Bellaire city officials are working through an update of the city’s comprehensive plan, a process that could serve as a guiding light for future development and redevelopment in the area, including a potential new office building in downtown.

City staff have been working on the plan update since May, hosting workshops and community engagement sessions to bring in public feedback. The city contracted community planning firm Kendig Keast Collaborative to take on the work.

Members of the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission reviewed the latest draft of the plan at a Dec. 11 meeting. One more public hearing will take place in February before officials said they expect the plan to go to Bellaire City Council for review in March.

Two-minute impact

Bellaire’s comprehensive plan was last updated in 2015, Development Services Director Travis Tanner said. The plan update is intended to provide the city with guidance for a 20-year time frame, Tanner said, although he recommended the plan be revisited every five to seven years for potential changes.

The plan is designed to reinforce neighborhood integrity and preserve the city’s reputation as a “City of Homes.” However, the plan also serves as an opportunity to incorporate priorities that residents have voiced during the workshopping process, including parks and recreation opportunities, safe streets, and the development of commercial areas.

Among other areas, Kendig Keast President Gary Mitchell said the plan will focus on:
  • Neighborhood integrity
  • Commercial development and enhancement
  • Flood risk mitigation
  • Public safety
  • Quality of life
  • Land use and zoning
With several high-profile developments either underway or proposed in Bellaire’s few commercial areas, Tanner said zoning ordinances in nonresidential areas have been a focus of some discussions.

“A major priority is ensuring nonresidential development and redevelopment are compatible with residential neighborhoods,” Tanner said. “More economic pressure is resulting in nonresidential development and redevelopment now than when the plan was last updated.”••Goals in the proposed plan reference actions that can be taken in Bellaire’s Urban Village Transit district; the Urban Village Downtown area; and corridor mixed-use districts, which can be found at various points in the city. Recommendations also focus on landscaping and signage practices.

Bellaire’s land use plan breaks the city down into different districts. The comprehensive plan update will not directly change the districts, but the latest draft calls on city officials to review ordinances for potential changes.

Corridor Mixed Use
  • Potential removal of multifamily residential development
  • Maintain the allowance of small-lot attached residential development
  • Revisit the extent of lot and site coverage allowed, including for flood mitigation reasons
Urban Village Transit
  • Proposed name change to Bellaire Uptown Business Area
  • No changes in boundaries
  • Change zoning to move away from transit-oriented development and better protect nearby residential areas from incompatible nonresidential development
Urban Village Downtown
  • Potential elimination of minimum building height requirement
  • Revisit the maximum building height allowed
  • Provide for some front yard area, including to accommodate street trees and wider sidewalks
Zooming in

As city officials work through the comprehensive plan update, Bellaire continues to see interest from developers who want to carry out projects.

During plan workshops, the Bellaire Town Center development has been cited as a model to follow for several reasons:
  • good use of greenery along streets
  • building design includes lots of windows, interesting architectural features and a variety of materials
  • pedestrian areas along the sides of the building
Meanwhile, officials with Houston Methodist are pitching a mixed-use medical office building project in Bellaire’s Urban Village District. Methodist has sought a “planned development” designation for the project to allow for some tweaks not normally allowed in that district, including how much of the front building facade needs to be at the front of the property line with zero feet of setback.

The context

Public input is playing a central role in Bellaire’s comprehensive plan update, Tanner said, including feedback from a survey of 1,169 residents in 2023. Residents largely agreed that Bellaire should not allow more land to be developed for nonresidential uses, but also agreed the city should allow properties to be rezoned to nonresidential when it makes sense.
What's next?

Following a Dec. 11 workshop, officials with Bellaire’s Planning & Zoning Commission said a joint workshop with City Council would likely take place in late January to discuss final revisions to land use categories based on resident feedback and development trends. The commission would then host a public hearing in February, and the plan could come before the Bellaire City Council for consideration in March.