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Ashby highrise approved

That sound you just heard was a massive freakout in the Southampton area.

More than two years after they first applied, the developers of the Ashby high-rise will receive permits for a project that generated protests and a renewed debate over how to regulate development in Houston, city officials said today.

The decision was based on changes developers Matthew Morgan and Kevin Kirton made in their 11th submission of plans for the building at 1717 Bissonnet, said Andy Icken, deputy director of public works and engineering. City engineers concluded that the changes would reduce traffic sufficiently for the development to meet the city’s standards, he said.

The building will be 23 stories high, the same as originally proposed. Houston’s development codes don’t restrict the height of buildings.

The new plans reduce the number of residential units and eliminate a spa, retail space and executive offices, Icken said. These changes significantly reduce the number of peak-hour trips expected from vehicles entering and exiting the property, one of the key restrictions in the code.

Original plans called for more than 180 daily peak-hour trips into and out of the property, while the latest, approved plans would reduce that number to 120, Icken said. In addition, he said, the new plans would limit the residents’ vehicle entrances and exits from the property to Bissonnet only, not onto surrounding residential streets.

Even so, the decision allows for construction of a high-rise tower adjacent to two affluent, single-family residential neighborhoods whose leaders say the location is unsuitable for such a project.

I figured this would eventually happen. Took a long time, but sooner or later the developers were going to come up with something the city would have to approve. And so here we are, with the relatively minor issue of traffic getting addressed, while the bigger problem of a 23-story building in the middle of a residential neighborhood doesn’t. I’m wondering if the neighborhood will try to keep fighting it – Stop Ashby Highrise was last updated in February – or if they’ll give up now. I wonder if we’ll see more of these signs. And I wonder if the next time we tweak Chapter 42, we’ll do something to prevent future Ashby Highrises.

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14 Comments

  1. Baby Snooks says:

    The city really had no choice. It was either issue the permit or face an expensive lawsuit the city would lose.

    So the “Monster That Ate Southampton” will be coming to a corner near someone soon. After it digests the various politicians it gobbled up along the way.

    It is just the first on Bissonnet. There will be others. Eventually those in West U who were horrified by The Robinhood will be even more horrified by whatever indeed goes up across the street on Bissonnet.

    The other hirises scattered about the city didn’t destroy the neighborhoods and really didn’t add that much to existing traffic. And even though the rich and powerful in those neighborhoods were actually more rich and powerful than in Southampton and Boulevard Oaks, they accepted the will of the voters and accepted that in Houston you cannot restrict the development of unrestricted land. Up, down, or sideways. All are appalled by the outright obnoxiousness at work in this. And by those who participated in the ongoing vendetta, which is what it has been, against two developers. As for their political futures, well, good luck.

    This has been more of an issue for many voters than any of them realized although some may find out in November. If you don’t respect the will of the voters, the voters will remember that the next time at the polls.

  2. Mike says:

    >>they accepted the will of the voters and accepted that in Houston you cannot restrict the development of unrestricted land.

    I’m a Houstonian voter – don’t particularly care about the Ashby high rise. But I’ve never voted on an issue like this. I would like to have my voice heard instead of continually assuming that it has been heard because Houston voted on zoning in 1992 (or was that 1892?). Needless to say, a lot’s changed since then – some basic form-based code and required transportation infrastructure where we are going to have a string of high-rises makes sense. Building a bunch of high-rises on one lane roads in residential areas doesn’t really make sense to me.

  3. Baby Snooks says:

    I would like to have my voice heard instead of continually assuming that it has been heard because Houston voted on zoning in 1992 (or was that 1892?).
    _____________________________________

    Then by all means start a petition to put it back on the ballot. Until then, well, read the city charter.

    Rumor is the homeowners plan to sue both the developers and the city. Nasty lot they are. Pretentious and nasty.

    Get your popcorn.

  4. John says:

    You know, if you want restrictions and building codes, you have to elect people to city government who will put them in place. If you vote against that, and reject the idea of zoning, and then complain when there are no codes and zoning, you’re being silly.

    If those who don’t like the high rise made a case for why some kind of broad restrictions are needed, they might get broad support. The whole thing has come across as “OMG, not on MY block,” which really limits how much anybody else will sympathize – or care one way or the other.

  5. Greenguy says:

    The NIMBYism at work here is absurd. You can’t decry urban sprawl while simultaneously protesting dense housing structures close to major employment centers. The traffic problem was a serious mobility issue. The fact that some people will have less sun in their backyard is much less worrying.

    I’d bet that a solid majority of southampton residents consider themselves pro-business limited government types, which makes the whole brouhaha so ironic.

  6. Pretentious or Nasty? says:

    Hey – I’m a homeowner in the neighborhood. I may be pretentious, but I’m not nasty. And I also thought this was a missed opportunity to use this as an example to address the larger issues of land use in the city.

    But, I remember last September – a couple of hours after the winds from Ike began calming, when much of the neighborhood was in shambles, one of the first activities I saw were people pulling their “Stop Ashby High Rise” signs back out and replacing them in their yards. So I doubt this is over.

  7. Mike says:

    >>Then by all means start a petition to put it back on the ballot. Until then, well, read the city charter.

    Nope – not going to do either. I’m not a developer or an owner in the area. But I will support efforts or ballot initiatives to impose a form-based code in Houston.

    >>If those who don’t like the high rise made a case for why some kind of broad restrictions are needed, they might get broad support.

    Right on. The city is ready for broad-based, minimal regulations. The Ashby neighbors should turn this into a city-wide issue so that this does not happen again. In New York, they had a similar issue in 1920 – the building still was built – but afterward zoning was enacted throughout the city. Here’s hoping that Ashby controversy can likewise be turned into something that helps the city of Houston to enact more sensible regulations.

  8. Baby Snooks says:

    All of this no doubt is going to end up in the courts. So it will be interesting to see what the courts decide. Particularly what the courts decide with regard to “form-based” codes which so far at least to the development community which probably will be front and center in the courtroom appear to be contrary to the city charter. No zoning means just that. No zoning. And zoning by any other name is still zoning. It needs to be put back to the voters.

  9. […] I had wondered if the Stop Ashby Highrise folks were going to emerge from their dormant state. The answer is Yes. […]

  10. Baby Snooks says:

    Looks like someone censored Off the Kuff…

  11. Looks like someone censored Off the Kuff…

    Ummm, what? What in the world are you talking about?

  12. Baby Snooks says:

    When I checked earlier there were 9 comments. Not 12. There were 12 last night. 9 this morning. Now there are 11. And three are missing again. Musical comments on Off the Kuff?

  13. When I checked earlier there were 9 comments. Not 12. There were 12 last night. 9 this morning. Now there are 11. And three are missing again. Musical comments on Off the Kuff?

    Again, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I have not removed any comments from this or any other thread. Perhaps you need to clear your browser cache, or hit Refresh, or something.

  14. […] just as there had been back in 2007 when the project first came up. Given that the developers have finally gotten approval from the city, the impression I get from reading this Examiner story about that town hall is that […]