Fighting Against Townhouses
Houston's Hidden Jewel neighborhood fights against townhouses, insists it doesn't want to be new Heights
Residents of Lindale Park have a special moniker for their quiet northside neighborhood, "The Hidden Jewel." But with real estate bursting at the seams in the nearby greater Heights area, homeowners there fear their peaceful enclave will find itself overrun with townhomes.
"We're one of the few remaining subdivisions inside the Loop that hasn't been re-developed," area resident Kathy Gutierrez tells CultureMap. "I've lived here for 34 years and absolutely love it. It's not exactly a fancy place, but my neighbors are like family. This is a true community and it's something we want to preserve."
In a city that long has prided itself on its lack of zoning, two small-but-powerful planning ordinances are giving established neighborhoods like Lindale the means to battle rampant townhouse development — minimum building lines and minimum lot sizes (MBL and MLS, respectively).
"This is a true community and it's something we want to preserve."
Once approved by residents, the rules freeze existing lot sizes and ensure that future construction won't push beyond current building lines. In other words, no more jam-packed condo lots squeezed around a vintage 1930s bungalow.
"These ordinances work more or less like deed restrictions," says Suzy Hartgrove with the City of Houston. "Ultimately, the effect is that developers can't subdivide lots into multiple pieces for 20 or 40 years, depending on the type of petition."
Gathering signatures on and around her own block, Gutierrez has protected more than 30 Lindale properties from being subdivided on lots of less than 7,000 square feet. Working with the Lindale Park Civic Club, she has expanded efforts throughout the entire 75-year-old neighborhood.
Once signatures are certified by the planning commission, the city will mail ballots to area residents. If 51 percent of homeowners approve (without any public protests during a 30-day waiting period), Lindale Park will one more of a growing number of Houston communities successfully pushing back against developers.