August 6, 2019: There was good news for Bellaire residents as City Council voted 6 to 1 at the August 5, 2019, Council meeting to retain the existing residential zoning in the Bellaire Boulevard Estate Overlay District (BBEOD). Only outgoing council member Pat McLaughlan voted in favor. Let’s hope the same attitudes carry over to the rezoning requests for the property at 4800 Fournace Place.
I planned to write an article about the Planning & Zoning vote on April 11, 2019, on an application filed by a developer to amend the official zoning map.
It would rezone the property located at 4301 Bellaire Blvd from Bellaire Boulevard Estate Overlay District (BBEOD), a low density residential area, to CMU (Corridor Mixed-Used District) to allow for the possible construction of a 22,000 square foot, two-story office building with surface parking.
One P&Z commission member expressed disdain when small townhouses were suggested as possible projects for that location (not expensive enough).
But he had no objection to a 2-story office building with surface parking just a few feet from residences that flooded during Harvey. In a zoned residential area at the gateway entry into Bellaire.
Another commission member disparaged homes located close to the tracks – despite a fair number of Bellaire residents living in that same location, including the folks across Bellaire Blvd from the property.
A resident proposed using the lot for flood mitigation, which raises the question: Why can’t we use part of the $4 million in drainage bonds no longer needed for the concrete stand-alone sidewalks and apply it to flood mitigation on this lot? More trees, porous parking areas for the park and the Newcastle walking path, perhaps some underground detention, and a sign announcing a City flood mitigation site. A win/win for Bellaire’s residents and Bellaire’s image.
Regardless of the numerous suggestions, objections, and petitions in opposition by Bellaire residents who live in the area, P&Z voted on April 11, 2019, in favor of the application by a 3 to 2 vote, however 4 votes were required to approve it. A number of residents also supported the project, but I could find only one who lived in close proximity to the property. The application was moved to City Council for consideration.
Rather than continue with the article I decided to let our Bellaire neighbors speak for themselves. Below are excerpts from some of the emails sent to P&Z and to the Mayor and City Council. High priorities for area residents are green space and flood mitigation, both reasonable solutions.
You can watch the May 20th video here. A decision will be made on June 17, 2019, at the next Council meeting. A super majority of 6 votes is required for approval. UPDATE: Consideration of the application has been postponed at the request of the applicant.
Find a map of the current City of Bellaire Zoning here.
Division 2 – Bellaire’s Zoning Districts
Read on to see what some of those residents had to say.
We invested in our Bellaire property 12 years ago because we trusted the leadership of our city to make the Southdale subdivision a beautiful and green residential space. Given the incredibly challenging situation our neighborhood experienced in the aftermath of Harvey, it is astonishing to me to think that flood mitigation isn’t your number one priority.
I do not for a minute believe the developer’s claim that this will decrease flood risk. What a great message you could send to your constituents, many of whom are just finishing their remodels after the flood, that you are taking every opportunity to address the flooding issue. Why not make it a dedicated flood management area?
If you recommend the rezoning of this property to CMU who’s to say that the owners of the property across Bellaire Boulevard (4310 Bellaire Blvd) which is a mirror image of 4301 Bellaire would not want to do the same? We already know the owner of 4317 Bellaire would like to rezone her land from her statements at the last rezoning meeting.
Then we end up with not a grand boulevard of homes welcoming people to our city but rather another section of land that looks just like everywhere else in Houston. If you allow this zoning you are opening the floodgates to potentially rezone all of Bellaire Boulevard with removal from the Bellaire boulevard overlay district.
The lot currently is an eyesore for the city of Bellaire and being used as a staging area for its contractors. They have turned the land into an absolute dump. Does that mean a brand new commercial building needs to be there instead? Absolutely not.
What about a simple green space or flood mitigation area? Yes, those are not financially profitable however the places that are made into flood mitigation or green spaces have the potential to alleviate some of the flooding in Bellaire, which is a major long term problem for our city.
Please, kindly suggest that the property owner eliminate the eye-sore characteristics of his property, demolish his decommissioned church, and seize activities that also do not contribute to aesthetics. Utilizing the property as a Flood Detention/Retention area, as one of my neighbors have already suggested should be seriously considered. Perhaps it could be an additional green space such as a soccer field and dog park.
