Another Zoning Election?

Preservation advocates say Houston City Council's recent vote to create the Old 6th Ward Historic District is a major turnaround for a city not known for saving its history. At least one person thinks it will inspire a renewed push for zoning in Houston. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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Lynn Edmundson of Historic Houston says the vote itself was historic.

"In a city with no zoning, and for a very long time a very weak preservation ordinance, having the Old 6th Ward designated as a protected historic district where "no demolition" means "no demolitio, is a very big step for Houston, and really a first."

Houston has other old neighborhoods where residents also want historic district designation and protection, and she expects council to deal with them on a case by case basis. She says this will happen because the neighborhoods have learned that relying on deed restrictions to protect them from development isn't working. She also thinks these individual efforts will coalesce into a concerted push for a city ordinance creating historic zones, which will amount to zoning.

"Deed restrictions aren't the answer. I think it has to come from public policy to support the wishes of the neighborhoods."

"I do. I think we have an administration right now that is very receptive to ideas of being responsive to the neighborhoods, to listening to and responding to the concerns of the neighborhoods and also this issue of quality of life."

Barry Klein of the Houston Property Rights Association claims much of the credit for defeating zoning in 1993. Klein is against zoning for libertarian philosophical reasons relating to rights of property owners, but he also thinks zoning is bad public policy. He agrees it will come up again sooner or later, but he doesn't think it will pass.

"Once the ordinance is written and a map is produced showing who's going to lose their property rights and how severely they will suffer, that changes the dynamics, and I think under the new procedures since 1994 it'll be harder to persuade people to embrace it."

There's more information on the Old 6th Ward Historic District, Historic Houston, and the Houston Property Rights Association in link on our website KUHF dot org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.