Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

RUDH

Alexan Heights update

The developers of the Alexan Heights project on Yale will go before the Planning Commission tomorrow to get a variance that would remove a single-family restriction on part of the property. Some folks in the neighborhood have been petitioning against the variance. The Leader reports from a meeting that was supposed to be between residents and the developer, except that the developer didn’t show.

Plans submitted by Terra Associates, affiliated with several luxury Alexan apartments throughout the Houston area, show a 350-plus unit complex with 4 stories of apartment units over two levels of parking, one of which is below grade. Currently a mixed-use block in the Maple Heights subdivision, the 3.5-acre site fronts Yale between 6th and 7th, with Allston Street its interior border and the Heights Hike-and-Bike Trail to its north.

Last week, Houston Planning Commission deferred its decision on whether to grant a variance request to replat as unrestricted reserved a single-family portion of the site. Since it has twice-deferred the variance request, however, the planning commission must make a decision at its next meeting, with or without the traffic study reportedly being conducted by the developer and expected in mid-February.

Whether passed or denied, however, a version of the project is likely to advance in some form, said Bill Pellerin, land use committee chairman, who also said neither the committee nor the association has taken a position on the proposed project.

Residents, however, were outspoken on the project’s potential impact on traffic in an already-bottlenecked stretch of roadway, on access and flow, on setbacks, on sidewalks, on drainage and on the overall presence of a mid-rise building abutting an otherwise single-family neighborhood.

“The variance is the project,” one attendee said, calling for residents to give the planning commission “reasons to deny it” and to remind commissioners as well as council members that seeking a variance means something is not in compliance. “Stick to the rules,” said another resident.

The West Heights Coalition is leading the resistance, with assistance from RUDH. I have sympathy for the WHC, but I have a hard time seeing how the Planning Commission denies the variance. There’s a similar high-end apartment complex about a mile north, at 2125 Yale, and between 6th and I-10 Yale is basically all industrial. Yale is a thoroughfare in the way that Bissonnet where the Ashby Highrise will be isn’t. It’s true that the traffic is awful right there, but as far as I can tell that’s because of the traffic light that went in after the I-10 service road was extended west of Yale. You could probably mitigate some of this traffic by building a dedicated right-turn lane for the service road, which is something I know was talked about as mitigation for the Wal-Mart construction. Anyone know whatever happened with that? Tweaking the timing on that light to give a longer green and a shorter red for Yale would also help some. I certainly agree that between this, the Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart-related development, and whatever is to come on the San Jacinto Stone site, Yale is going to become an unholy mess to drive on. But given all that, it’s hard to see how this one project will make that much difference.

Alexan Heights on Yale

If you live in my neck of the woods you’re probably interested in the news (via Swamplot) of the new apartment complex being planned for the empty lot on Yale between 6th and 7th. The RUDH January newsletter has details.

Trammel Crow Residential is planning its first project in the Heights, at the corner of Yale and 6th Streets. At their request, Council Member Cohen invited RUDH to discuss our questions and possible concerns. We prepared a three-page document outlining concerns that ranged from potential traffic impacts, streetscape greening and sidewalk connectivity, safe signalized crossings for pedestrians and cyclists, proposed connections to existing bike trails and park spaces and a desire to ensure the appropriate architectural style to fit the fabric of our neighborhood. RUDH also coordinated with the landscape architectural firm that proposed designs to facilitate converting the new drainage detention pond into community park space (south of the hike and bike path and next to Rutland). At the moment, there are currently no plans in place to make the new drainage detention pond into useable green space.

The good news from the meeting is that Trammel Crow is interested in working with RUDH and community leaders to transform this drainage detention pond into a public green space amenity. The developer also communicated their interest in investing in the surrounding streetscapes and infrastructure in a manner that promotes mobility and creates safe connections for pedestrians and cyclists.

Trammel Crow Residential has committed to share their traffic and drainage studies with RUDH when they become available and stated they would perform mitigations as required by the City. We are hopeful this positive collaboration will lead to a sustainable development and mitigate any newly created problems.

The bit about turning the detention pond into usable green space is interesting and encouraging; see this Swamplot post for more on the pond, which has been under construction for awhile. I don’t know why it is that 6th Street doesn’t go through to Shepherd, but given that it doesn’t a well-landscaped community park is an excellent use of the space. I hope RUDH and the neighborhood folks can help make it happen.

