Sugar Land's Land Use Advisory Committee stands by 12 percent limit on multifamily housing at meeting Tuesday

Sugar Land City Council showed support for the Land Use Advisory Committee's Land Use Plan update during a public hearing June 26 with a review of and discussion on the proposed update, which will be on the July 24 agenda for a formal first reading.

"As with anything, flexibility is the key," Mayor Joe Zimmerman said. "I heard it loud and clear from the community that they want to preserve the residential aspects of what we have here. … Like anything, this is a guideline. If some previously unthought-of concept comes into the marketplace—and it will—you want to have enough flexibility in this document to be able to accommodate that."

The overall plan update has been in the works since 2013, and the LUAC unanimously endorsed the plan in August 2017 before city staff presented the plan to the council. During a Dec. 5 workshop meeting, the council advised the LUAC to reconvene to discuss a portion of the plan involving a 12 percent cap on multifamily housing within the city.

The LUAC has met several times since December, gathering information from local businesses and employers in the community, seeking input from development community representatives, and involving the city's planning and zoning commission in the discussion.

"One of the major concerns is that redevelopment is going to be a big issue facing the city in the near future, and we did hear there are many members of the development community that 200 really was the minimum number of multifamily [units] that they needed to have a successful development," P&Z commission Chairwoman Kathy Huebner said.

Part of the overall plan includes redevelopment of certain areas, such as aging retail centers, office buildings and existing multifamily and town home developments. However, these spaces only account for 2.6 percent of land within the city and its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The committee recommended the city maintain an 88 percent-to-12 percent single-family-to-multifamily housing ratio to keep with the community's vision for today and the foreseeable future, Director of Planning Lisa Kocich-Meyer said. However, the LUAC clarified some of the language by removing the term "cap" to make it seem less regulatory.

Additionally, the committee put forth recommendations that the city maintain three multifamily units per developable acre for neighborhood and regional activity centers, similar to Sugar Land Town Square, clarifying that this is intended to ensure appropriate dispersal to avoid traffic congestion. It also maintains that multifamily developments should be located in mixed-use settings with pedestrian areas, such as first-floor fitness centers and leasing offices or coffee shops.

The LUAC also maintains an emphasis on condo ownership over apartment rental in the city to preserve single-family neighborhoods.

"The goal for condo ownership over apartment rentals—there was great discussion on that," LUAC co-Chairman Bob Ring said. "Ownership gives you a sense of literally ownership of the property. Yes, they may turn into rentals, but there is a realization that someone is owning that property rather than a large corporation off in the distance somewhere else that you have no control over."

Sugar Land's Land Use Plan was last fully updated in 2004. The high-level policy document serves as guidance for the city and is not regulatory, Kocich-Meyer said.
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.