The city council of Houston’s publicly released minutes of the council meetings for the month of October primarily discussed issues on land development, ownership, and awarding of various major contracts that are within the mandate of the city council.
Among the ordinances discussed on the table is the move to amend Chapter 42 of the Code of Ordinances, Houston Texas. Chapter 42 s described as an ordinance
“relating to the provision of Parks and Open Spaces; adding a new Division 7 to Article III; establishing the Park and Recreation Dedication Fund; containing findings and other provisions relating to the foregoing subject; providing for severability; providing an effective date” (AGENDA, Item 25, October 3, 2007)
Responsible for accomplishing this move were Council Members Wiseman, Johnson, Lovell, Lawrence, Garcia, Holm, Alvarado, Khan, Green, Brown, Clutterback, and Noriega. The following week, October 10, the Council members settled this move, amending specific areas of Item 45D of Chapter 42, resulting to Motion 2007-1014. Council Member Clutterback spearheaded the amendment of the ordinance, identifying details that needed revision, which included the following:
-calculation of amount of land to be dedicated must be ½ acre in urban areas and 1 acre in suburban areas
-provide written notice to developer if granting of land will require fees, with an explanation from the Director of Planning & Development for imposing such fees
-property owners will have the right to a refund for all funds that were not expended in land development. This refund must be given in four years to the current property owners.
These revisions to the ordinance, again spearheaded by Clutterback and seconded by Wiseman, were further specified, and included specific numeric equivalents for greater understanding of this new ordinance by the council members and the public. As an example, suggested revision to the ordinance, which is the provision of refunds not expended in land development, was concretely translated in city ordinance terms as: “[a]ny increases by City Council of the $800/unit payment in lieu of fee shall be limited to increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).”
This particular specification of funds for refund in future transaction of the city to land development and land owners demonstrated an understanding of the economic nature that the amendment of ordinance entailed. While the amendment was still “raw” in form because it was still not “drafted” by the Legal Department of the city council, this specific revision took into consideration changes in the economy that might occur in the years to come. This foresight among council members who recommended the amendment, specifically Clutterback and Wiseman, led to the passing and approval of the amendment by all council members.
This particular move to amend an ordinance, specifically Item 45D of Chapter 42, allowed the public to learn more about the processes involved in any changes or issues that might arise about a city ordinance or regulation. The ordinance amendment is an exercise not only of objective and rational decision-making among the council members, but most importantly, this exercised illustrated the transparency that civil society needs to ensure that indeed, its chosen representatives of the citizenry are approving ordinances and laws that would benefit civil society and make decisions in an objective and rational manner.