The Heights Wal-Mart is now open

On the plus side, the world did not come to an end. On the minus side, it’s still a lousy location for a Wal-Mart and a giant missed opportunity for better, more urban-oriented development.

For nearly 2½ years, Heights-area residents fought against one of the largest corporations in the world, employing yard signs, meeting with City Council members, even filing a lawsuit. It was an intense emotional effort to stop Walmart from opening a store just outside the Heights, its first inside Loop 610.

In the end, Walmart won. Its 153,000-square-foot Supercenter opened Friday at Yale and Koehler streets.

Those living nearby have mixed feelings about the store, ranging from anger to apathy, with some just waiting to see if any of the naysayers’ concerns come to fruition.

But for some opponents, the fight is far from lost. They say their cause always extended beyond just stopping the development of the Walmart.

“It was if you’re going to develop the neighborhood, do it right,” said Rob Task, president of Responsible Urban Development for Houston, a nonprofit born from the controversy over the Supercenter.

This earlier Chron story and The Leader have more on what’s on the inside of this store, and on the Studemont Kroger a mile or so due east that opened the same day. I can’t say I noticed a difference in traffic on Studemont on Friday, but it’s been awful around there for some time now, so it’s hard to say how much worse it could get. We’ll never know what could have been here, we can just hope that what we got isn’t as bad as we’ve feared it will be.

Yale Street Bridge load limit reduced again

From the inbox, via CitizensNet:

Yale Street Bridge Load Limit Further Reduced by TxDOT

City of Houston Takes Proactive Steps to Monitor Bridge Usage

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has reduced the load limit on the Yale Street Bridge just south of Interstate 10 from 8,000 lbs. per single axle to 3,000 lbs. per single axle. A standard passenger car with two single axles and a maximum weight of 6,000 lbs. (3,000 lbs. x 2 axles) would meet the new limit, but certain pick-up trucks and sport utility vehicles may exceed the new limit.

The change is not indicative of any recent deterioration in the bridge’s physical condition. It remains safe, but should be used within the new posted load limits. All required signs are now posted, north and south of the bridge, establishing the new load limit.

The Houston Public Works and Engineering Department is exploring options for additional signage to better notify motorists of the new limits. The Houston Police Department will continue to monitor traffic in the area to assure the load limits are enforced. Additionally, the City of Houston will, initially, monitor bridge traffic using a donated camera to assess compliance with the new limits.

The Yale Street Bridge is on a TxDOT prioritized list for statewide funding for replacement, with construction anticipated to start in late 2016. In the meantime, the Houston Public Works and Engineering Department will continue to routinely inspect the bridge for any change in conditions and intends to perform low-cost rehabilitative actions that will allow the bridge load restrictions to be raised back to those previously posted.

With the completion of Koehler between Heights and Yale, there is now an easy alternative route around the Yale Street Bridge via the Heights Boulevard Bridge for northbound and southbound truck traffic. The Heights Boulevard Bridge does not have load limits.

For more information contact Alvin Wright at Alvin.wright@houstontx.gov.

See here, here, and here for the background. The Chron explains what this means in practical terms.

That will put most sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks – even some minivans – over the limit, said Sgt. Teresa Curry with the Houston Police Department’s truck enforcement unit.

“The problem is that pretty much everyone is going to be violating that provision,” she said.

Janice Evans-Davis, spokeswoman for Mayor Annise Parker, said Friday that city and state engineers have determined that the bridge is safe but cautioned that people need to be aware of the load limit.

“If your vehicle is outside the limit, we urge you to go one block east and use the Heights Boulevard bridge as an alternative,” she said. “It doesn’t have a load limit.”

[…]

Given the impossibility of going after every violator, Curry said police will focus on large trucks, which arguably do the most damage to the bridge that’s near the new Heights-area Walmart under construction at 111 Yale.

“My theory is that the 80,000-pound truck is much more of a problem than the smaller vehicle,” she said. “Our enforcement efforts will be directed to trucks that are disregarding the signs.”

Enforcement will include having truck scales at the bridge, said HPD spokesman Victor Senties.

I’d avoid this if at all possible. This press release from RUDH has more.

Yale Street Bridge to get makeover

You may recall that last November the load limit on the Yale Street Bridge was reduced by TxDOT to 8,000 lbs per single axle and 10,000 lbs per tandem axle, which has resulted in truck traffic being forbidden on the bridge. That hasn’t stopped trucks from actually using it, of course, but they’re not supposed to. Anyway, since then a few more things have happened:

– An inspection and assessment of the bridge by Entech Civil Engineers says that it really should have a load limit of 7200 lbs, which is basically a full-size SUV with multiple passengers.

