November 07, 2007
Ashby ordinance delayed

According to Matt Stiles, the Anti-Bissonnet High-Rise ordinance was on the agenda for City Council today. Well, sort of.

As the council convenes today, though, it seems likely that the measure could be delayed for as long as three months.

The ordinance, (click on the Nov. 7 link) which would authorize the public works director to require developers to change projects that would add to traffic congestion in surrounding neighborhoods, was "tagged" last week, a one-time delay tactic. Any additional delay would require a council vote.

White said Tuesday that he will seek a delay if Matthew Morgan and Kevin Kirton, the developers who want to build a 23-story mixed-use project at 1717 Bissonnet, agree in writing to delay seeking any permits. This would give the city time to tweak a few areas in the ordinance that he believes need some work, White said.

If the developers don't agree to hold off, White said, he'll ask the council to pass the ordinance now, in its current form. White didn't specify a time frame, but leaders of neighborhood groups fighting the project said they understood the requested delay to be 90 days.

Given the speed with which this sucker has come to the fore, I'd say a delay of 90 days is pretty reasonable. And it seems now that Council agreed with that.

The council's action came after the developers, Matthew Morgan and Kevin Kirton of Buckhead Investment Partners, agreed in writing not to seek any additional permits during the 90-day period. Their planned 23-story, mixed-use building at 1717 Bissonnet has focused attention on the need for better rules to manage the impact of dense new developments on residential neighborhoods.

Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck, who represents the neighborhoods adjacent to the project site, cast the only vote against the delay. Dozens of residents of the Southampton and Boulevard Oaks neighborhoods showed up for today's council meeting, and several of them pleaded with the council to act quickly.

Chris Amandes, an attorney who co-chairs a task force of leaders of the two neighborhoods, said Tuesday that he was worried that a lengthy delay would prompt efforts to add features to the ordinance that might jeopardize its passage.

"There are lots of opportunities for anybody who has any kind of land-use issue to tie their wagon to this ordinance," Amandes said.

Now see, I'd consider that a feature, not a bug. Your mileage may vary on that, but I've said all along I want to see something more comprehensive discussed, if for no other reason than to ensure that people in other, non-Southampton neighborhoods get the same opportunity to exert a little influence over development in their vicinities. More here, and on Miya's blog.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 07, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston

It's not clear if the mayor wanted the 90 day delay or city council itself wanted it.

The mayor may have wanted it to give him time to figure out if he can remove an ordinance by ordinance. No doubt that will be the next "emergency" ordinance.

Article 7b, Section 13 of the Houston City Charter blocks city council from regulating land use with regard to unrestricted land. That is per the last referendum on zoning which was in 1994.
Which means the city cannot regulate land use on the corner of Bissonnet and Ashby. It is unrestricted land.

The mayor should have allowed the voters to decide instead of deciding for them. There are a lot of really angry people, all voters, and that may be one reason why 13 of 14 councilmembers voted for the delay. Some actually might have voted for zoning this time. But they do not support zoning by ordinance in the back room of City Hall.

One thing is clear. You violate the will of the voters at your own risk.

Quite a few believe this ordinance will help other homeowners in other neighborhoods. Reality is that deed restrictions are endorceable. Reality is the city does nothing to enforce deed restrictions. As many homeowners have discovered.

Why would anyone believe this ordinance would be enforced either apart from stopping just this one development?

Posted by: Baby Snooks on November 7, 2007 4:33 PM

"Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck, who represents the neighborhoods adjacent to the project site, cast the only vote against the delay."

First let me admit that I'm not as well-informed as I should be regarding city politics. I'm just curious about this and hope someone will enlighten me.

She was the only one to vote against the delay? I see countless houses with "Stop Ashby Highrise" yard signs AND "Vote for Clutterbuck" signs. What am I missing?

Thank you.

Posted by: confused on November 7, 2007 4:55 PM

Confused - Clutterbuck, and the Southampton folks, wanted the ordinance adopted today. Her vote was against waiting 90 days, with an assurance from the developer not to pull permits, while the ordinance gets tweaked.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 7, 2007 5:26 PM

I'm glad I admitted in the beginning that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

After I read it again I realized that I misunderstood what they were actually voting on.

Apologies and thanks for your patience.

Posted by: eureka on November 7, 2007 10:51 PM