UPDATE May 25, 2021: The new zoning ordinance was approved by City Council on a 4 to 3 vote on May 24, 2021.
UPDATE 5/5/2021: After another 5 hour marathon session on May 3rd, this matter has been postponed. A date will be set for a Special Session for City Council to continue consideration on the proposed language for the the new NBSDD.
4/6/2021: Consideration by City Council on the proposed language for the NBSDD has been scheduled for Monday, May 3, 2021.
On April 5, 2021, numerous speakers addressed Council at a Public Hearing on the proposed zoning, both in person and by phone. A number of residents spoke in favor of ‘the development’, even though no development has been presented. Others complained that they must leave the City to find decent places to eat.
Still others praised Rice Village, which is situated in an affluent residential area in Houston, not far from Rice University. In comparison, the area of Houston adjoining the proposed North Bellaire Special Development District includes various commercial businesses and warehouses, a new affordable housing apartment complex under construction in the 5600 block of South Rice, large retail areas at South Rice and Westpark, and the Houston Metro transit station off Westpark which is now in operation.
Residents speaking against the permitted uses that are included in the proposed ordinance addressed environmental contamination concerns, the impact a large development covering 80% of the site would have on the neighboring residential areas, increased traffic and flooding, as well as other concerns such as 85′ tall buildings.
Due to the revelation of contaminants on and under the site, single family homes, originally included in the Comprehensive Plan for that area, are no longer considered feasible for development on the site. But nothing from the Special Warranty Deed that accompanies the property is addressed in the ordinance.
Traffic is a growing problem on South Rice Avenue and Fournace and will almost certainly increase with the completion of the the 610/69 interchange. Cunningham Elementary, located across South Rice from the western end of the site, already creates traffic problems and backups during school terms.
At this point no one can predict how drainage in the area will be affected by the Tx-DOT changes along the Loop. And there are legitimate concerns about future development to the north in Bellaire’s UV-T district.
It is understood that the Fournace property will be developed, but many residents want to see more green space with a maximum 60% lot coverage, protection of residential areas, and building heights at 2-stories or less. Suggestions by residents include:
- Limit the allowable lot coverage for the site to 60%, as is allowed in the Loop 610 district, and require at least a 100 foot setback from residential lots along the rear boundary. Require at least a 50 foot setback along Fournace Place and South Rice Avenue.
- 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.
- Do not include single family or multi-family options for this site.
- Incorporate the Protective Covenants listed on page 4 of the Special Warranty Deed that accompanied the sale of the property into the language for the NBSDD. The City should be responsible for some sort of enforcement.
What happens to Bellaire if commercial development is not highly controlled? Could we see a significant decline in value in residential areas, especially those north of Bissonnet?
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 became what is now known as the Gulfton Ghetto. We cannot assume that Bellaire is invincible, especially if its zoning ordinances continue to be weakened. Everything changes, and not always for the best.
What can we do? First let’s enact more restrictive zoning ordinances in order to protect our residents, our residential character, our values, and our image as a premier City of Homes. We cannot build a wall, but we can build strong zoning ordinances.
Written comments are due by high noon April 29, 2021. Please send them care of Tracy Dutton, firstname.lastname@example.org and request that they be forwarded to the Mayor and Council and be included in the minutes of the Council meeting.
An Important Public Hearing – Monday, April 5, 2021
Telephonic and in Person – 6 PM
Change Technical Research Park District (TRPD) to North Bellaire Special Development District (NBSSD)
This Hearing is in regards to the old Texaco/Chevron property, located along Fournace Place between Loop 610 and South Rice Avenue in Bellaire.
Per the City Notice: “On January 14, 2021, the Planning & Zoning Commission held a public hearing for the purpose of reviewing proposed amendments to Chapter 24,Planning and Zoning Regulations, including Section 24-403, Official Zoning District Map, and Section 24-544, Technical Research Park District (TRPD),to replace the Technical Research Park District (TRPD) with a new zoning district to be titled North Bellaire Special Development District which will generally include allowances for various commercial, residential and mixed uses and different heights, setbacks and coverage.
The proposed revisions would be generally applicable to all properties within the current Technical Research Park District (TRPD) and include the renumbering of sections of Chapter 24, Planning and Zoning Regulations, as applicable, to refer to the new North Bellaire Special Development District.”
Here are just a few of the things we residents may want to consider regarding the development of the old Texaco/Chevron property:
- Does the new district adhere to the language in the Comprehensive Plan?
- How will a large commercial development impact residents in the area? What about residential property values and quality of life?
- The two existing high-rise office buildings are attracting tenants. How much more traffic may be added to the mix if a large development is also permitted?
- What changes in the traffic pattern may occur in the area once the Loop 610 construction is complete?
- If an allowable lot coverage of 80% is achieved, what’s the chance of increased flooding in the area?
- Where does the TCEQ stand on redevelopment of the land? What’s a safe depth for excavation? What about airborne vapors generated by the underground water contamination?
- Recent BCC articles plus an early 2019 version of a proposed development are listed below
To comment please email the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at email@example.com and request that your email be forwarded. Comments are allowed at the Public Hearing on April 5th, but no comments will be allowed at the Council meeting to consider and possibly authorize the new zoning district. That is tentatively scheduled for May 3, 2021.
And a much earlier article from June of 2019: 4800 Fournace & 5901 South Rice – Development & Apartments – Undermining Residents and Our City of Homes?