– Neighborhood leaders sent a letter to the city asking for Something To Be Done about this:

Necessary Action

As indicated above, based on the ratings of the Yale Street Bridge, corrective action is required; based on the current ratings, according to TXDOT, this bridge is either one of the top or the top bridge in Texas eligible for replacement based on TxDOT’s and the Federal Highway Administration’s criteria for distributing Federal and State Funds. The required corrective action is reconstruction of the Yale Street Bridge. Since this is a City-owned Bridge, the process to prioritize the Bridge for replacement and to solicit the necessary funding begins with the City. With City budget and CIP discussion now underway, this is the time to address it so that it will be included in the current CIP priority list. Eighty percent (80%) of the funding would come from the Federal Highway Administration, 10% from TXDOT and 10% from the
City’s budget. This means that this problem can be addressed promptly and with a limited impact on the City’s budget. The Bridge should be reconstructed BEFORE it has to be closed due to low ratings.

– The city sent a reply saying that the Department of Public Works and Engineering was working with TxDOT to apply for federal funds to help with the cost of fixing the bridge, for which candidate projects will be nominated to the Federal Highway Administration in 2012.

Not clear what happens if the project doesn’t get the federal funds, though the city did say that it would try to work it out through the District C Council office. See this press advisory, this letter from CM Cohen, and this story in The Leader for more.

UPDATE: Here’s a direct link to that story in The Leader.

RUDH files suit over 380 agreements

From the inbox:

RUDH has filed a petition in Harris County District Court challenging the legality of a six million dollar tax reimbursement deal between the City of Houston and Ainbinder Heights, LLC, the developer of the Houston Heights area Walmart Supercenter strip mall development. RUDH alleges that the deal violates section 380 of the Texas Local Government Code because the developer was committed to building the project with or without public funds.

Section 380 of the Texas Local Government Code broadly allows municipalities to provide various forms of public assistance to private developers so long as the public funds are used to promote economic development. The City of Houston’s 380 agreement with Ainbinder Heights, LLC provides over six million dollars in sales and property tax reimbursements for various infrastructure upgrades needed for the Walmart Supercenter strip mall development. RUDH alleges that the principals of Ainbinder Heights, LLC , the Mayor and members of Houston City Council all stated that Ainbinder Heights, LLC will build the development with or without the assistance of public funds. RUDH alleges that a 380 agreement cannot promote economic development when the developer can build with or without the assistance.

RUDH also alleges that the City of Houston’s program for awarding 380 assistance agreements violates the Texas Constitution because the program gives the City absolute discretion to ignore standards for awarding assistance in favor of agreements the City believes are “otherwise meritorious”. In the case of the Ainbinder Heights, LLC 380 agreement, RUDH alleges that the City completely ignored its own standards and application procedures and simply gave Ainbinder Heights, LLC over six million dollars to support the development of a Walmart Supercenter strip mall development.

RUDH believes that legal action is necessary because the City of Houston is using section 380 agreements to spend money out of future city budgets without doing anything to promote economic development. If a developer does not need public funds, then scarce tax revenues should not be sacrificed to pad a developer’s profit margin.

You can see a copy of the lawsuit here; one of my blog posts is listed among the footnotes on page 7. Note that the suit asks for a “permanent injunction restraining the City from giving any effect to or complying with the 380 Agreement and from proposing any further 380 agreements” under its 1999 ordinance that created the 380 program. One presumes that would have an effect on the Studemont Kroger, for which a separate 380 agreement was voted on by Council yesterday.

Under the deal headed to City Council on Wednesday, the city would reimburse Kroger as much as $2.5 million for extension of a street, landscaping, traffic lights, sidewalks and other infrastructure improvements surrounding the store. In exchange, Kroger guarantees it will create 170 full- and part-time jobs at the 8.6-acre site.

[…]

In addition to the job-creation requirements, the deal calls for Kroger to donate $40,000 to the nearby Olivewood Cemetery. However, that, too, will be reimbursed by the city under the deal, [Mayoral spokesperson Janice] Evans acknowledged.

Evans said City Hall had no plans to extend Summer Street or do the other improvements for 12 years, so the deal buys the city an accelerated schedule. City officials see that as an economic booster shot that puts people to work sooner and clears the way for other businesses to open on the new street.

