Members of the Bellaire Planning & Zoning Commission have been tasked with drafting proposed amendments to the Technical Research Park District (TRPD), for the purpose of creating a new zoning district, North Bellaire Special Development (NBSDD) District.
This is the old Texaco/Chevron property, established in the 1940s and now owned by SLS Properties, bounded by South Rice Avenue, Fournace, Loop 610 and residential areas to the north. After Chevron announced a move in 2016 and then posted the site for sale in 2017, the Bellaire City Council approved a revision to the City’s Comprehensive Plan to create the North Bellaire Special Development area (NBSD).
Phrases from the Plan included “but only with such uses being located and designed to provide protection to adjacent residential areas” and “the most intensive uses in the Special Development Area, and their associated vehicular access points, should be located along or near the Loop 610 frontage.”
The 30 acre site seemed to present an opportunity for single family residential options including “lifecycle” options. Single family homes on smaller lots; more vertical homes, (i.e., three stories). Multi-family uses (apartments or condominiums) were were not deemed appropriate.
Per page 2.13 of the revised Comprehensive Plan, “Traditional single-family residential development consistent with Bellaire’s identity as a “City of Homes” should be a permitted use throughout the entire North Bellaire Special Development Area,”
Contamination Places Restrictions On Property Uses
However, the sale of that property in 2018 included a Special Warranty Deed that revealed contaminated soil and underground water, monitored by the Texas Environmental Quality Board. The warranty deed includes Resrictive Covenants on what can and cannot be built there, including single family homes at ground level.
At a Workshop on November 19, 2019, ChaVonne Sampson, Director of Development Services, provided proposed changes to the current TRPD amendment. Included are buildings 55′ to 85′ tall; a traffic impact analysis; site coverage of 70 to 75%; drainage requirement to be developed later; continued compliance with the special warranty deed; and rear setbacks of 20′ to 25′ from residential lots to the north. Nothing about who will pay costs for additional City utility upgrades or street improvements.
Plus all the things the owner/developer would like as Permitted and Specific uses. Just about anything could be possible with that list, including apartments and hotels.
Planning and Zoning Commission Request Assistance From A Consultant For Old Chevron Site
On January 27, 2020, at the request of P&Z, City Council approved soliciting cost estimates from at least two firms to hire a consultant to assist P&Z in drafting the new amendments. Council member Wesely suggested setting a limit of $10,000 or less for this work, but that limit was not part of the final approval the proposal. The final decision on the consultant and the cost will go back to Council for approval.
At the February 13, 2020, P&Z meeting Director Sampson explained that she would be the interface between the consultant and P&Z. Board members asked about shortcutting the process by meeting directly with the consultant. Why make it difficult for P&Z to work with the consultant or allow the P&Z chair to meet directly with the consultant? Director Sampson explained it was necessary to keep the process ‘pure’. Which brings into question, just who will be in control of the process? Here’s the link to the video of the meeting.
How will the Bellaire neighborhood north of the site be impacted by 7-story structures? Residents might examine the consequences of additional traffic in the 610/Fournace/South Rice area. How will the new 610/69 interchange affect the traffic flow in that area?
What about cut-through traffic in the Bellaire neighborhoods south of Fournace? What about flooding in the surrounding residential areas? And how important is our environment, our City’s image, and our reputation as a City of Homes?
Of Interest: 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan – Possible $60 Million Dollars
City Manager Paul Hofmann presented the 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan at the meeting, both the Cash CIP and the Bond CIP. Apparently the next proposed bond issue in 2021 could be $50 to $60 million dollars. Our current bonded debt of $123 million, $6318 per capita, is already one of the highest in the state.
Please send your thoughts to P&Z (email@example.com) on future development for that area.
Please Share Your Thoughts and Concerns About
The NBSD Redevelopment with P&Z
Following is my correspondence to P&Z on February 13, 2020, cc’d to the Mayor and City Council, with some minor edits:
Dear Chairman Gordon and Commissioners,
As you work to create a proposed NBSD district on the SLS Properties site please consider the surrounding areas carefully.
Traffic is a growing problem on South Rice Avenue and Fournace and will almost certainly increase when the 610/69 interchange is completed.
Cunningham Elementary is located across South Rice Avenue from the western end of the site, and already creates traffic problems during school terms.
Residents in the vicinity of the SLS Properties site are concerned about a number of issues with construction on that site, including the health impacts of excavation and construction on a site under investigation for known contaminants in the soil and underground water.
They also fear future flooding and the loss of value to their properties if a developer is allowed to cover most of the permeable area with tall structures and concrete parking lots.
Hopefully you will consider what is already in place to the north and west of Bellaire city limits as well as the future plans for those areas, which include more apartments and the Metro station off Westpark. That sort of development should not be allowed within the Bellaire City limits. We cannot build a wall, but we can build strong zoning ordinances.
Regarding the Technical Research Park District (TRPD) and the proposed North Bellaire Special District (NBSD), please:
- Consider limiting the allowable lot coverage for the site to 60% or less and require at least a 50-foot setback from residential lots. That’s the width of the smallest lots in Bellaire.
- Require any excavation on the site to follow the EPA guidelines for Superfund and other sites.
- Limit building height to 2 1/2-stories or 35 feet. In fact I believe this should be the height limit for all commercial structures in Bellaire.
- Do not include a multi-family option for this site. I believe that option should be removed from all our zoning ordinances.
- Incorporate the Covenants (pg 4) from the six-page Special Warranty Deed that accompanied the sale of the property into the language for the TRPD/NBSD district. The City should be responsible for enforcement, not residents.
My belief is that your first duty is to Bellaire residents. If commercial development in Bellaire is not highly controlled now we will see a significant decline in value in the residential areas, especially those north of Bissonnet. Once that occurs the future for that area is bleak and the City of Bellaire will be in decline.
I’ve lived here long enough to see homes in once sought-after subdivisions west of Chimney Rock lose half or more of their value. Beautiful apartment complexes become what is now known as the Gulfton Ghetto. Do not assume that Bellaire is invincible, especially if its zoning ordinances continue to be weakened. Everything changes, and not always for the best.
Please, consider the consequence of every word and every change. We need to return to more restrictive zoning ordinances in order to protect our residential character, values, and image as a premier City of Homes.
Email Planning and Zoning Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bellaire’s Debt is $127.5 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
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