HOUSTON – Hours after a 4-alarm warehouse fire cooled Thursday, burning questions lingered for neighbors in Spring Branch.
“It’s disturbing just being in (close) proximity to this,” said resident Derek Davila. “I’ve always thought zoning needs to be revisited.”
Davila wants to know why a warehouse with herbicides and pesticides can do business a stone’s throw away from homes and a school. Davila, his wife and 7-month-old daughter with respiratory issues recently moved from a Heights neighborhood.
“I talked to my homebuilder and (I was told) it’s a nice neighborhood,” Davila said. “It’s up and coming. I heard all great things about what’s in the area. Not once did we hear, ‘Well, there’s a hazardous facility just around the corner from you.’”
Aerial photos: 4-alarm warehouse fire
The City of Houston has no zoning laws, only codes to regulate certain land use for things like cell phone towers, hotels and sexually-oriented businesses. Change requires a vote, according to a spokesperson with the city planning department.
“It’s always been very controversial in Houston,” said Peter H. Brown, an urban planner and real estate investor.
The issue to require zoning laws failed four times when put on past ballots.
“The developers ran TV ads and sent out notices, put up billboards in the black community saying, Zoning causes segregation,’ which is absolutely untrue,” Brown said.
Missouri City’s former city manager and current University of Houston Public Administration Program Director Dr. James Thurmond said every other major city in Texas has zoning.
“Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, they’ve grown,” he said. “So, I don’t think it’s an impediment to growth.”
Davila said what happened in his neighborhood could drag some homeowners elsewhere.
“This is very, very concerning,” he said. “It should be concerning for everyone in the area, and I think something should be done not just for now, but the future.”
Ground photos: 4-alarm fire in Spring Branch area
Viewer photos: Large fire in Spring Branch area