UPDATE 7/19/23: City Council chose to postpone a decision on the Methodist Hospital application. Council member Lewis stated she had counted 175 resident comments opposing the development in that location, 16 in favor, including physicians and patients.
Council members Wesely and Lewis proposed changes to the plan – move retail and restaurants into the ground floor of the buidling, allow no garage access from South Rice and leave the median open. Council member Gordon stated that he supported it, and suggested that something worse could be developed instead. I’d hate to think a development would pass just to prevent something more onerous. The Mayor recommended resubmission of a pared-down design at a later date. Isn’t it time to change the zoning in that area? Less site coverage allowed, height limitation, decent setbacks, no multi-family. Find the video of the meeting here . Stay tuned.
UPDATE 7/17/23: Item 2 under New Business on the July 17, 2023, Council agenda requests consideration and adoption of an ordinance. Find the Agenda here
The Methodist Hospital application for a Planned Development at 5130 Bellaire Blvd may be on the City Council agenda for Monday, July 17, 2023. Below is my letter to Council.
Dear Mayor and Members of Bellaire City Council,
Please, do not approve the Planned Development now under consideration for the old Randall’s site. For me this PD just compounds the consequences of earlier poor choices made by members of Bellaire’s Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council, and I believe it will damage our City’s image as a safe haven and a city of homes, and impact property values.
The location, size, and design of the 55-foot, 3-story building and parking garage, including underground parking, do not reflect the spirit of the Urban Village in the Comprehensive Plan or the City of Bellaire. Below are excerpts from Chapter 2 of that Plan:
“City of Homes. Bellaire is primarily a community of single-family detached residences.
Non-Residential Compatibility. Retail, service, office, institutional, and employment land uses are welcome in certain areas of Bellaire, but nonresidential compatibility is a fundamental community priority.
Urban Village provides for the most intensive site development within the community, although the City’s recent rezoning initiative ensures that the nature of redevelopment activity in City Center is somewhat less intense (in scale, height, etc.) to maintain more of a “small town” downtown feel for Bellaire residents.”
After the downtown districts of CCD-1 (blue) and CCD-2 (purple) were rezoned in 2014, their boundaries were changed to include the 5100-5200 blocks of Spruce. That portion of Spruce moved from the more restrictive zoning district of CCD-1 to the UV-D, which now includes H-E-B and allows the possibility of tall multi-story apartment buildings backing up to residences along the 5100-5200 blocks of Locust.
All members of P&Z and 5 members of City Council chose to allow, in the heart of our downtown, mixed-use/multi-family, unlimited height with a Special Use Permit, 90% site coverage, and a requirement for zero setback for at least 75% of the front building facade of a commercial structure.
Little thought was given to green space or neighbors. Pedestrian areas were mentioned but access and parking options were limited, and the result is the unattractive area around H-E-B. City Council can avoid more damage by revising the Comprehensive Plan and all commercial zoning to benefit our residents, not developers. Require lower height, larger setbacks, and more open area.
Which brings us to this current application. Methodist already has a presence in Bellaire. If they need more space in the area why not lease or build along the Loop or in the Chimney Rock area, as other medical groups have done? Cornerstone Hospital at 5314 Dashwood may be available, or space in the new NBSDD development.
How many medical professionals and support staff would be housed in this office building? How many vehicles each day? Ordinary retail sites (a grocery store, for example, or a shopping center) maintain a small workforce and a fairly steady inflow and outflow of vehicles over a period of perhaps12 hours. Office buildings create an inflow and exodus of employees most mornings and evenings, 5 days a week.
Southbound traffic on South Rice is already congested during the week, what will happen when employees leave the parking garage, close to a major intersection, around the same time and can only turn right? Will we have BPD directing traffic every morning and evening? Some of those employees may want to travel north on South Rice, what are their options with all those right-only exits?
My physicians are with Methodist, some in a private clinic, some in the Smith Tower, all within easy driving distance. Bottom line, most Bellaire residents neither want nor need this facility in the heart of our small town, the center of our urban village. With one side of the 3-story building along Bellaire Blvd, the other side along Cedar and Bissonnet, towering over adjoining businesses and situated across from the monolith of H-E-B, any hope of an attractive or walkable downtown will be lost.
Public Comments to the Mayor and members of City Council may be sent to email@example.com with a request to forward your email.
Find the P&Z meeting Agenda here. You can find all the proposed designs, traffic study, and site layouts in the Agenda. You may have to enlarge the page size!