How Would Bellaire Residents Feel About A Mini Ashby Highrise?

Regarding a proposed moratorium on applications for development in the commercial areas of Bellaire, our City Attorney advised City Council that such a moratorium would take many months to enact and involves specific limitations, including a demonstration that a current commercial ordinance proves to be inadequate to prevent new commercial developments from being detrimental to public health, safety, or welfare.  At that point the discussion just faded away.   

Now on to our current conundrum regarding a proposed Methodist development on the old Randalls site. Residents may find this to be the best choice in a district that allows tall mixed-use/multi family structures!   

Those Yellow Signs Along Bissonnet in the
Museum District Area Are Back!   

The infamous ‘Ashby Highrise” at the corner of Bissonnet and Ashby is back, now called The Langley. It will be a 20-story multi-family development located in the heart of the Boulevard Oaks neighborhood and not far from the Museum District. Area residents have fought the development for years, including suing the developers, but due to Houston’s lack of zoning it seems destined to proceed.

For me the saddest part of this is that residents of Bellaire could suffer a similar fate even though we have both residential and commercial zoning.  Current commercial zoning allows tall buildings and multi-family (apartments and condos). That means as long as a developer follows the prescribed requirements subject to Sec. 24-604 it would be difficult to prevent a project.  And it could back up to my neighbors’ homes just across the street.

Methodist Proposal For the UV-D
Find a link to the Methodist presentation to Planning and Zoning here.

UV-D open to enlarge image

There is resident opposition to the Methodist proposal for the old Randalls site, many residents hoped for one or two story retail structures.  That’s understandable, since the first sentence of Ordinance Sec 24-537, the Urban village-downtown district (UV-D), reads as follows: This district provides for a mix of uses and style of development intended to reinforce the “small town” downtown feel desired by Bellaire residents, including opportunities for shopping, services, dining and entertainment.   

So why, you may ask, are we discussing a multi-story medical office building and adjacent garage?  Following that UV-D thread, we find an allowable 79 ft height limit on one acre or more for a planned development, plus a possible 30 feet more for miscellaneous roof structures. A possible 7-story building in the middle of downtown Bellaire.  

The ordinance includes the language  (c) Requests for additional height beyond the allowances provided in items (a) and (b), above, shall require approval of a specific use permit. So even taller structures could be allowed.  This would seem to make the 3-story Methodist proposal much more palatable.  A Public Hearing before City Council may be scheduled for mid-June.

Meanwhile our neighbor city, West University Place, continues to monitor development under a code of ordinances that limits building height of any structure to 2-1/2 stories, and does not allow multi-family housing.  West University remained financially stable thanks to a rise in property values and conservative financial decisions. 

Another article, A Short Primer On Bellaire’s Planning and Zoning, drills a little deeper into the peculiar requirements of these new zoning districts and ordinances and the people who approved them back in 2014.

Please email comments, concerns, or questions to the Mayor and members of City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your email be forwarded to the Mayor and Council.

Odds and Ends

In 2014 Ordinance No 14-013 did away with the commercial zoning that had been in place for decades and No 14-041 for the City Center was enacted shortly after the commercial areas were rezoned. 

Coincidentally, by February 2015 H-E-B announced plans for a multi-story grocery store in the UV-D.  Older one-story structures in UV-D are now grandfathered, that is they are considered non-conforming.


Code of Ordinances for City of Bellaire, Texas

24-502 Permitted UsesI could not find a definition for Permitted Use, but I did find this via Google: A ‘use by right’ is a use permitted in a zoning district and is therefore not subject to special review and approval by a local government.
24-502 Specific UsesSpecific Use definition: A use permitted by ordinance in a district where it is not necessarily incompatible but where it might cause harm if not watched. Exceptions are authorized under conditions which will insure their compatibility with surrounding uses.
24-504 Planned DevelopmentPlanned Development District (Amendment) definition: A zoning district of the City of Bellaire approved in accordance with provisions of this chapter for amendments to the chapter and Official Zoning District Map, which has, as a part of the amendment, a site plan for development of the entire district.

About Jane McNeel

Bellaire resident since 1956. Email: bellairebcc@gmail.com. Find more information on 'About This Site' in the main menu.
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