The City of Houston Planning and Development Department seeks to amend the 2020 Sidewalk Ordinance through a proposed “fee in lieu” structure to “promote a complete sidewalk network in the city” and improve safety and access for people who walk and roll. The policy change would allow property owners who are developing a new home or rebuilding an existing one to pay into a sidewalk fund instead of building the actual sidewalk in front of their property if they meet certain criteria. The City would manage the fund, spending 70% of the earmarked monies in the geographic sector where the funds originate, and utilizing the remaining 30% to develop sidewalks in other parts of the city.
The Planning Department is currently accepting public comments on the proposed policy changes, and we urge you to share your input. Comments are due by 5:00 PM this Thursday, June 23.rd
LINK Houston views the proposed ordinance amendments as one step forward on a continuing journey to improve pedestrian accessibility, safety, and connectivity in Houston. The proposed ordinance amendments to add a fee-in-lieu can be a positive step forward, but they must not be the only steps taken to improve our sidewalk network. We urge the City to also increase funding for the three existing sidewalk programs. The City must also provide funding, equipment, and sufficient staffing to maintain sidewalks constructed through the three programs and the fee-in-lieu fund. Additionally, we call on the City to ensure implementation of the policy is equitable; the City must avoid placing an inequitable burden on residents seeking to substantially rebuild or modify their own existing property, either due to elective improvements or rebuilding post-disaster. Property owners with open-ditch drainage, especially good for stormwater runoff when maintained, could find themselves bearing high fee-in-lieu due to the cost of sidewalks in such situations.
While the new sidewalk fund will add sorely needed resources and fund completing gaps in the sidewalk network, we look for fairness in the application of the ordinance on the fee payers as we all as equitable implementation in the use of the funds.
To view our official comments and additional information about sidewalks in Houston, click here.
June 21, 2022
LINK Houston