[Kroger spokesperson Rebecca] King described the improvements as “above and beyond” what would be required without the 380, but it is not clear how much more the city gets by agreeing to rebate to Kroger some of the property and sales taxes generated at the site over the next 13 years.

I’m pretty sure there will be a motion for a temporary injunction to come, so we’ll see if either of these projects are put on hold. Swamplot and Hair Balls have more.

UPDATE: The Kroger deal is on hold for now.

District H Councilman Ed Gonzalez championed the Krogerdeal as a contributor to economic development and one supported by the local civic associations he consulted.

Other members, who did not get many details of the deal until Tuesday, asked why the city was not offering incentives to grocers to set up shop in the Third Ward, Fifth Ward, Sunnyside, Independence Heights and Acres Homes.

“I hope we revisit our use of 380 agreements and use them in the parts of this city where we most need it, and I would respectfully submit to you we’re not doing that now,” Councilwoman Jolanda Jones said.

Councilman Jarvis Johnson said the city needs to do more outreach to urge companies to locate in low-income neighborhoods.

“We can’t have a city of haves and have-nots, we need to balance the city out to where there’s economic development all across the board,” Johnson said.

According to the Council agenda, the proposed ordinance was tagged by CMs Jones, Rodriguez, Noriega, Johnson, Sullivan, and Bradford

Heights Wal-Mart public meeting reminder

From the inbox:

Responsible Urban Development for Houston [RUDH] Announces their next:

PUBLIC MEETING: TUESDAY MAY 3RD, 2011 AT 6:30 PM
The Council on Alcohol and Drugs
303 Jackson Hill Street, Houston, Texas 77007

Regarding: Heights Wal-Mart Project and the Yale Street Bridge over White Oak Bayou

WHAT: Alarm Bells are sounding in the Heights and West End communities of Houston over revelations surrounding the Yale Street Bridge over White Oak Bayou. This is a load-zoned bridge that is predicted to have far greater traffic, including vehicles idling in both directions during peak hours, after the construction of the new I-10 frontage roads and the proposed Wal-Mart development. The City of Houston has acknowledged the 40K load-zoned bridge is a public safety risk. This very bridge directly feeds traffic from the I-10 to the planned Wal-Mart Supercenter and associated retail. The City of Houston has not required that the developer spend any of the public funds given via the 380 Agreement, or any of
their own monies, towards ensuring this bridge is structurally sound.

Mark Loethen and Jeff Weatherford from the Public Works and Engineering Department will be in attendance at the May 3rd Public Meeting to answer the public’s questions.

WHY: RUDH has been publicizing the dangers to the Bridge for many months. District H Councilman Ed Gonzalez and State Representative Jessica Farrar have written letters this April to the City Engineer and the Mayor citing the dangers posed to the load-zoned bridge by 18-wheelers and traffic generated by the proposed Wal-Mart development. The West End Civic Club, the Heights Association, the Woodland Heights Association, Super Neighborhood 22, and Super Neighborhood 15 have sent even stronger letters to the City citing the load-zoned bridge as a major concern.

The City claims they will re-route 18-wheelers to the development on Heights via the Koehler Street extension, and that this re-routing solves the problem of 18-wheelers exceeding bridge weight limits. However, the City has admitted that the only available method of enforcing the weight limits is HPD issuing tickets.

Be there if you can.

Public meeting with updates on Wal-Mart

From RUDH:

PUBLIC MEETING: SEE YOU THERE!

Join RUDH and receive updates about the Yale Street bridge, the Bass Street connection and TxDOTs role in ensuring the safety of West End residents, the City’s plan for re-routing 18-wheelers onto Heights Boulevard and what is known about drainage to date.  Now is the time to set responsible precedents for development in our neighborhood.Permits are pending, we have no time to waste. The Mayor, City Council members and other representatives will be invited to answer questions. We look forward to seeing you all there for a quick, informative meeting!

WHEN: Tuesday May 3, 2011 @ 6:30 pm
WHERE: The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, 303 Jackson Hill Street, Houston, Texas 77007

Here’s a map. Click over for more info about what will be discussed, and see They Are Building A Wal-Mart On My Street for more.

The Wayside Wal-Mart

For what it’s worth, I don’t have an opinion about the new Wal-Mart at I-45 and Wayside, whether it’s a Super Center or not. Other than a few comments at Swamplot and on the Stop Heights Wal-Mart Facebook page, I haven’t seen any evidence of an uproar from the nearby Idylwood neighborhood. If there is one, I’m sure I’ll be sympathetic; if not, then there’s nothing at issue.

