The approval came after a nearly six-hour special meeting on May 24 by city council designed to hammer out any additional amendments to the zoning document ahead of a vote.
The council ultimately voted 4-3 to approve an amended version of the zoning document, which creates the new mixed-use district located around the former Chevron campus at 4800 Fournace Place, but also stretches from South Rice Avenue to Loop 610 and from Fournace Place to the residential homes on Mayfair Street. The district was formerly zoned as a Technical Research Park District, which officials said limited the potential commercial uses for the site.
Council members Catherine Lewis, Nathan Wesely and Jim Hotze voted against approving the district.
“I’m sorry that this council hasn’t seen fit to make any significant changes to the zoning proposal from planning and zoning,” said Lewis, who outlined in detail several of her concerns with the district, including building shadows on residences, and traffic and environmental concerns. “I don’t think it provides enough protection for the neighborhoods to the north and to the south. I’m going to vote against it as a whole because [the Technical Research Park District] was a better ordinance in terms of protecting us.”
Her comments come after some residents expressed concerns earlier this year about the potential effects of new development on traffic and flooding, among other areas.
The council approved several amendments to the zoning language before approving the new district as a whole. Restaurants, for example, were added as a contemplated use, while the council voted to strike not only payday loan institutions as a contemplated use, but also indoor movie theaters.
The council also amended the zoning language to increase setbacks from 35 feet—as recommended by the city’s planning and zoning commission—to 65 feet for commercial properties that border residences along the district.
The approved zoning document also requires any proposed development to go through the planned development process, which tailors zoning regulations to the specific needs of a project plan and the unique characteristics of a site. Developments will also require approval from both the planning and zoning commission and the city council.
“I think nothing has been decided, and all of this is before us, but there is a framework by which something is going to be presented, and I think that we have done that,” Mayor Pro Tem Gus Pappas said. “I think that all of those issues are still fertile ground for discussion when an actual plan is before us.”