UPDATE 4/14/20: On April 14 the director of Evelyn’s Park Conservancy submitted a letter requesting the land be rezoned. Next stop may be the Planning and Zoning Commission.
UPDATE 3/18/20: On March 16, 2020, the Mayor announced that staff would revoke the permit. Find the notice here and an update at the end of this article.
A new feature has been added to the main gateway entrance to the City on Bellaire Boulevard. No, sorry, not a new ‘Welcome To Bellaire, A City Of Homes’ sign. This new addition, located at 4300 Bellaire Blvd on the CenterPoint land just inside the City limits, is a parking lot. It’s the first thing the public will see when they enter Bellaire from the east, not a great first impression of our City. And it’s in an R-5 residential district. If this parking lot remains we can say goodbye to Bellaire’s reputation as a residential enclave with protective zoning.
Who Built The Lot?
Developers of Southside Commons, a new development located in Southside Place, are building the parking lot. They applied for a permit for the lot in January of 2019. But the first any of the neighbors heard of it was in late February of 2020, when construction began.
According to Paul Hofmann, Bellaire’s City Manager, “the CenterPoint easement is getting prepped for parking. The parking lot will be split with Southside Commons for their employee parking and over flow parking from Evelyn’s Park”. As though that justifies an embarrassing scar on our landscape. Gone is the swath of green along the CenterPoint easement, next to the original mid-century home.
Evidently he plans to tout this as some sort of accessory to Evelyn’s Park, but it is not. It’s a private parking lot for employees of a business located in another city, and from a purely resident perspective, I don’t know why Bellaire land should be used as a parking lot to support another city’s businesses.
What Is The Zoning For This Area?
The parking lot is clearly located in a Bellaire residential district (R-5), and borders a private residence in the Bellaire Boulevard Estate Overlay District, zoned as a low-density residential area.
Not only is the lot located in a zoned residential area, it is being built within a few feet of a Bellaire residence. Imagine living next door to a parking lot, headlights shining in your bedroom windows, strangers coming and going day and night. Seven days a week.
The plans show lights and bus shelters, the permit application and site plan show 100% lot coverage. In 2019 an application from a developer for a 2-story office building at 4301 Bellaire Blvd was voted down by City Council.
If This Is A Residential Area, Was This Lot Approved By
The Planning And Zoning Commission?
No, when a representative of Southside Commons applied for a Commercial Building Permit in January of 2019, Development Services processed the permit with no referral to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and in February of 2020 the site plan was approved without a hearing before City Council.
Development Services director ChaVonne Sampson stated at the March 12, 2020, P&Z meeting that Evelyn’s Park submitted the permit application for the lot, but that statement is not accurate. MM Bellaire One LLC, not Evelyn’s Park or Evelyn’s Park Conservancy, submitted the permit. The building official who signed off on the construction plans is no longer employed by Bellaire.
Mr. Hofmann espoused the same theme – it’s all about Evelyn’s Park. Skipped over the permit information and who is actually paying for the lot. He said the permit was issued on January 6th, but the documents show it was signed off on February 24, 2020.
He also explained that the City was looking into the zoning issue and more information would be available by Monday’s City Council meeting. Neither Ms. Sampson nor Mr. Hofmann could explain why this was approved without oversight from P&Z or City Council or any public hearings.
Bellaire residents want to know how this happened. Is it legal? What does this say about our zoning ordinances, and about our City management? If this is deemed illegal, a violation of our zoning ordinances, and the responsible parties must remove the parking area, who is responsible for the costs?
Meanwhile we have a parking lot at a main entry to Bellaire, jammed next to a residence. What kind of image does this convey? Real estate values in Bellaire are already in a state of flux, this will certainly not help. Regardless of the legality of this project, this parking lot will not enhance the image of Bellaire as a premier city or impress prospective residents.
In the past five years we can thank the City Manager and members of City Council for the loss of our City logo, our City motto, and if this parking lot remains we have lost our most attractive entryway into the City. What’s next? Or what’s left?
Just the Facts:
- The parking lot at 4300 Bellaire Blvd is in the R-5 zoned residential district. The land is owned by CenterPoint. It adjoins a private residence.
- MM Bellaire One LLC requested the permit for construction. The construction costs are apparently borne by the developers of Southside Commons.
- MM Bellaire One LLC manager John Morton is also a principal in Triple Crown Investments, the company developing the Southside Commons in the old Palace Bowling Lanes building. The land for that development at 4191 Bellaire in Southside Place is still owned by Tropicana.
- The Centerpoint parking lot is being built for Southside Commons employee parking and will be used for overflow parking for Evelyn’s Park.
- Evelyn’s Park Conservancy will be paying rent to CenterPoint; so will the developers of Southside Commons.
- The original commercial construction application for the parking lot in Bellaire was submitted in January of 2019.
- 2/24/2020: William Davidson in Development Services approved the plans. He then transferred to a position in Public Works in mid-March. UPDATE: Mr. Davidson resigned and as of May 4, 2020, he is no longer employed by the City of Bellaire.
- 3/16/2020: A well-known law firm, King & Spalding, is now representing a group of neighbors on Bellaire Blvd and Mulberry. A letter was sent to the City of Bellaire.
- 3/26/2020: City of Bellaire Development Services sends a letter to CenterPoint and Arch-Con, with a cc to Evelyns Park Conservancy.
- 4/14/2020: Patricia King-Ritter, the Director of Evelyn’s Park Conservancy, submitted a letter to the City of Bellaire. The City is apparently treating the letter as a request to rezone the CenterPoint land for use as a parking lot.
UPDATE 4/18/20: After a closed session of City Council and the City Attorney at the March 16, 2020, Council meeting, the Mayor announced that the permit for the parking lot was issued in error and staff would revoke the permit. Some of the neighbors are represented by a major law firm. Catch the 3/16/20 Council meeting here, especially the audience comments. Start about 18.30 on the video.
Link to City Council meeting 3-16-2020.
The parking lot is discussed under new business, about 35 minutes into the meeting.
Bellaire’s Debt is $127.5 million at the end of FY2019,
one of the highest per capita in the state.
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