Regulations requiring homes & businesses to be built to withstand 500-year flood considered

HOUSTON – The new regulations would require homes and businesses to be built to withstand a 500-year flood.

Right now, the recommendation is to lift all new construction within the 500-year flood plain by at least two feet above the projected flood level during a 500-year storm. 

“We've received some input that would indicate that 2 feet might be more protection than we need. We've received some input that 2 feet might be the protection we need. We've received some input that says where is the data that supports that 2 foot,” said Carol Haddock, Houston Public Works director.

The proposed changes were discussed today during a joint committee meeting inside Houston City Council Chambers this afternoon.

Mayor Sylvester Turner wants City Council to take a vote on Feb. 28. In order to make that deadline, it means city leaders would only have less than a week to get this out to the public and get feedback and input from their constituents.

“It seems unconscionable to expect to get input from my constituents in a matter of a week,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen. Cohen and several other council members were visibly frustrated, voiced their concerns and laid out some possible solutions. 

“Any expectation that we are going to do this in less than a month  is not only unreasonable, it really raises remarkable questions of trust,” said council member Mike Laster.

Council members said this issue is just too important to our city and is not the kind of thing that should be rushed. 

“Having Addicks Dam in our district and still not getting the reports promised, do you think I am going to trust going forward, that this is going to be OK?” council member Brenda Stardig said.

Here is Turner’s statement on enacting flood ordinances as soon as possible:

“I hope all Houstonians will express the will of the people on the need for the City to move ahead swiftly on the flood ordinance changes I have proposed. When adopted by City Council, the revised ordinances will make sure that new dwellings are built high enough to protect lives and property in the 'post-Harvey era' where the next epic rainfall may be right around the corner.

We have had three '500-year floods' in the last 3 years. To continue as if nothing has changed is unrealistic and to delay action is irresponsible.

I’m glad a joint City Council committee hearing today gave people a chance to express their views. In the end, the Council should enact the ordinances. It would be a serious mistake to not make significant changes that mitigate the risk of flooding."

Council members have joined me in urging state and federal lawmakers to move urgently to provide the funding Houston needs to become more resilient and more flood resistant for when the waters rise again. We cannot make a convincing case without showing that we are moving urgently at the local level to find solutions for ourselves."

"The world is watching and now is the time for us to act."

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