Chapter 28 Hazardous Enterprises

Sidewalk Requirements

In December 2020, Houston City Council voted to strengthen safety measures to protect Houston neighborhoods and improve enforcement of the city’s hazardous enterprises ordinances.

Changes to Chapter 28 of the Code of Ordinances related to the Hazardous Enterprises Ordinance increase the regulation of hazardous operations and materials in our city by strengthening enforcement language. The changes also expand certain definitions, create a review process for appeals and modifications, and establish related fees to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of Houstonians.

In the summer of 1995, a series of fires at the HDI Warehouse complex in Pleasantville brought to light the proximity of residential areas to facilities with hazardous materials. Article VII of Chapter 28 of the City’s Code of Ordinances, known as the Hazardous Enterprises Ordinance, was approved as a result of negotiations with affected industries, neighborhood organizations and City departments. It established distancing requirements from sensitive uses and residential areas for certain newly proposed or expanding hazardous materials facilities. The need to increase additional safeguards and address outdoor storage of hazardous materials called for several changes to strengthen the existing ordinance to better protect the public at large.

The Planning and Development Department, Houston Fire Department, Houston Public Works, and Legal Department collaborated on the amendments to improve the Code based on observations from administrating the ordinance over the past two decades. The new amendment language widens the scope of review, closes loopholes that had been discovered over time, and provides a new modification procedure that will allow unusual circumstances and new technologies to be examined more closely for required levels of safety.

Going forward, a Review Committee will oversee the appeals process to ensure appropriate safeguards have been met and demonstrated for the storage of hazardous materials, both inside and outside a structure regardless of the location on a tract. The Committee will consist of a planning official, building official, fire marshal, and emergency management coordinator. A unanimous consent of all committee members is needed before the modification request can move forward for further review.

A hazardous enterprise permit is required when the following criteria are met in accordance with Sec 28-222 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances:

Enterprise means a use or activity on, or of, a tract of land or within a building or structure, in whole or in part, that includes storage of, and also includes outside storage or use of hazardous materials exceeding the Maximum Allowed Quantities (MAQs) that constitutes a Group H-1, 2 or 3 occupancy as described in section 307 of that volume of the Construction Code known as the City of Houston Building Code. The term also includes any Group H-4 occupancy, in whole or in part, that includes storage (both interior and exterior) of hazardous materials exceeding the MAQs as described in Building Code section 307 if any highly toxic material is manufactured, processed, generated, stored or used. Otherwise, Group H-4 occupancies are not included. The term also does not include:

  1. Any public water or wastewater treatment facility that is being operated under regulations promulgated by state or federal agencies, including but not limited to the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality;
  2. Areas or spaces up to 500 square feet each in research labs operated under the authority of a hospital, college, or university, and classified as H-2, H-3 or H-4, with an aggregate maximum area of ten percent on each floor; or
  3. Any area or space containing fuel storage for generators, fire pumps, above or underground fuel storage associated with vehicle motor fuel-dispensing facilities.

For more information, contact

Last Updated: February 8, 2021