While there are concerns about traffic on Wayside, that location seems more suitable on its face – direct access from a major freeway, and no residences immediately adjacent to the side, as far as I know. There’s also not much in the way of grocery stores or other major retail nearby, at least according to the maps in the preliminary impact review that was put together by RUDH last August. That map says there’s a grocery store right there at Wayside and I-45, but I can’t tell what it is. There is a Kroger and a Fiesta farther east on Wayside, but nothing else within about five miles. This is the part of town for which you’d expect to see a 380 agreement deployed; I have no idea if that may be in the cards here.

Speaking of such things, there was one very interesting tidbit that I picked up at the recent RUDH meeting that discussed the Ainbinder-sponsored traffic impact analysis (TIA). We know that in addition to the Ainbinder site, which is primarily on the west side of Yale and which will include other retail besides the Wal-Mart, there’s another retail development on the east side of Yale, right across the street. The Ainbinder TIA doesn’t take into account any additional traffic that may some day be generated by this other development. It’s not required to do so. This is sensible enough in that many proposed projects never come to fruition – Sonoma, anyone? – or eventually get done as something else, and so any traffic projections you might make that included other unfinished developments would be just wild guesses. But on the reasonable assumption that something is going to be built there, it means that Ainbinder’s TIA numbers are lower, perhaps much lower, than what we’ll really see. The other guy will have to account for Ainbinder’s site when he does his TIA, but that won’t affect Ainbinder. Just so you know. For more about the Ainbinder TIA, see the RUDH presentation from that meeting.

The Ainbinder traffic impact analysis for the Height Wal-Mart

When last we discussed the Heights Wal-Mart development, we were awaiting a traffic impact analysis (TIA) on the roads around the site, which was to be done on behalf of Ainbinder, the developer of the project. For your perusal, here is the TIA of the Wal-Mart development. I want to quote you a paragraph from the executive summary:

The results of this traffic engineering study indicate that the construction of IH-10 frontage roads and resulting changes in traffic patterns will impact both mobility and traffic operations within the study area on a much greater scale than the new trips generated by the proposed Washington Heights development. Furthermore, it was found that the addition of the proposed retail development is not expected to cause a significant reduction in LOS beyond what is expected for year 2012 No Build conditions.

“LOS” is “level of service”, and it refers to the congestion and wait-time conditions at intersections; they are given grades from A (always smooth flow, no problems at all) to F (“Unstable traffic flow. Heavy congestion. Traffic moves in forced flow condition. Average delays of greater than one minute highly probable. Total breakdown.”) based on what is observed or projected. What Kimley-Horn, the firm that conducted the TIA for Ainbinder, is saying is that the intersection of Yale and the under-construction I-10 service roads will start off as an F even if the Wal-Mart site is still an empty lot in 2012.

Does that sound credible to you? It doesn’t to me. I used to take Height Boulevard south past I-10, for several years after dropping my kids off at preschool. It was not unusual for me to have to sit through one light cycle on Heights, but that was because the duration of the green light for the southbound approach at I-10 West was only about 15 seconds. (Believe me, I timed it myself out of frustration more than once.) The folks coming from the I-10 West service road, who were the bulk of the traffic and were mostly turning left (south) onto Heights had a nice long light, and had no trouble. (A corollary to this was that the green light for the southbound approach at I-10 East, which included a protected left, was much longer. This was the only way onto I-10 East between Yale and Studemont, so a fair number of vehicles turning left from the I-10 West service road turned again onto the eastbound service road.)

The point I’m making is that before the current construction, the traffic at this intersection wasn’t bad. Most of it was for vehicles getting on and off the freeway. On Yale, traffic was even less of an issue, as there was only one light, where the westbound service road dead-ended into Yale. A few people going south on Yale would turn left at the un-signaled intersection onto the eastbound service road, but my observation was that most people heading south on Yale were aiming for either Washington Avenue, or points south, where Yale merged into Waugh Drive. This was also the only way to get onto Memorial Drive west, as that entrance is inaccessible from Heights/Waugh southbound.

What would make traffic at Yale/I-10 so much worse once there’s a service road there to connect to points west, or to handle people now exiting at Yale? Obviously, people will use this to get onto I-10, but one presumes these people are currently using either the entrance at Studemont or the entrance at Durham/Shepherd. The people who will some day exit at Yale are presumably now exiting at Studemont, making the U-turn, then turning left at either Heights or Yale. We’ve already established that pre-construction this was no big deal. Where’s all that extra traffic going to come from? Other than some reshuffling from Studemont and Durham/Shepherd, it’s not obvious to me. It’s not like there will be more residences or businesses putting traffic onto Yale by 2012.

