Houston Could Soon Have A Master Plan To Guide Development

Apr. 25, 2014Houston Public Media

It’s estimated that one million more people will move to Houston in the next 20 years and a total of 3.5 million people will move into the Greater Houston region. Those numbers are making city leaders take notice.

“Twenty years from now, we can’t wake up and say my god, we’ve got a million new people here. We have to plan for that.”

Houston Councilmember Ellen Cohen chairs the city’s Quality of Life committee. She says city officials are putting together a Houston General Plan that will help guide future decision-making on everything from infrastructure and traffic to neighborhood preservation and access to healthcare.

“It’s a visioning plan, basically, for the City of Houston, moving forward. And most importantly, it’s a substantial plan. It’s not something that anyone wants to point to and say look we did this, and then it goes on a shelf and nobody ever sees it again.”

But how can city leaders guarantee the plan will be used by future administrations? David Crossley is president of Houston Tomorrow, an urban planning research organization. He says the general plan must focus on what Houston residents want.

“The only way a plan like this can move forward from one administration to the next, is if the citizens carry it forward and say this is what we want to do, this is where we want to go, we’ve made these decisions and we expect you to be creative about how you come up with implementation strategies to make this stuff happen.”

Crossley suggests support of the plan could even be a campaign platform for future mayoral and council candidates. He says he’s been advocating for a general plan since 2001 and he’s excited to see Houston finally join the ranks of other major cities with a comprehensive approach to development.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve been really impressed with the people so far who are leading this. They are just amazingly on board and they are amazingly comprehensive about the way they understand this thing. So I’m just beside myself.”

The Houston General Plan isn’t really a plan just yet. City departments and council committees will spend the rest of the year putting details of the plan together. It won’t be released until early next year.