Flooding in Houston has increased as developers have replaced stormwater-soaking soil and plants with concrete-and-steel slabs. However, City Council is offering property tax abatements for private commercial developers who opt for a more eco-friendly approach. The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the abatements are available for project designs that minimize the amount of stormwater runoff their developments produce. This can include plants and other vegetation to collect rainwater or slow its runoff, as well as “green roofs” with similar properties and pavement that can absorb rainwater. The incentives would require additional planning than the existing minimum detention requirements, and are open to projects of more than $3 million that include at least $100,000 in eco-friendly designs.
In exchange for the added planning, commercial developers could save as much as 15 percent against their property tax increases, although the maximum abatement is the cost of the green infrastructure itself. The amount of the abatement depends on the level of certification of the project according to the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program: Platinum certification gives a 15 percent abatement, gold gives a 10 percent abatement, and silver gives a 5 percent abatement.
The abatements were approved by City Council in December, and improve on the previous program, which offered a maximum of 10 percent in abatements.