwarranted variances. I usually give an example of 330 acres of forested land at Lake Houston that was given a variance for no detention. Another is Sawyer Heights Condominiums that were allowed to build within the floodway at the same time that hundreds of homeowners were told they couldn't. No doubt, you can find examples in your neighborhoods.

    2) Enforcement of ordinance required detention. If ordinances are applied equally and consistently, developers will stop paying engineers to find a way to avoid detention. Hundreds of Houston developments have been built that should have had detention. Unless it's very small, every development should have detention at a rate of 0.5 acre-feet of detention for every acre of impervious ground covered up. Very large developments (>50 acres) can have special consideration. Too often that means, "You're a big company and we want you to come here, so we'll waive some of our ordinances to make our area more attractive."

    3) An end to Grandfathering - any new development should get ordinance required detention even if it was previously 100% impervious. Because so many unwarranted variances have been permitted, areas that should have had detention don't. Grandfathering prevents ever correcting the 'oversight.' Whenever new plumbing or electrical is installed, it has to be brought up to code - shouldn't drainage and detention be treated the same way.

    Largely because of these three items, every year the 100-year floodplain grows in size and more Houston homes, cars, and businesses flood. We need to reverse this trend. Large regional detention ponds can help, but unless we can get water to these locations during a heavy Houston downpour, they will do no good for local flooding. Local detention is a must! And it wouldn't hurt to require that new road construction have drainage sufficient for a 5-year event, rather than an all-too-often 2-year event.

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