GOVERNMENT • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • FROM BELLAIRE
Page 6 | THE ESSENTIALS
City of Homes, City of
Commerce — or both?
A Bellaire zoning primer
By Jane McNeel
Especially with election rhetoric
flowing, there is a lot of
misinformation out there these
days in Bellaire. Before launching into
this historical explanation of the city’s
planning and zoning, I want to clear up
one glaring misstatement: those who
point to Rice Village as an example of
West University allowing midrise mixed-use
development, including apartments.
Rice Village, growing in height and
density, is in Houston. West University
does not allow apartment development
and nothing over 2 ½ stories except for
the church and elementary school, both
on University Boulevard.
Bellaire has debated the question of
P&Z, staff seesaw with
developer on specifics of
Chevron property plans
The back-and-forth continues on the
future of Bellaire Place, the 30-
acre former Chevron property on
Fournace Place between the West Loop
and South Rice Avenue.
In a workshop with the developer, Danny
Sheena of SLS Properties, on Oct. 17, the
P&Z agreed that the city’s Corridor Mixed
Use (CMU) zoning designation requested
by Sheena had never been intended for a
development of that size.
Instead, repurposing the Technical
Research Park District (TRPD) was
suggested as a more appropriate
designation, and Sheena was asked
to return the week of Oct. 28 (past
Essentials’ deadline) for another
In the meantime, he submitted an
updated site plan eliminating the
controversial 300-unit, three-acre multi-family
residential feature along Fournace
from the plan, and lowered the height on
the South Rice side of the property to 65
feet. SLS has proposed a movie theater
and athletic club at that location.
Sheena was asked to come up with a list
of permitted uses he would like to include
in the new zoning district, while P&Z
asked city staff to draft new language for
such a district.
Tentatively, a public hearing was set for
the week of Nov. 18, with a vote at the
P&Z’s Dec. 12 meeting.
City Council voted 6-1 at its Oct. 21
meeting to hired ARKK Engineers, LLC,
for city engineering services for another
year at $75,000.
Only Councilmember Pat McLaughlan
opposed the arrangement, which has
come under public scrutiny and become a
campaign issue because of concerns that
there’s a conflict between the contract
and principal engineer James Andrews
also gaining other city contracts for
individual engineering projects.
protecting residential zoning versus
encouraging commercial ventures for 50
years or more. It was a primary trigger
for an election in 1977 that recalled the
mayor and three of five councilmembers
who ignored residents’ wishes to remain
a “City of Homes.”
The ordinances that mandate every detail
of development 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 council.
Commissioners may be attorneys or
artists, oil and gas executives or real
estate agents, stay-at-home moms or
dads. 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
for professional advice. Their decisions
are referred to City Council for final
review and approval.
For decades the perimeter of Bellaire’s
downtown commercial area adjoining
residential areas was zoned CCD-1 and
allowed two-story height (25 feet) on
small parcels and three stories (35 feet)
for planned development structures on
an acre or more.
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 the center
where Randalls and other business are
located. It made sense.
But zoning in commercial areas of
Bellaire was changed in 2014. The
Planning & Zoning Commission did
away with CCD-1 and CCD-2, combining
them with RM-F, RM-1, 2 or 3. which
were originally a mix of Residential-
Commercial Mixed-Use areas along areas
of Bissonnet and Bellaire boulevards.
The various zoning areas were then
rearranged into UV-D and CMU.
Maximum commercial building height
on a small lot in the UV-D was increased
from two stories to 40 feet plus a possible
20 ft more — up to 60 feet potentially.
And a multi-family component was