The property at 4800 Fournace Place is part of a new mixed-use neighborhood approved by Bellaire City Council on May 24. (Hunter Marrow / Community Impact Newspaper)
After more than a year of developing, debating, listening to residents and organizing several workshops of the City Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council, the new Special Development District of North Bellaire of the town of Bellaire has been approved.
The approval came after a special nearly six-hour meeting on May 24 by city council to develop additional amendments to the zoning document ahead of a vote.
The board ultimately voted 4-3 to approve an amended version of the zoning document, which creates the new mixed-use neighborhood around the old Chevron campus at 4800 Fournace Place, but also extends from South Rice Avenue to Loop 610 and from Fournace Place to the residences on Mayfair Street. The district was previously zoned as a technical research park district, which officials said limited the potential commercial uses of the site.
Council members Catherine Lewis, Nathan Wesely and Jim Hotze voted against district approval.
“I am sorry this council did not see fit to make significant changes to the zoning, planning and zoning proposal,” said Lewis, who described in detail many of his concerns with the district, including building shadows on residences, and traffic and environmental concerns. “I don’t think it protects the northern and southern neighborhoods enough. I will vote against as a whole because [the Technical Research Park District] was a better prescription to protect us.
His comments come after some residents expressed concerns earlier this year on the potential effects of new developments on traffic and flooding, among others.
Council approved several amendments to the zoning language before approving the new neighborhood as a whole. Restaurants, for example, were added as an intended use, while council voted to remove not only payday lending institutions as an intended use, but indoor movie theaters as well.
The council also changed the zoning language to increase the setbacks from 35 feet – as recommended by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission – to 65 feet for commercial properties that line residences along the neighborhood.
The approved zoning document also requires that any proposed development go through the planned development process, which tailors zoning by-laws to the specific needs of a project plan and the unique characteristics of a site. The developments will also require approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council.
“I think nothing has been decided, and this is all in front of us, but there is a framework by which something is going to be presented, and I think we have done it,” said Pro Mayor Tem Gus. Pappas. “I think all of these questions are still fertile ground for discussion when a real plan is in front of us.”