Sugar Land hosting town hall with industry experts on suggested additions to the mixed use code

Don’t forget to join us on May 8 from 6-8 p.m. at Sugar Land City Hall for our Mixed Use Town Hall, featuring industry experts (and guest speakers), Dr. Jeronimo Cortina, Matt Goebel, and Shana Hardin!

Jeronimo Cortina is an award-winning Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Director of Faculty Research Initiatives at Population Health at the University of Houston.  He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University, where he previously earned a Master’s degree in public Administration and Public Policy from the School of International and Public Affairs. Dr. Cortina specializes in survey research, immigration, development, and quantitative methods. Learn more 👉 https://www.uh.edu/class/political-science/faculty-and-staff/professors/cortina/

Matt Goebel is a planner and attorney in the Denver office of Clarion Associates, and a Director of the firm. He works principally in the areas of planning, zoning, and historic preservation. His numerous projects have included award-winning codes, plans, and special studies for dozens of large and small jurisdictions around the country. Learn more 👉 https://clarionassociates.com/

Shana Hardin is a Sugar Land native. She is working towards her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Houston and specializes in quantitative methods, public policy, and geographic representation, with a focus on State Politics. Her latest publication examines the spatial distribution of mental health and how it interacts with divergent market segments. Shana’s research has been supported by the Cullen Foundation and recognized as an outstanding project in a university-wide research program.

About the Town Hall

After receiving feedback from Sugar Land residents through the Land Use Plan that they wanted more mixed-use spaces around town, the City’s planning team began looking for ways to make that happen. Now, a new set of codes could help do just that. That’s where you come in, we need you to come to an in-person Mixed-Use Code Town Hall on Monday May 8th from 6 to 8 p.m. at Sugar Land City Hall to help residents further understand the suggested additions to the code. Additionally, from May 8 to 19, the City is asking residents to submit feedback for the code online at http://www.sugarlandtx.gov/ActivityCenters.

Resident feedback will help inform some elements of the code. The code, in a lot of ways, is super technical. But there are a lot of elements that residents can influence, and we welcome your comments. We want, and need, your feedback!

Why are we creating the Mixed-Use Code?

When we updated the Land Use Plan (a component of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which serves as a guide to how the City should develop and redevelop and evolves over time to reflect changing conditions) in 2018, we heard through that process that residents wanted mixed-use type areas in our community. They wanted not just a mix of uses, but they want us to create places where people can gather outside of work, school and their home. When staff received that type of feedback, they began to look for ways to create those types of spaces.  

The team recognized that one of the reasons these places don’t exist is because of the current set of development codes, also known as zoning, which currently separate residential and commercial land uses. Mixed-use spaces were more difficult to get approved if an idea was presented to the City by a developer. As a result, the City of Sugar Land is developing a new mixed use zoning code that allows certain residential and commercial land uses to mix.  

The idea that commercial and residential land uses are separated has been embedded in the zoning code since it was created in the early 1960s – from the beginning, we’ve been separating them.

But through the Land Use Plan, residents expressed a desire for more walkable mixed-use places. As a result, the Plan designated several areas around Sugar Land as Regional Activity Centers (RACs) and Neighborhood Activity Centers (NACs). These RACs and NACs are envisioned to be the commercial and civic hubs of the city that attract people to work, shop, eat, and attend events, with mixed-use and walkability being key to their success.  

Mixed-use spaces typically offer a variety of housing forms (duplexes, triplexes, sixplexes, live/work units, townhomes and mid-to-high rise apartments) while bringing convenience to your front door by integrating every day needs like retail, shopping, grocery stores and restaurants with housing.  

Mixed-use places currently in Sugar Land, like Sugar Land Town Square, had to go through a planned development (PD) process, which is a deterrent to most developers due to the rigorous process.  

A PD is a customized zoning district for a specific property and a particular development proposal. They can take anywhere between six and 18 months to complete, which is out of sync with the real estate transaction timeline. This makes it difficult for projects to respond to any changes in the real estate market. 

To address this inconsistency, the City is introducing a new mixed-use code that will allow mixed-use developments, like regional and neighborhood activity centers, to more easily be approved and developed at targeted locations throughout the city.

The new mixed-use code front loads design and development standards set forth in the PD process, allowing the development proposals to be approved faster than before. The result is higher quality development in a shorter amount of time that rewards and incentivizes creativity and innovation, allowing Sugar Land to remain economically competitive with surrounding municipalities.  

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