Land Development in Houston: What You Need to Know

All things considered, land development in Houston is unique. Most cities and even smaller municipalities have zoning laws. Although Houston has no zoning laws, land development is controlled in other ways.

Last year, a news article concluded that Houston’s lack of zoning laws made for some interesting images. Buildings of all types and sizes are scattered throughout the city. To sum it up, nothing is the same in the Houston area.

Don’t be fooled by the lack of zoning laws. In their place, Houston has Development Regulations. Notwithstanding, the city codes do not address land use. So, what does all this mean?

No Zoning Laws

First, let’s talk about Houston’s lack of zoning laws. Who made the decision? No doubt you know that the issue has come up for vote more than a couple of times. Therefore, the voters are the ones who decided they weren’t necessary.

Next, we’ll address the elephant in the room. There are some that want to blame some of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation on the lack of zoning regulations. However, as this article points out New Orleans and New York City have strict zoning laws. Nevertheless, Katrina and Sandy hit hard. Unfortunately, that’s just two places that have experienced flooding issues and have substantial zoning rules.

Very often, lenders will question the lack of zoning laws in Houston. Presumably, it’s the reason the City updates this letter annually. The correspondence refers lenders to City development regulations and subdivision laws. Additionally, some property subdivisions may come by way of deed restrictions.

Land Development and Variances

Before you begin any project, you should check with an experienced real estate attorney. For starters, the property’s deed will require a thorough review. This will shed light on any problems you might encounter as far as a subdivision.

Some developers and builders may have some familiarity with local rules regarding subdivision. Nevertheless, they and individual property owners should ensure that their intended project falls within the confines of the law.

There are a number of reasons that pertain to the creation of land development regulations. For one, safety is important. For example, Houston’s Department of Planning and Development checks proposals to determine whether the subdivision allows for adequate street or right-of-ways.

Meanwhile, you should be aware that City Code deals with the issues of subdivision in Chapter 42. After preliminary reviewing the law, you may determine that your project could be rejected. What should you do?

You may be able to apply for a variance. Likewise, some special exceptions will be considered by the Department of Planning and Development. According to this publication, a “variance is defined as a commission-approved deviation from the requirements of Chapter 42, whereas a special exception is a commission-approved adjustment to a requirement of Chapter 42, Article III.”

Contact Us

At Manfred Sternberg and Associates, we have many years of experience in real estate law. We have assisted builders, developers, and individual property owners. Think you need your situation reviewed? Please give us a call.

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