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Bob Lanier Puts His Weight Behind Builders

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Former Mayor Bob Lanier has joined prominent home builders and developers campaigning to limit new development regulations they believe could threaten Houston's growth.

Lanier's comments are part of a nascent effort to respond to recent city laws and policies, including a high-density development ordinance now being written, that affect the politically powerful real estate industry.

A new organization, Houstonians for Responsible Growth, which has begun the process of registering as a political action committee, is coordinating the campaign, said Ken Hoagland, a political consultant working with the group.

Lanier's involvement came in a letter delivered Dec. 27 to all 14 City Council members and Mayor Bill White. It also was signed by Leo Linbeck Jr., owner of a major local construction company, and Richard Weekley, a prominent developer and home builder.

"We are writing you because of our growing concern that the city is embarking, with the best of intentions, down a path of more extensive planning and regulations, many of which have ill-served cities across our nation," the letter states.

The public involvement of people with the stature of Lanier, Linbeck and Weekley suggests there's a well-organized effort to preserve Houston's traditional laissez-faire approach to land-use regulation.

Lanier said he agreed to sign the letter because he shares the concern that increasing regulations could add to the cost of new housing in Houston and price young families and first-time buyers out of the market.

Examples of the trend toward greater regulation, developers say, are a recent ordinance requiring residential developers to help pay for parks and the creation of a protected historic district in the Old Sixth Ward west of downtown.

Houston's low housing prices are among its chief economic assets, Lanier said, and policies that increase prices could make companies hesitant to locate their businesses here.

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I think the name of their group, Houstonians for Responsible Growth, is genius.

Do yall think this push will help though? It seems as if the city has already made up its mind. I think it would be hard for them to change it back.

Edited by lockmat
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Do yall think this push will help though? It seems as if the city has already made up its mind. I think it would be hard for them to change it back.

The interchange between ex-mayor and the current mayor should be lively. I still remember the bob/kathy whitmire yrs fondly. Bob has nothing to lose and will be vocal.

Edited by musicman
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Over lunch with Mayor Bill White on Monday, former Mayor Bob Lanier laid out his concerns that new regulations on real estate development threaten the city's favorable business climate and low housing prices. White insisted his administration is simply taking modest steps in response to changing local development patterns

Occasionally, we need to remind ourselves that our favorable regulatory environment is worth keeping," said Kendall Miller, a shopping-center owner and one of the organizers of Houstonians for Responsible Growth.

Last week, the organization registered its political action committee with the Texas Ethics Commission, empowering it to spend money on local or state campaigns.

It previously had raised about $800,000 for organizational costs but hasn't started serious political fundraising yet, said Ken Hoagland, a consultant working with the group.

With the support of Lanier, construction executive Leo Linbeck Jr. and other influential business leaders, the group is distributing literature and bringing in speakers to spread its message that government land-use planning is an exercise in folly.

White, however, is starting his final two-year term, and the new organization's political action committee will focus on the city elections of 2009.

The effect of the organization's campaign on White's political fortunes is unclear. The mayor says he is focusing on his final term at City Hall, but many observers believe he is preparing to run for governor or the U.S. Senate.

But White could pay a political price for a continued public disagreement with Lanier, Taylor said.

"Bill White has got to be careful, going up against a guy who's just as popular as he is," Taylor said.

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