Board of Adjustment Variance Request For Southwest Corner of Bissonnet @ Loop 610 – September 23, 2021

UPDATE 9/24/2021: The request for a variance was refused by a 4-to-3 vote. You can watch the meeting here.  One of the owners stated that prior to the purchase they had received a letter from AT&T assuring them that the small parcel could be developed, and that based on that letter the City staff also assured them it could be developed.  That letter was not included in the application.   

Listening to a member of City staff at the meeting, it seemed obvious that the City endorsed the request, regardless of the fact that it violated the zoning ordinance for lot coverage and the required minimum site size for a new PD.  The applicant now has the option to apply for a variance to reduce the required size of a PD site in the Loop 610 District from a 4-acre minimum to a 1.99-acre minimum.  If that were approved the owners could then go to the Planning and Zoning Commission with a request for a development.  Find the original article below.

A Board of Adjustment public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, September 23, 2021, at 7 PM on an application for a variance for the 1.99 acre property at the Southwest Corner of Bissonnet @ Loop 610, located in the Loop 610 District.

This is the shady tree-lined corner that runs along Bissonnet, down from the old AT&T building.  Zoning in the Loop 610 District clearly states that the minimum site area for a Planned Development is 4 acres with a maximum site coverage of 60% and a building height of 6 stories.  

At a Planning & Zoning public hearing in January, 2020, Cushman & Wakefield, on behalf of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company (AT&T), applied to remove from PD-10 approximately 1.9927 acres located at the southwest corner of Bissonnet Street and the West Loop 610 freeway.  It had been parceled out and sold by SBC Communications to Bissonnet Street Ventures in 2018.  The application to remove the parcel was approved by Planning and Zoning.  

Now there are two different owners. Per HCAD the owner of the old AT&T site, situated in PD-9 and PD-10, is CCI Bellaire I LP with an address in Austin.  Bissonnet Street Ventures LLC is still shown as the owner of the small parcel.  Curiously, the Agenda Statement that accompanies this application states that the small site is located in both PD-9 and PD-10, but the Cushman & Wakefield application in 2020 clearly stated PD-10. The entire site was originally developed for the Prudential Insurance Company in 1975. 

A quick review of the City’s zoning map also shows that this parcel is located in PD-10. But City staff suggests that the entire site (both PDs) could be used to compute the site coverage for this 1.99 acre site, even though this is an entirely new parcel of land with a new owner.  Does that mean this is not to be considered as a new Planned Development?  

This is of special interest: Per a portion of the minutes of a February*, 2010, meeting included in the current application submitted to the Board of Adjustment, the Planning & Zoning Commission approved a request from AT&T for an amended plat that sectioned off the 1.99 acres for future use.  A large number of aerial easements are specified on the second page.  According to the meeting minutes the land had been sold and AT&T was leasing back the buildings but wanted to reserve that space.  Find the 2-page record of those 2010 minutes here.  Documents and information can be found in the Agenda Statement

At a Planning and Zoning Workshop on November 14, 2019, a representative from Identity Architects described an office building with a height of 160 feet (approximately 14 to 16 stories) on this site, to include a mix of retail, restaurants, offices and parking.  The Planned Development use in the Loop 610 District calls for a maximum height of 6 stories, on a minimum site size of 4 acres.  And no retail.    

At the January 9, 2020 P&Z meeting, the same meeting Cushman & Wakefield requested the removal of the parcel from PD-10, Identity Architects made another short presentation for Bissonnet Street Ventures.  P&Z did not address any requests from the applicant at that time because it seemed out of order in the zoning process.  The new development, in a slightly different design,  seems to be marketed online:  West Loop Medical 6400 West Loop South, 

Now the latest design appears to be much smaller in scale, a 5-story medical building. Apparently the developer got the message about the live oaks, but this still requires a lot of maneuvering to accommodate the 4-acre site requirement in the Loop 610 District. The architect and the City staff seem to  claim that it’s still part of the AT&T property.

This is the current recommendation from City Staff: “It is staff’s opinion, upon review of the application and materials submitted, that the application does meet three of the four Standards for Variances, as outlined in Article VII, Division 1, Section 24-704 of the City’s Code of Ordinances. Therefore, if the Board finds that the hardship present was not selfcreated, and that standard #2 is met, staff has no objection to the approval of the request to allow 60% lot coverage for the 1.99 acre parcel, increasing the total lot coverage for PD-9 & 10 to 62%.”

And this plan is always subject to change.  It’s up to our Boards and Commissions to do the right thing for our residents.  Bellaire residents need to know if they can depend on the City’s Zoning, or if it is constantly in flux depending on who wants to change it. Our downtown center and areas along Bissonnet were rezoned in 2014, leaving the mess we see around the H-E-B store along Spruce and Fifth.  With the added bonus of a zero setback from the lot line for new construction in the UV-D that allows no option for pull-in parking at the front of a new building.  The zoning also requires a minimum building height of 30 feet.

Old time Bellaire residents recall that part of the 1975 agreement with Prudential Insurance included a promise to provide a parkland area at the corner of Bissonnet and Loop 610.  However the document or documents, if they ever existed, along with the site development plans regarding any agreement, seem to have been misfiled or lost.  View the original Prudential Insurance ordinance here.  

*Edited, the original date shown was January, 2010, not February, 2010.  Gremlins, perhaps?

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About Jane McNeel

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