Developers Must Build Parks

Developers are now partially responsible for increasing the amount of park space in the City of Houston. Councilmembers passed an ordinance today requiring developers to set aside land or pay into a park fund. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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The park space issue first came up in council chambers a few weeks ago, when members heard from a number of community developers on how this measure would impact profits and real estate markets. After some days of tweaking and a flurry of amendments, Houston Mayor Bill White called the item up for a vote.

"All in favor signify by saying 'aye' opposed 'no' this item carries. That's pretty historic."

White says this is historic for two reasons, first because it ensures a permanent funding stream for park space in addition to what the city sets aside.

"Second, it's one of the most bold steps that Houston has taken to require that people developing substantial projects within Houston recognize the impact of that development on the adjacent community."

The ordinance in its final form, after the addition and rejection of several amendments, requires developers to set aside 10 acres for every 1000 residents, based on a formula of 1.8 residents per unit. They can also opt out of the land set-aside by paying a $700 fee per unit. Although the amendments slightly ease the requirements on developers, Houston Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Turner says he's happy with the result.

"I'm extremely excited with what we just passed today. It's a crucial step for us as a city and a parks department for sure. You know, parks bring us many things - allow us recreation opportunities, it allows a health piece to it and the big piece it allows to us is just to be out and enjoy nature. So yes, I'm extremely happy with what was passed."

The park space ordinance goes into effect on November 1st. At that point, any developers planning new projects within city limits will have to include plans for boosting the city's parks and greenspace. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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