“We have exhausted all legal means to stop this project,” said Parker, reiterating her opposition against the project.
Next week, Buckhead and its architects will begin meeting to make changes to the plans based on the settlement, said Buckhead’s Kevin Kirton.
Residents who have spent years fighting the project expressed further disappointment at Monday night’s meeting at Congregation Emanu El.
“I feel wholly deflated,” said Jim Reeder, co-chair of the Stop Ashby High Rise Task Force.
The Stop Ashby folks expressed their opinion of the proposal before the meeting. I can’t tell from the Chron story how, or if, their concerns were addressed, but Your Houston News tells us a bit about what was brought up.
Going back to 2005, documentation existed – both with the Southampton Civic Club and the City of Houston- indicating knowledge of this development taking shape, but know one publicly acknowledged or acted upon it.
I can only imagine where our neighborhood would be today if the folks referred to in these articles – key figures at both the Civic Club and community as well as elected officials at the city –had acted to stop the project back then, instead of waiting until 2007 to begin publicly admonishing the project. It may be coincidence, but the same folks came together to support a similar high-density project in the Rice Village area during that time. Early opposition to the Ashby high-rise at that time could have jeopardized the project in the Village area – the one in which the city faced opposition from area residents and which involved the selling of a block of Bolsover Street to developers by the city.
Many folks listed in those articles – Kathy Easterly, Erik Eriksson, and others – were in attendance at this meeting, but chose not to speak. In fact, other elected officials, including At-Large Position 1 Council member Stephen Costello, former At-Large Council member Sue Lovell and others, were in attendance but also chose not to speak. The former District C council member, Southampton resident, and former president of the Southampton Civic Club, Anne Clutterbuck, was not in attendance.
Many more folks lined up at the microphones to comment and ask questions that, according to the mayor, were put into the public record. Comments ranged from a passionate plea by one resident questioning safety measures that would protect her child from harm by speeding traffic being forced onto Wroxton Road by the new construction to demands that the city forcibly take the property by eminent domain. Another resident, once again, floated the idea that the city could create a nonprofit entity by which residents could begin the process of raising money to buy the property from the developers – an idea that a representative of the developers attending the meeting said they would consider.
I don’t know what Mayor Parker or City Attorney David Feldman said to these concerns, but this is what I would have said: 1) Wroxton is still going to be a little side road with a lot of stop signs on it. More stop signs, and maybe some speed bumps, can be added if needed. No one is going to drive on Wroxton if they want to get somewhere in a hurry. 2) Under what pretext, exactly, would the city invoke eminent domain that wouldn’t subsequently be laughed out of court in the ensuing lawsuit? 3) Buckhead asked for $40 million in damages in the lawsuit the city is now settling. While I’m sure they’d have accepted a lower price for a buyout, I’m also sure there are better uses for the money.
The bottom line is that in a city with no zoning and relatively few constraints on development (at least, at the time this project was first proposed), what exactly was there for the city to do about this? I understand the residents’ concerns, and I have a lot of sympathy for them. I agree this is a poorly conceived and poorly located project. It’s entirely possible the city could have gotten a better settlement, though given the empty hand they were playing it’s hard to see how. We all knew how this was going to turn out, barring a loss of nerve or some kind of implosion on Buckhead’s part. What else was there to do?
Anyway. Here’s a photo gallery from the meeting. Did anybody here attend this? If so, what was your impression? Prime Property and Swamplot have more. Be sure to read this comment for an interesting prediction about what may come next.