Campaign to ban apartments kicks off with petition drive

By Betsy Dolan

A group of Sugar Land residents are hoping they can collect 1,479 signatures in 46 days as a required first step in banning any more apartments from being built in the city. Sustainable Sugar Land, led by businesswoman and realtor, Diana Miller, held a petition signing at the University Branch Library on Saturday, July 28.

Miller’s group is upset over what they say is a disregard by the city’s elected officials to listen to what their constituents want in regard to apartments. The city has approved plans to build 625 apartments at the Imperial Sugar sight, 400 in Telfair and another 600 in Riverstone.

“This issue has never been just about apartments,” Miller said. “It is disappointing that our elected officials have found a way around our apartment zoning ordinances. We can’t undo what they have already done but we can make sure we are protecting Sugar Land for the future.”

Sustainable Sugar Land’s petition is for a proposed ordinance that would ban multi-family housing from being built within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, libraries, community centers, historical districts, churches, industrial plants, child/elder care facilities and any other multi-family dwelling. In addition, the proposed ordinance would ban apartments from being built near subdivisions and would only allow them on roads that are 4-lanes or greater. Miller acknowledges that the proposed ordinance is extreme.

“Because our city officials did not take a moderate approach in regard to their decision on multi-family, we are unable to take a moderate approach in fixing it,” Miller explained. “The council has a mind-set about high-density urban development because it benefits the city economically.”

The City of Sugar Land has maintained that offering a variety of housing options is critical to ensuring a vibrant, healthy city. According to the city’s web site, the 625 multi-family apartments at the Imperial site would ‘generate $32 million in additional annual buying power compared to single family homes’ and would generate property tax that would be 277% higher than a single family scenario.

“Sugar Land’s total number of apartments is projected to represent just less than 9 percent of total dwelling units upon final build-out of the city. This percentage remains approximately the same in comparison to the percentage of apartments existing in the city in 2000,” a city spokesman said in a news release back in March.

According to Miller, when the Sustainable Sugar Land group collects the required signatures and once they are verified, the city has three options. They can create an ordinance of their own, they can accept the Sustainable Sugar Land ordinance or the issue can be put to a public vote and that is what Miller is predicting will happen.

“I think it will go to a vote,” she said. “I’m a realtor and I’ve heard that developers are shying away from Sugar Land until this issue dies down because they don’t want to deal with the controversy.”

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