Members of the Bellaire City Council will reconsider language in the city’s comprehensive plan to potentially allow smaller forms of multifamily residential units to be built within the city.

What happened

The council approved the 2023-24 Comprehensive Plan update April 1 after a four-hour discussion that yielded 21 recommended changes.

Of the 21 suggested amendments, the council passed 19 and voted down two. One of the items that did not pass related to multifamily residential units, which failed by a 3-4 vote.

The recommendation was to remove multifamily residential as a potential use in the city's Corridor Mixed-Use zoning district—or CMU—and revise standards in the Urban Village-Downtown district, or UV-D.

CMU is a form of zoning that allows for both residential and commercial uses in one area. UV-D provides a mix of commercial, office, civic and entertainment uses.

Council member Brian Witt, who initially voted against the item, said he wants to revisit the topic. Witt requested reconsideration of the item to be amended to the following:

  • Consider reductions to the maximum density and other standards for multifamily residential uses within CMU and UV-D, including the removal of by right multifamily development.

In their own words

As soon as the initial vote was over, Witt said he started having second thoughts about whether he made the right decision and ultimately decided to bring a new amendment to the April 15 City Council meeting for a vote of reconsideration.

“We have heard loud and clear that the city, and I would include myself in this, do not want to have large multifamily units,” he said. “But what about smaller units on top of something else?”

Witt said that while the citizens of Bellaire are heavily against large multifamily units, such as apartment complexes, some are interested in smaller spaces with five to 10 units that are built over an existing structure.

“Right now, what we’ve said to that is ‘no,’” Witt said. “With what my amendment is, it is for us to say, ‘maybe.’”

Witt said the most important part of his recommendation would also be the removal of by-right multifamily from the comprehensive plan, which would require any future multifamily development to be approved by City Council first.

“That’s a pain in the butt, but it’s designed that way because we want to make sure that it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It allows us to have a voice in what we see, but more specifically, it gives people who want to develop in our city a clear view of what we might even entertain.”

Stay tuned

Council members voted 4-2 in favor of revisiting the item.

The amendment will return to council for discussion and a final vote during a May 6 meeting.