Well, except for the one factor that this TIA wants you to think won’t be much of one, that being the Wal-Mart development. But if Yale at I-10 was going to be a nightmare anyway, then it’s not their fault, is it? How fortunate for them that TxDOT is there to take the hit for this.

Anyway. There’s a lot more to the TIA, but a couple of other points need to be mentioned. One is that the 380 agreement the city signed with Ainbinder doesn’t mention the service roads, or the intersections at Yale and Heights. The stuff that Ainbinder agreed to do as part of the 380 involve widening Yale between the train bridge and Koehler so as to allow a left turn lane into the development, and adding a left turn lane from Heights onto Koehler once the apartments in between have been torn down. The TIA suggests adding as mitigations a right turn lane from Yale onto I-10 service road westbound, and a left turn lane from Heights to I-10 westbound, but as neither of the 380, it’s not clear who would pay for them. With the TIA claiming that Ainbinder’s development would not be responsible for this traffic, don’t expect them to make any offers. Oh, and the TIA doesn’t include their full data sets, and this report apparently differs from a previous one. We’re taking their word for it on this.

Another point, separate from the traffic issues, is that the bridge on Yale between Koehler and I-10, the one that goes over the bayou, has a gross weight limit of 40,000 pounds. This wasn’t discussed before because the sign indicating this weight limit isn’t easily visible from the street. Here’s a photo so you can see what I mean. The tare weight, which is to say the empty weight, of a typical 18-wheeler is 30,000 to 36,000 pounds, and the legal maximum is 80,000 pounds. That would seem to be a problem, given the limitations of that bridge. How many 18-wheelers a day come into a Wal-Mart facility?

All of the documents linked in this post, as well as this summary doc, which notes these and other issues, came to me via RUDH. There will be a public meeting tomorrow, January 26, to discuss these items:

PUBLIC MEETING
WEDNESDAY JAN. 26th
6:30 to 7:30 PM
Council on Alcohol & Drugs
303 Jackson Hill Street
Houston, TX 77007

Here’s a map to the location. See you there.

What now for Renew Houston?

In addition to the disposal of the red light cameras and the associated costs of their removal, Mayor Parker and City Council now need to work out the details for Prop 1, which created the dedicated fund for streets and drainage and will impose a fee on property owners to pay for it. How much, and who doesn’t have to pay, is still up in the air.

City Council members, who are listening to a chorus of local school officials, church leaders and nonprofit groups, appear to have no appetite to impose the fee on those institutions, many of which are traditionally exempt from taxes.

Yet if that view prevails, it would set up a situation in which property owners will likely be forced to pay more than they were assured by proponents of the campaign. Voters passed Proposition 1, a 20-year, $8 billion spending plan to shore up Houston’s infrastructure and reduce flooding problems, with 51 percent of the vote. Supporters said frequently on the campaign trail that the average drainage fee for a Houston homeowner would be about $5 a month. That figure was based on the assumption that no one would be exempt from paying.

“The citizens will say, “They lied to us,’ ” said City Councilman C.O. Bradford, who opposed Proposition 1 because the city failed to adopt an ordinance before the vote detailing how the proposal would be implemented.

As Parker spends the coming months preparing that “implementation” ordinance, council members and some community leaders indicated a willingness to keep an open mind, although many seemed unlikely to support applying the fee to those key groups.

I have sympathy for HISD and the churches, but I don’t recall anyone arguing that they deserved to be exempted from the water rate hike that Council passed earlier this year. I understand their position, but I see this as being analogous to that. They’ll get the same benefit that the rest of us will from the street and drainage improvements that this fee will fund, so I believe it is appropriate for them to contribute to that fund.

Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to work with them on this. One possibility I’ve heard is for the fees that HISD pays to be applied directly to projects around HISD schools. Another possibility that occurs to me, which I think would be a win all around, is to create a fund that would offer rebates to properties with large impermeable parking lots, such as churches, for taking steps to make those large parking lots less impermeable. See the Low Impact Development document that the RUDH people put out for some suggestions. This mirrors the approach that Council took for apartment owners to help them mitigate the cost of the water rate hike for themselves and their tenants, in that it encouraged them to minimize their impact and will reimburse them for doing so. I would strongly support such a step by Council.