Variance Request For SW Corner of Bissonnet @ Loop 610 – Update and Public Information Request

UPDATE 12/28/2021: The City of Bellaire received a Public Information Request in November, 2021, from the office of a local attorney.  Find the detailed request here.  As of this date the Request is still open.  Are we going to see more lawsuits?       

UPDATE 9/24/2021: A request for a variance was refused by a 4-to-3 vote. You can watch the 9/23/2021 BOA 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.  Find the original article from September 17, 2021, 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, and no retail.  

Some Background On This BOA Application

At a Planning & Zoning public hearing on January 9, 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 in 2010 and sold by SBC Communications to Bissonnet Street Ventures in 2018, but AT&T, which no longer owned any of PD 9-10, made the request to remove it in 2020.

This is of special interest: Per a portion of the minutes of a February, 2010, P&Z  meeting, included in the current application submitted to the Board of Adjustment, the Planning & Zoning Commission, chaired by Winfred Frazier, 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 2010 meeting minutes here.  

Click to enlarge.

Per HCAD there are now two owners. of land in PD-9-10 in the Loop 610 District.  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.  The owner of the small 1.99 acre parcel is Bissonnet Street Ventures LLC.  CCI Bellaire I LP, was not involved in any of these discussions. Find that 1/9/2020 meeting video and agenda here.  Go to 1:58 to view the hearing.   

At this same January, 2020 meeting Identity Architects made a short presentation on behalf of  Bissonnet Street Ventures for a 9-story building.  That building is currently marketed online as West Loop Medical 6400 West Loop South.    P&Z did not address any requests from the applicant at that time because it seemed out of order in the zoning process.  

It was a very confusing hearing.  The suggestions from P&Z included the possibility to address a request to the Board of Adjustment to amend the PD plan for that site, to amend the PD to allow multi-tenants, to continue to a decision in the next month (February, but no meeting was held), and to contact the City about the tenant market including in the Galleria area!  It seems the City cannot locate the original site plans or the documentation for the original PD 9-10.  In fact, it seems a large number of documents for earlier planned developments are missing.  

(The same architect had made an earlier presentation in November of 2019 to P&Z for an even taller office building with a height of 160 feet to include a mix of retail, restaurants, offices and parking. No further action was taken by P&Z on this presentation.)

On To the Board of Adjustment in 2021

The Agenda Statement that accompanies this application to Board of Adjustment in 2021 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, and since most documents concerning this Planned Development cannot be found it’s difficult to explain why the two PDs were combined.

A quick review of the City’s zoning map 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? 

The latest design, submitted to the Board of Adjustment, appears to be much smaller in scale than those presented to P&Z.  It is now a 5-story medical building. Apparently the developer got the message about the live oaks, but this still requires a lot of maneuvering on 1.99 acres 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 Prudential/AT&T property, not a separate Planned Development with a different owner.

Staff seems to support this application.  Remember, if this variance is approved this site 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 instead 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 requirement of a zero setback from the lot line for new construction in the UV-D, there is no option for pull-in parking at the front of a new building.  The zoning also requires a minimum building height of 30 feet for any new structures.  

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.  

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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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