Conroe Council discusses proposed program for developing new housing in downtown Conroe

Conroe City Councilman Duane Ham, Councilman Jody Czajkoski and Mayor Pro-Tem Duke Coon discussing the proposed program for new residential housing in downtown Conroe.

Conroe Council talked about a resolution that would establish a program to provide incentives for the development of new residential housing units in downtown.

They discussed the item at their workshop on Nov. 13.

“It’s designed to provide housing incentives to up to a thousand new housing units in the downtown Conroe area; each of these units would be eligible to receive an incentive of up to $15,000,” City Attorney Marcus Winberry told Council. “The way it would work is that the incentive would be paid from the taxes generated by the units, so taxes on a property that were not enough to support the $15,000 incentive maximum would generate something less, where as more expensive units would generate more.”

Winberry said one of the carve outs of the program is they designed it to apply to the same area that the city applied their recent ordinance amendment on the fast-track re-platting of residential property for unit development purposes.

“This excludes the uptown neighborhood portion of the downtown area,” Winberry said. “That neighborhood is considered to be a more traditional single-family residential neighborhood, and so the desire was not necessarily to discourage new development there, but to not promote the development in that neighborhood of housing forms that were different from the standard traditional residential housing.”

City Councilman Jody Czajkoski said there’s been a downtown Conroe development plan that was initiated before he got involved in it.

“We basically copied a program that the City of Houston has used in downtown, it’s called their downtown living initiative,” Czajkoski said. “It’s very similar to the incentives that are offered at the Industrial Park for our companies; we’re offering a similar incentive for local developers to provide housing for us in downtown Conroe.” “It’s worked very well in downtown Houston.” “It’s pretty simple, we rebate those tax dollars that are approved that come through the city for ten years to the developer.” “This attracts residents to downtown, people that are young professionals and empty nesters who want to live in a high-density urban neighborhood, where they can live, work and play.” “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, we’re taking a program in Harris County that works and implementing here in Conroe.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Duke Coon told council that’s it’s a great idea, but he’s a little concerned about the one-thousand units, which he’s says is a little aggressive.

“If we’re going to do the program, and I think we should, I think we do need to have some architectural control in there,” Coon said.” “One other thing I’d like to discuss with Council is maybe set some limits on construction costs, simply meaning if we’re going to offer the incentive program the way it’s written now, someone could simply build a $75,000 small two-bedroom home, and they would qualify for the incentive.” “I’d like to see some sort of base-line there, maybe a $350,000 limit, you’d know more about that, some of those limits (talking to Councilman Czajkoski), but we want to attract some high-end multi-family developments.” “I’d like to see some sort of ceiling there, or base I guess, either way you want to look at it; as far as value, whether that’s $350,000 and you’re approved, or whether it’s a quarter of a million.”

Coon said the program has merit, and that Council is looking for the best product for the downtown area, and that’s all they’re interested in.

City Council will vote on this item and some other items at their regular meeting on Nov. 14, at six p.m. at Conroe City Hall.

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