Lastest Ashby plans nixed

The developers may be moving forward, but the city is saying “not so fast”.

City officials have rejected the latest permit applications for the controversial Ashby high-rise, saying the developers must provide more information about traffic impact and take other steps before the project can be approved.

In returning the plans for the 23-story building to developers Matthew Morgan and Kevin Kirton of Buckhead Investment Partners Inc., city engineer Mark L. Loethen said they must supply more data about anticipated traffic volumes, including figures about traffic generated by similar projects in other parts of Houston.

Loethen also expressed concern that a planned driveway into the project at 1717 Bissonnet might cause problems, including encroachment into the westbound lanes of Bissonnet by large trucks backing into the driveway.

Morgan said he and his partner would work with their traffic consultant to provide the requested information and resubmit the plans, which they first submitted almost a year ago.

Although Mayor Bill White has said publicly that the city will not approve the project in its current form, Morgan said the outcome of the application process is not certain.

“We continue to believe we have followed all the rules and regulations that were in place at the time we submitted our plans,” Morgan said. “We have a legal right to build this project as originally designed.”

I still believe that in the end, there is nothing the city can do to stop this project. The best outcome is to improve codes and regulations to prevent the next inappropriately located high rise from getting built.

Chris Amandes, a leader of the neighborhood-based Stop Ashby High Rise task force, said he doesn’t understand why the developers are continuing a project that the mayor has said the city won’t approve.

“They may be setting themselves up to sue the city, or using this application as a bludgeon” to pressure the neighborhood to agree to proposals that it has so far found unacceptable, Amandes said.

I believe the lawsuit option is indeed what they have in mind, and frankly I think they’d win. I think they know that, and I think the city does, too. The city can bluster all it wants, but I think the developers win now or win later, and it’s just a matter of how much it costs.

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