Approaching full build-out, Sugar Land updates land use plan

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Single-family residential neighborhoods, limited multifamily housing and redevelopment efforts are the focus for Sugar Land’s updated land use plan. The city’s Land Use Advisory Committee presented the recommended changes Wednesday after four years of discussion.

The land use plan provides policy direction and guidance for the city planning office. The committee’s purpose is to ensure these policies are up-to-date and relevant, and to develop policy recommendations, according to the city’s website.

The updated plan will be presented to the Sugar Land Planning and Zoning Commission, which will then make a recommendation to City Council for a vote, said Lisa Kocich-Meyer, Sugar Land director of planning.

“Looking ahead was one of the questions we asked ourselves when we started looking at an update to our land use plan: What should Sugar Land look like, be like 25 years from now?” Kocich-Meyer said. “[The plan] guides how the city will positively and correctively respond to long-term shifts in the market and demographic trends as they change over time.”

Running out of room

Buildings are starting to age after being 30-50 years, and city faces new development challenges to remain a desirable place to live and conduct business in the future, Kocich-Meyer said. The city also has limited land available for development.

“We’re approximately 93 percent developed,” she said.

Based on feedback from residents, the LUAC determined protecting single-family residential neighborhoods should be a top priority.

“I think it’s fair to say the advisory committee feels like this is the most important goal of the plan,” LUAC member Taylor Landin said. “This plan calls for at least 88 percent of all housing stock in the city to be single-family.”

The plan recommends city council take a proactive approach to maintain neighborhoods’ aesthetics and property values through code enforcement. It also encourages increased coordination with school districts to see how they are affected by major development, according to the plan and LUAC member Nish Gurnani.

Multifamily restrictions

Concerns from many residents about multifamily residential developments and resulting population density were also a factor in the recommendations, LUAC member Glenn Smith said. The updated plan places a cap on multi-family residential developments of no more than 12 percent of the total housing units in Sugar Land and its extraterritorial jurisdictions.

It also states city council should not approve any additional stand-alone multi-family residential complexes.

“Also, I think a lot of people have memories of what happened in southwest Houston back in the ‘80s, where there was a large number of apartment complexes that quickly became section 8 housing,” Smith said. “They began to be run down, and I think [residents]are just afraid there might be that kind of thing happening here.”

Activity centers desired

Another priority identified by LUAC was to encourage development and redevelopment that caters to changing lifestyles, demographics, and market demands, Landin said. Developing or redeveloping land may potentially reverse or prevent declines in a city’s fiscal condition, according to the land use plan.

The updated plan reflects a renewed focus on developing and redeveloping activity centers, including mixed-use developments such as Sugar Land Town Square and First Colony Commons.

“This plan here addresses pretty much everything that the city needs, moving forward, to preserve our quality of life,” LUAC co-chair Bob Ring said. “We have to watch the quality of our commercial centers and the preservation of those, and this plan protects the city.”

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Renee Yan

Renee Yan graduated May 2017 from the University of Texas in Arlington with a degree in journalism and joined Community Impact as a reporter in July. She covers education, local government, business developments, and other issues for Sugar Land, Missouri City, and Fort Bend County.

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