Proposed ordinance could limit high-rise development

HOUSTON But not everyone is onboard with the plan. Some say it could hurt business.

With issues like the controversial Ashby high-rise, neighbors and businesses are split on the issue.

For the last three years, neighbors near the proposed Ashby high-rise have held protests and done just about everything they can think of to keep the building from becoming reality.

Now, their battle has spurred a proposed new ordinance in the city of Houston.

"[The proposed ordinance] is something that people in our neighborhood welcome," Jim Reeder said.

Reeder lives a few doors down from the proposed high-rise. He is excited about a new city ordinance that could make it difficult to build a building taller than 75 feet next to a residential neighborhood along a small street.

"It's not telling you what you can or can't build in a particular place, like zoning does. What it's doing is telling you, 'You know what? If you're going to build in this place, this is the type of thing you have got to do," Reeder said.

But not everyone likes the idea.

"I would not be in favor of this at this point in time," Ted Nelson with Newland Real Estate said.

Developers say Houston's real estate market is faring better than the rest of the country because we have no zoning, making it cheaper to do business and build.

"What there shouldn't be is an arbitrary regulation that takes a lot of flexibility away in the future, and also basically takes a lot of real estate out of play," Nelson said.

The city says eight areas of town will be exempt from the proposed ordinance because they are deemed "major activity centers." While they know the proposed ordinance will bring out strong opinions on both sides, the city says it's ready to listen.

"I don't think it will stymie development," said Marlene Gafrick, Houston planning director. "It's just a matter of making sure we craft the ordinance the right way."

The Houston Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday where all sides are expected to talk.

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