The Ongoing Saga Of Spruce and Fifth Streets
The first lawsuit was filed by A Status Construction on August 27, 2020, and is unresolved at this time. The construction contractor claims they are due additional payment for work on Spruce/Fifth (in the area around H-E-B) and Bolivar/Maple. Some folks may recall that residents and businesses vigorously opposed these projects.
A Status Construction LLC, a company promoted by then city manager Paul Hofmann and City engineer James Andrews, was awarded construction contracts totaling over $6.5 million by City Council. The company was new to the City and no references were provided to Council, nevertheless by a vote of 6-1 Council approved the contracts in February of 2019.
After almost 2 years, the projects on Bolivar and on Spruce/Fifth remain incomplete. The contractual end date for the Bolivar/Maple project was 12/24/2019 and the Spruce/Fifth end date was 2/15/2020.
The construction contractor blames the engineers and the drawings. AARK Engineers, responsible for management of the project, blames the contractor. Earlier this year ARKK also requested additional payment, but Council postponed a decision. To date there’s been no word on the $500 per day liquidated damages that may be levied on the construction contractor for failure to meet the project end dates.
After a closed meeting of City Council on December 21, 2020, Council voted 7-0 to deny an application by A Status Construction LLC, pursuant to Section 2-16 (b)of the Bellaire Code of Ordinances, for redress, satisfaction, compensation, or relief on its claims made in a pending lawsuit against the City. Find a copy of the lawsuit here.
The Unfinished Result
Previous city manager Paul Hofmann assured Council that the new $2.5 million streetscape around H-E-B on Spruce and Fifth would be beautiful. That’s not how most area residents view it. The design by Costello Engineers is certainly questionable, as is the construction. It’s a crazy quilt of narrow zigzagging lanes, parking strips that pop out into the street, and a stop sign that requires drivers to stop 20 feet or more from the actual intersection.
Then there’s the zoning ordinance for this area, the UV-D, passed in 2014. It requires all new buildings to be 2-stories and at least 30 feet tall, allows 90% lot coverage, and requires zero setback for 75% of a commercial structure. It allows multi-family (apartments or condos). Parking for new businesses seems destined to be underneath the structure or in public spaces. But that’s another story. Find information on the UV-D here.
The Latest Lawsuit: 4300 Bellaire Blvd Parking Lot
Speaking of parking areas, MM Bellaire One LLC, the developers of Southside Commons, filed suit on December 7, 2020, regarding the City’s decisions about the parking lot at 4300 Bellaire Blvd. The filing includes Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Temporary and Permanent Injunctive Relief.
The defendants are the City of Bellaire, Evelyn’s Park Conservancy, and Kevin Taylor.
Who is Kevin Taylor, you ask? He has served as a Bellaire building official in Development Services, replacing William Davidson. Mr. Taylor is a principal with BBG Consulting, a firm contracted by Paul Hofmann to provide inspection services to the City. Mr. Davidson signed off on the construction of the parking lot in February of 2020, then left the City’s employ in May of 2020. Apparently the City no longer hires Building Officials, instead we pay outside vendors for this work.
What’s the Problem?
The commercial parking lot at 4300 Bellaire Blvd was funded and built by MM Bellaire One LLC, on CenterPoint property in Bellaire, to provide parking for their tenants in a Southside Place development called Southside Commons. The lot was built based on a 2019 sublease between the developer and Evelyn’s Park Conservancy. Evelyn’s Park Conservancy had leased the property from CenterPoint in 2017. The sublease provided 100 parking spaces to Evelyn’s Park for ‘special events’ with 100 or more attendees.
The property, at the very entrance to the City, is zoned R-5 residential. No one with the City has offered an explanation for how Mr. Davidson, a mid-level City employee, could accept the permit application in January of 2019 and approve the final plan over a year later, in February of 2020, without checking the zoning or notifying any other City officials. ARKK Engineers, the City’s contracted engineer, even approved the plans.
Regardless, the parking lot was built without the approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission or Bellaire City Council. It is adjacent to a residence. None of the residents in the area were notified of the plan in advance, so the start of construction was their first hint of the lot. And they were upset.
By late March of 2020 the City had notified the parties involved in the lot construction that the lot was illegal and should be removed. The Evelyn’s Park Conservancy’s attempt to change the zoning for the property after the fact was voted down by Planning and Zoning. Then voted down again by City Council.
The lot has remained in place and unused, and rather than remove the lot MM Bellaire One LLC chose to file suit. Per the interim City Manager, n injunction hearing is scheduled in late January. The developers have also applied to the Bellaire Board of Adjustment for a variance to the zoning. That application may be heard in early 2021. Find background on the parking lot here.
Due to the size of the filing, I have separated it into segments:
- Original Petition – pp 1-36
- Temporary Restraining Order – pp 37-45
- Exhibits A1 to A13 – pp 46-101
- Exhibit B Mayor’s Musings – pp 102-103
- Exhibit C Southwest News – pp 104-105
- Exhibit D Application to Board of Adjustment – pp 108-178
Email the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at firstname.lastname@example.org and request that your email be forwarded to them.
Total outstanding bond debt on 9/30/2020 stands at $116.4 million.
$6 million in bonds remain unissued.