My husband and I have lived in Bellaire for approximately six years. We choose to live here because of the residential feel and safety of our neighborhood. I feel that moving to rezone this space will lead to a loss of those attributes which Bellaire prides itself on.
After Harvey the threat to property values continues to be present, further degradation of the quality of life afforded in Bellaire (which will happen with the addition of more commercial zoned properties and unsupervised use of properties for construction holding zones) will harm your constituency/ our community.
My perceptions from last night’s meeting (please correct if I am wrong):
RE: Request for an amendment of to the official zoning map, to re‐zone property located at 4301 Bellaire Blvd. from R‐5, Residential District to CMU, Commercial Mixed‐Use District, and to remove the property from the Bellaire Boulevard Estate Overlay District (BBEOD)
- The property was marketed together with a spec house so that the asking price was greater than $2 million.
- There were over 100 inquiries that expressed interest in commercial use of the property.
- Once the property is rezoned to CMU and removed from the BBEOD, any commercial or multi-housing use is acceptable, including multiple townhomes, restaurants, etc.
- The petitioner for the change in zoning is a company called A Beautiful Bellaire, LLC
- The petitioner is trying to reassure the P&Z Commission and the citizens that there will be self-imposed deed restrictions built into the transaction that will protect everyone and reduce the impact of flooding.
- The City of Bellaire does not enforce deed restrictions!
- If the deed restrictions are violated, the citizens of Bellaire (Blvd Green, Ione St, etc) would have the responsibility to take the entity to court to enforce the deed restrictions.
1) 4301 Bellaire Blvd is rezoned CMU and removed from the BBEOD.
2) “Beautiful Bellaire LLC” goes into bankruptcy and must sell the land.
3) McDonalds, ignoring the deed restrictions, offers $3 million to take over the property.
No matter how attractive an office building may be and no matter that he wants to define it as ’The Gateway to Bellaire’, we strongly oppose placing office space amidst the homes, parks, synagogues and churches that define Bellaire Boulevard between the railroad tracks and 610. Would you want an office building next to your home in Bellaire? I cannot imagine that any of you could possibly want that.
When Mr. Ebro purchased 4301 Bellaire Blvd he was aware that the property was zoned R‐5 and that 2 previous attempts to rezone the land had failed. I’m pretty positive that he thought he could pull some tricks and get the land rezoned so he could turn a greater profit. After all, who buys any sort of real estate without hoping to make a profit? And, what’s the best way to make big bucks? Commercial property! So, let’s increase the cost of the land and say “See, nobody wants this property as residential so it must be rezoned!” I wonder if anyone would want to buy this piece of land and build their dream home on it for close to 3 million dollars? Yes, it is in Bellaire, however it is not as desirable of a location as any of the oversized lots on Oleander and therefore cannot be priced as such
MY NOTES: The developer for this project is A Beautiful Bellaire LLC, represented by David Ebro. Mr. Ebro is also president of the Levey Group, which develops commercial properties. All public comments and emails including those from the minutes of the March 14, 2019, P&Z meeting are available for full review in the attached agenda from the April 11, 2019 P&Z meeting.
UPDATE: City Council reviewed this application on May 20, 2019, at a Public Hearing. In what many folks feel was an inappropriate move, three members from Planning and Zoning, none of whom live in the BBEOD, endorsed the application at this meeting, even though two of them did not attend the actual P&Z meeting in April. Some Council members also seemed to favor the application.
Mr. Ebro would not be required to build the 2-story office building if this property is rezoned CMU. Under the Permitted uses for that zoning he could build a cafeteria, or a Dollar Store, or sell the rezoned lot to another party.
As of June 7, 2019, per the City Manager’s Weekly Memo: Consideration of the zoning application for 4301 Bellaire will not be on the June 17 agenda at the request of the applicant.
You can email the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at email@example.com and request that she forward your email.
Find out more about our Planning and Zoning Commission:
Click Here For A Primer on Planning and Zoning
Bellaire’s Debt is $123.8 million at the end of FY2019, one of the highest per capita in the state. Another bond issue is under discussion for 2021.Find Bellaire on the Texas Comptroller’s list for 2018; more bonds have been sold since then: https://comptroller.texas.gov/transparency/local/debt/city.php?cityname=Bellaire&citysubmit=GO