Emerging High-Rise Development Near Galveston Bay and its Implications for Effective Resource Management


Jan. 25, 2007


Keast, BC

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Galveston Bay Estuary Program


With mid- and high-rise condominium development emerging near Clear Lake and on Galveston Island, this panel session will focus on the demographic/market realities behind and the environmental implications of this recent trend. Several area cities are attempting to better manage (and, in some cases, encourage) this type of development through new ordinance approaches. These local government efforts potentially relate to the following Shoreline Management actions within the Galveston Bay Plan: "Identify appropriate residential shoreline development guidelines" (SM-2) and "Improve access to publicly owned shorelines" (SM-5). In particular, this session will focus on the City of El Lago as a case study. El Lago engaged Kendig Keast Collaborative (KKC), a nationally-recognized community planning firm, to conduct a Context and Form Study during 2005-06. This included use of a three-dimensional computer simulated model to visualize the built environment but, more importantly, to superimpose alternative "what-if" development scenarios (reflecting varying heights, bulks, scales and setbacks). Use of the model allowed quantitative and visual analysis of alternative development forms and regulatory approaches, which aided local decision-makers in determining the desired character for the study area and community. Specific recommendations were made regarding ordinance amendments and modifications of the City's comprehensive plan. The outcome was a new high-rise condominium and mixed use ordinance for El Lago. Bret will also demonstrate that development clustering works not only to protect shorelines but also to address non-point loadings to and the water quality of tidal creeks and entire watersheds (e.g., Lake County, IL; Queen Anne's County, MD, on Chesapeake Bay; and regulations done for the State of Florida to protect its springs and the Floridian Aquifer). If development pressures are inevitable in the vicinity of Galveston Bay, then better to pursue development scenarios and regulatory/incentive approaches that involve smaller and/or clustered building footprints, less impervious surface, and more open space preservation to accommodate public access and amenities.




development, high-rise development, protection, shorelines