Sugar Land has released a draft of its updated development code with two new mixed-use zoning districts allowing for varying housing densities and pedestrian-friendly spaces.

The overview: Sugar Land is looking to update its development code with the adoption of two mixed-use zoning districts, Mixed-use neighborhood and mixed-use regional, in alignment with its Land Use Plan. The city held a town hall meeting May 8 and a joint City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission workshop May 9.

The draft will go through two public hearings and two readings before Sugar Land City Council votes on it Aug. 1.

A closer look: The mixed-use neighborhood zoning would accommodate mostly diverse, varied-density residential uses with limited community, educational and commercial uses. Mixed-use regional, on the other hand, would provide pedestrian-friendly areas of medium- to higher-density residential development and compatible nonresidential uses such as lodging, offices, and other commercial, service, civic and community uses.

The draft lists a number of changes being made to the code that align with the city’s Six Essential Elements for Mixed-Use Districts:
  • Provide a home nearby for family
  • Enable walkable places for people
  • Facilitate less driving, more living: reduced parking
  • Respect adjacent neighborhoods
  • Streamline and reward innovative development
  • Accelerate redevelopment
Some changes in the draft aim to provide housing for young professionals, families or current residents looking to downsize. Around 90% of housing in the city is detached single-family homes, meaning there is a “missing middle,” said Ruth Lohmer, assistant director of planning and development services for Sugar Land, at the May 9 meeting.

The new code would allow new “middle housing” residential use types to be built, including triplex, fourplex, sixplex and cottage court—a cluster of approximately 1,000-square-foot single-family homes built around a common open space—developments.

The draft also includes changes to make the mixed-use development process more consistent and predictable by establishing a Mixed-Use Concept Plan that would allow city staff to review larger, complex projects and engage the public earlier.

Those opposed: Residents shared concerns about how the changes could mean City Council will have less control over new development, the need for more businesses to come to Sugar Land to match the residential development and that the density initiative seems unwarranted financially.

“The basis of this study and the resulting plan is that we need increases in population to support our city economically. Why is it assumed that all the new high-density occupants will spend differently than our community does today?” resident Billy Atkinson said at the May 9 meeting.

Those in favor: Supporters of the changes argue that high-quality multifamily developments, which is what would be built in Sugar Land, will add to home values. They also note that companies in the area need housing that caters to all of their employees, particularly younger people, who want to live in dense spaces.

“It’s important that we’re getting the youth here, and these mixed-use developments have done well across the country,” said Matt Ragan, director of retail programming and operations for developer Rebees, at the May 9 meeting.

What’s next: A draft of the code is available for review on the city’s website. Residents can create an account, read the full code and leave comments for city staff through May 19.

The approval process will take place throughout the summer. Revisions to the draft will be completed by June 15, and the Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing and adopt the code June 22. Sugar Land City Council will then hold a public hearing and first reading of the code July 18, followed by a second reading Aug. 1.