Texas town ordinance puts masonry front and center

Following the lead of peers in cities across the Lone Star State, officials in the Houston-bordering town of Bellaire have determined that clay, natural stone or glass block masonry will be a predominant exterior building material.

The Bellaire City Council passed an ordinance late last year requiring masonry cladding for residential and commercial buildings in a newly designated Urban Village district. It limits the use of concrete masonry, precast, stucco, tile and other materials to no more than 15 percent of the exterior surface area, and states: “The intent of this subsection is to ensure use of building materials in the UV-T district which convey an appearance of quality and durability.”

“We wanted to ensure that [Urban Village] buildings maintain their value. This, in turn, helps ensure that our tax base will remain strong,” said Bellaire Community Development Director John McDonald.

The Urban Village district spans about 18 acres near the Southwest Freeway and Loop 610 intersection, currently occupied by under-utilized warehouses. A redevelopment plan envisions a mix of retail, residential and office buildings to leverage the impact of a new Houston Metro light-rail station.

Bellaire joins a growing list of 150-plus Texas cities that have incorporated masonry into their community planning and zoning. The City of Kyle, outside Austin, made headlines in its successful defense of an ordinance that opponents contended violated fair housing laws (“Pro-masonry ordinance withstands NAACP, NAHB federal court appeal,” Concrete Products, January 2011, page 4).