UPDATE 9/4/2020: A Public Hearing was held on Thursday, August 13, 2020, before the Planning and Zoning Commission, for the parking lot at 4300 Bellaire Blvd. I counted twenty speakers opposed the zoning request, no one spoke in favor. The next P&Z meeting is scheduled for September 10, 2020. However the September 10th Agenda, just posted, contains no mention of the the parking lot other than in the minutes from the August meeting. Oversight? If not, what’s going on?
Representing Evelyn’s Park were Lou Waters, a member of the Evelyn’s Park Conservancy Board, and John Morton of Triple Crown Investments, the developer of Southside Commons, located in Southside Place.
Please, listen to the telephonic August meeting here , listen to your neighbors’ concerns and objections regarding this parking lot, during the public comments period at the beginning of the meeting. There’s too much to report but I found the entire meeting fascinating.
At the end of the hearing the Chair, Ross Gordon, pointed out numerous errors and omissions regarding the application:
- It lists the City of Bellaire as the owner, which is not correct and creates confusion. (The property is owned by Centerpoint.)
- Across both the City’s agenda statements and the application from Evelyn’s Park there is no mention of Southside Commons and no mention of an agreement to share the parking lot; that the application was considered complete and accurate without any mention of Southside Commons and the lease agreement is concerning.
- Similarly the application doesn’t include a title certificate, which is required for SUP applications.
- It did not include a letter or any confirmation from Centerpoint or that Centerpoint as the owner of the land is actually supporting Evelyn’s Park in this application. He suggested that it may not be an explicit requirement but it has been the practice in the past.
- In the end this is a Specific Use Permit for a piece of property that neither Evelyn’s Park nor Southside Commons owns.
- Not mentioning the lease and sublease and why they can’t be released is important … because of a standard of transparency. (Mr. Waters and Mr. Morton claimed they could not release those leases because of a Confidentiality Agreement with Centerpoint, which was not presented, either.)
- “If you do not understand this dynamic and simply read the agenda packet today you would be missing a lot of relevant information which I think is unfair to our residents, to not be give the full story when it comes to the application and the agenda statement.”
He might have added that the City of Bellaire neglected to mention that the City contacted Centerpoint about public parking in 2013 and 2016. Read the letters here.
Find copies of the Centerpoint lease and sublease here: Centerpoint lease agreements with the Conservancy already in place in 2017 and Southside Commons in 2019.
The request was filed by the Evelyn’s Park Conservancy in an attempt to circumvent the City’s order to remove the lot from the existing R-5 residential district after the parking lot was built in March of 2020 for the use of Southside Commons, located in Southside Place.
The Conservancy can share the use of the lot at certain times and now wants to amend the zoning and zoning map. Here’s what is being requested from P&Z
- Change Sec. 24-202. – Definitions. to include a definition for Accessory Parking.
- If that is approved they want to amend Sec. 24-534. – R-5 Residential District to allow Accessory Parking under Specific Uses. Currently the only Specific Uses under 24-534 are schools and churches.
- If that is approved the Conservancy wants P&Z to approve an Application for a Specific Use Permit to construct an accessory parking lot to be used for off-site parking.
Simple, right? Build a parking lot in violation of City codes and requirements, with an illegally issued permit.
- Now request that the City add a new definition to our Code of Ordinances for ‘Accessory Parking’.
- Then request a new use to the list of Specific Uses (schools and churches) in the R-5 Residential District zoning to allow for ‘Accessory Parking’.
- And, finally, request approval of a Specific Use Permit to construct a parking lot that has already been built. And voilà, no need to remove that ‘accessory parking’ lot.
Too bad about the residents who live in the vicinity of the parking lot, including the neighbor right next door. Or the other residents in R-5 districts who will be affected by this zoning change. You can find R-5 districts on this zoning map.
Area residents are fighting back. Apparently the members of the board of Evelyn’s Park Conservancy saw no problem with a public parking lot, open day and night, shuttles and vehicles coming and going until after 2 AM, full of strangers, in a residential area and just a feet away from a residence. After all, it’s for the Park.
And what a delightful first view of our City as you enter from the east on Bellaire Blvd. Why worry about Bellaire’s image and reputation for zoning, there’s nothing like a parking lot to lift one’s spirits! And best of all for the board members of EPC, it’s not adjacent to one of their homes.
Seems like a perfect plan to circumvent a zoning ordinance, following the maxim ‘apologize later’. But, if a parking lot can be built in R-5, why not in R-1? How can the City approve an illegal permit for one request but refuse others? I can see some serious court cases stemming from such a precedent.
The review of the application was the responsibility of the Director and staff in the Development Services Department. The same Department that issued the illegal permit to build the parking lot and the same Department that approved the plans – while bypassing all the required steps for approval.
Residents have expressed concerns about the actions of Development Services regarding developers for several years. The City staff seems to spend a great deal of time and effort working with developers to prepare zoning applications instead of advising developers to educate themselves to the process and our Code of Ordinances.
The request will now be considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, September 10, 2020. Comments may be submitted to the P&Z Commissioners via email to email@example.com until September 2, 2020. Emails are important if citizens want this illegal parking lot removed.
Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 2nd. Please, let P&Z know what you think of this request!!