Development and Land Use Planning: The Houston Example


Since land-use planning connects closely to all of RenewLV’s initiatives, a story that aired during NPR’s Morning Edition on WDIY 88.1 last week sparked my interest. The story covered the effort to improve energy efficiency in the city of Houston, TX. The current mayor, Bill White, has been working toward encouraging better development projects that incorporate energy-saving features. Unfortunately, the effort has hit a few snags.

A new multi-use development project has been resisted by local residents, who insist that the building would bring in additional traffic. The developer’s goal was to decrease the number of cars on the road, by providing a restaurant and office space in a residential complex. The idea here is that proximity to resources (such as work and recreational activities) would cut down on driving to destinations and help in reducing overall energy use. Because of complaints from the neighbors, the city refused to grant a building permit without the developer restricting the project to residential dwellings.

Some are saying that the city officials have little experience with urban planning, and are not exerting enough power over development decisions. For example, the city has not provided many incentives to build along the light-rail line, and complex zoning ordinances have actually deterred developers from considering the region as a worthwhile investment. Such setbacks have been pivotal in showing the impact that land-use planning has on transportation, community design, and – at least in the case of Houston – energy consumption.

You can listen to the full story and read the transcript on NPR’s Around the Nation website. Post your thoughts and comments below, and make sure to subscribe to the Crossroads blog.

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About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on September 22, 2009, in Housing, Municipal Government, Public Infrastructure, Regions, Transportation, Urbanism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I am glad you guys picked this article up. I heard it and thought the same thing.

  2. Michelle Kaplan Ognjanovic

    That’s why experts often can’t get progressive projects or legislation accomplished–whether it refers to land use/energy or healthcare. They are thwarted by people who feel those initiatives violate their freedoms–in this case that their residential development might potentially be besieged by traffic.
    At some point the inconveniences of the few will have to yield to the benefit of a critical mass, or our species won’t survive. Our survival is sure to depend on a local, sustainable lifestyle.

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