A Short Primer on Bellaire’s Planning and Zoning

Some history on our P&Z.  Planning and Zoning ordinances are the result of decisions made by the Planning and Zoning Commission,  which is comprised of Bellaire residents who volunteer to serve on the commission and are approved and appointed by the mayor and city council.  The final decisions are the charge of the City Council.

Commissioners may be attorneys or artists, oil and gas executives or real estate agents.  While their service is valued they are seldom professional city planners or traffic flow analysts. and they rely on the advice of City staff and City management.  Their decisions are referred to City Council for final review and approval.

Bellaire has debated the question of protecting residential zoning versus encouraging commercial ventures for 50 years or more. It was a primary cause of the recall election in the 1970s.

For decades the perimeter of the downtown commercial area adjoining residential areas, was zoned CCD-1 and allowed 2 story height (25′) on small parcels and 3 stories (35′) for planned development structures on an acre or more.

Original CCD-1 and CCD-2 until 2014

The central CCD-2 allowed taller structures, up to 79 feet plus extras, in the central areas that did not connect to residential, such as the the Bellaire Triangle and Randall’s Center.  It made sense.  See map at left.

But — zoning in commercial areas of Bellaire was changed in 2014.  The Planning and Zoning Commission did away with CCD-1 and CCD-2.  Those zones were combined with RM-F, RM-1, 2 or 3. which were originally a mix of multifamily and mixed-use commercial along areas of Bissonnet and Bellaire Blvd.  The various zoning areas were rearranged into UV-D and CMU.

In 2015 a new H-E-B grocery store for Bellaire was announced.  The building spans sections of the old CCD-1 and CCD-2.  Would that zoning have prevented the construction of the new store?

Click to enlarge Zoning Map – UV-D and CMU are marked.

Maximum commercial building height on a small lot in the UV-D was increased from 2-stories to 40 ft plus a possible 20 ft more (60′).  Planned development height on minimum one acre was increased from 3-stories to a maximum building height of 79 feet.  Plus an additional 20 feet for roof gables, antennas, etc. – up to 99 feet!  Possibly 15 feet from residential property lines.

In the CMU the maximum commercial building height on a small lot (up to 1/2 acre) is 40 ft plus a possible 20 ft more (60′).  Quite an increase from the earlier 3-story height limit.  Areas of 1/2 acre or more now allow a maximum height of 53 ft.  plus 20 ft more (73′).  The same maximum height remains for Planned development.   Again, 15 feet from residential lots.

The only accommodation to adjoining residences in both zoning districts is a setback plane.  Perhaps rear patios?

There is an additional condition for both UV-D and CMU Planned Developments: Requests for additional height beyond the allowances provided shall require approval of a specific use permit. So even taller structures are possible.

This change was approved by City Council in 2014 on a 5 to 2 vote.  I can assure you that no one who voted for this change, whether on P&Z or City Council, was affected by this change.  They won’t suffer the consequences if a 6-story apartment or condo building is built along the side or rear of their  home.  You can find the rezoned areas on the map.

Meanwhile upscale communities in the Houston area – West University, Southside Place, the Memorial Villages – continue to protect their residential areas from this sort of intrusion by commercial or multi-family structures.

Would you want to live with this in your back yard?  5 or 6 stories? It could happen to residents on Locust.  Click to enlarge photo.


I wish I was making this up, but you can find it all here:

UV-D Sec. 24-537.  Towards the end, the last item, d) Planned Development – 79′ height + 20′ additional.  
Bissonnet and the south side of Bellaire Blvd in the downtown area were rezoned as CMU, Corridor Mixed Use.  Sec._24_536.___CMU_.District.

Find the conplete UV-D Zoning Ordinance here

Find the complete CMU Zoning Ordinance here


Sec. 24537. – Urban village-downtown district (UV-D). Planned Development.

d) Planned Development.

1) Minimum site area: 1 acre.

(a) Site area credit. If a site abuts an alley or vehicular access easement, one-half of the width of the alley or easement which is directly adjacent to the site shall be counted toward the calculation of site area.

2) Minimum building height: As established by the approved site plan for the planned development amendment.

3) Maximum building height: 79 feet including drive-under parking and any above-surface portion of partial subsurface parking, except that:

(a) Up to 10 feet of additional height is allowed to accommodate roof gables, chimneys, vent stacks and mechanical equipment, with the total not to exceed eighty-nine (89) feet above the average level of the base of the foundation of the building; and

(b) Up to 20 feet of additional height is allowed to accommodate church steeples, domes, spires and bell towers; cooling towers; and radio and television antennae, with the total not to exceed ninety-nine (99) feet above the average level of the base of the foundation of the building; and

(c) Requests for additional height beyond the allowances provided in items (a) and (b), above, shall require approval of a specific use permit.

Sec. 24-536. -Corridor mixed use district (CMU).

e) Planned Development.

1) Minimum site area:32,670 square feet (3/4 acre).

2) Minimum site width:150 feet.

3) Minimum site depth:100 feet.4) Maximum building height:53 feet including drive-under parking, except that:

(a) Up to 10 feet of additional height is allowed to accommodate roof gables, chimneys, vent stacks and mechanical equipment, with the total not to exceed sixty-three (63)feet above the average level of the base of the foundation of the building; and

(b) Up to 20 feet of additional height is allowed to accommodate church steeples, domes, spires and bell towers; cooling towers; and radio and television antennae, with the total not to exceed seventy-three (73) feet above the average level of the base of the foundation of the building; and

(c) Requests for additional height beyond the allowances provided in items (a) and (b), above, shall require approval of a specific usepermit.

You can find all current City of Bellaire Zoning Regulations here.

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