Immediately following a public hearing that saw about a dozen Bellaire residents speak against approving the lot, the council voted 7-0 Nov. 16 to deny an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance that could have allowed the parking lot to remain in place.
A motion was made to deny the request by Council Member Nathan Wesely, who serves as the council’s liaison to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which had previously held its own public hearing on the parking lot. Council member Catherine Lewis seconded.
“At the crux of the matter is whether we would allow a commercial entity in the R-5,” Wesley said, referring to the residential zone where the parking lot is located. “I’d be against that on principle, and on approving a zoning change after the fact to accommodate a developer.”
The council’s vote comes after the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Oct. 8 to recommend denial of the text amendments and specific use permit. City council had the final say on whether to approve or deny the applications.
Had the zoning changes been approved, Bellaire’s code of ordinances would allow for accessory parking under specific uses in the R-5 residential zoning district, where the parking lot is located.
Lewis took particular issue with this specific zoning allowance.
“I don’t see this as accessory parking, but rather it’s offsite parking,” Lewis said. “It invites offsite uses that are not contemplated in the zoning code.”
Bellaire mayor pro tem Gus Pappas, meanwhile, highlighted the safety concerns raised by several residents during the public hearing portion of the meeting as it relates to having vehicles parked and driving near and around residences, and echoed other council members about zoning considerations.
Council member Michael Fife focused on beautification in her argument for voting in favor of denying the requests.
“I certainly do not think it belongs on our front door," she said. “To me, it’s like putting your washer and dryer in your living room,” she said.
The decision comes after the city of Bellaire issued a permit for the parking lot in error in January, and after the contractor began construction on the lot, according to an Aug. 13 agenda report presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
In March, once the error was discovered, the city provided notice to Evelyn’s Park that the parking lot was not permitted, and ordered it be removed within 14 days. Before the 14-day deadline passed, Evelyn’s Park submitted the applications for the zoning code amendment and a specific use permit.
The city could take up to 30 days to enforce the removal of the parking lot.