Port Arthur's Planning Department is more than forty years old. Its primary function is to monitor land use and observe how land is subdivided, in regards to the use (zoning). These uses are classified as zoning districts. Many persons are familiar with - "SF" for (single-family). There is "R" (retail), "C" for (commercial) and "I" for industrial. Industrial use areas are comprised of cumulative zoning that should take all uses except housing. Single-family housing, unlike in the days of old is not readily permitted in an industrial area due to the activities that are in progress and typically have emissions, noise or odor with the production of goods. This is why planning was promoted in cities because of the industrial era with a theme to promote health and safety. As communities grew since World War II, other departments were associated with planning. Departments such as Public Works (more so streets and other infrastructure projects-water/waste-water), Engineering (design of structures and soil compaction), Building Inspections, Fire and Police all synchronize with the Planning Department to utilize the Comprehensive Plan.
The Comprehensive Plan is a guide that dictates future uses in contrast to existing uses based on population, socio-economic changes, cultural diversity, hence - transportation and employment needs shall be appeased in line with the demand for housing and retail structures. It's stated that single-family houses are not allowed in "I" zoning districts as it is not part of Port Arthur's present Zoning Ordinance. However, in some sections of the country where land is expensive or scarce, in accordance with their Consolidated Plan (for affordable housing) these "I" areas are developed. Also since this was done in the past, where health, safety and environmental concerns are minimal - we also are rebuilding destroyed houses only. Some residents have chosen to relocate in other areas of the City. The Planning Department has four divisions:
PAT - Port Arthur Transit (409-983-8767) that some residents may be familiar with due to its transporting of commuters to various sectors across Port Arthur; many residents do not realize we are one of the few small cities (under 100,000 persons) that have a transit system. Download the Transit Map.
Secondly is our Housing and Grants Managements Division (409-983-8221), that is doing much of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of houses downtown, and in nearby areas on the east and west sides of Houston Road; this division is working with many low-income persons to get housing down-payment, RITA RECOVERY funds and roof repairs underway.
Thirdly, Equipment Services Division (409-983-8535) is no longer with Planning. This division of vehicle maintenance is now under Public Works. However, Planning has Adopted the "One Block at A Time" program (See articles).
The Mayor implemented the One Block at a Time program last February, after noting more than the usual Code violations and unkempt properties throughout the City. In order to spur pride and champion a mode of "revitalization and restoration" residents and businesses were implored to "buy in" and give sweat equity or other resources so neighborhoods may yield the perception of safety, stability and sustainability rather than the acuity of decline. The Mayor's Office number is (409-983-8105) and she or the Housing Department may be contacted by e-mail.
Then there is the Planning Division (409-983-8135) this department determines where certain developments will occur, and with other departments, state how the improvements desired to the land will create - subdivisions, private homes, malls, parks or recreation facilities.
The use of the land (size, setbacks, bulk of the building and height of the structure) all entails zoning. Subdividing the land is platting it to note the width and depth of the land and how it is described by the Appraisal (Abstract) District. Hence this is where you come to ensure the boundaries of your land as you survey and before you build/place any structure on it. These decisions (zoning/platting) are made by two Boards - the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Adjustments. Selected members are placed on an agenda by the Mayor, for the Council's consideration and possible appointment. This process is inline with the City's Charter; however the Board's function is in accordance with the Charter and State Laws that govern zoning and plat approval.
Planning is presently updating its maps for accuracy as well as easy distribution. In the mean time, thanks to online mapping technology - such as Goggle provides, one is allowed to view one's lot or neighborhood at anytime of day. A website is being worked on so applications along with plat and zoning procedures may also be easily obtained without an office visit. The former Director of over fifteen years is leaving this month. Although a new Planning Director is in place, it will be another month before most of the community meets her due to present obligations and her becoming accustom to the transitional affairs of the City. Also within a month a new Assistant Director will be on board to help guide and direct a staff of over forty persons. The Director requests that residents to be patient with us as these changes take effect to yield increased technology and communication. Port Arthur Planning Department looks forward to more outreach with the citizens - as the twenty-year Comprehensive Plan is rewritten for the 21st Century and residents chart a new course for Port Arthur's continued prosperity.