Bellaire city officials held a joint public hearing July 1 with the planning and zoning commission on three potential amendments to the city’s multifamily district code of ordinances.

What you need to know

The first amendment would add the definition of a townhouse dwelling, which is defined as a group of three or more attached single-family dwelling units in which:

  • Each unit has its own access to the outside
  • No unit is located over another
  • Each unit is separated from any other unit by one or more common, fire-resistant walls
  • Units are located on a separately platted lot

The second amendment would create a new small-lot residential attached district to encompass the provisions for townhomes.

The proposed townhome regulations are based on an examination of recent townhome developments in the area, according to the agenda packet.

  • Minimum lot area: 2,400 square feet
  • Minimum lot width: 30 feet
  • Minimum lot depth: 80 feet
  • Maximum height: 2.5 stories
  • Front yard: 20 feet
  • Rear yard: 5 feet
  • Maximum lot coverage: 60%

The final amendment would change the minimum site area per dwelling unit in the multifamily district from 1,200 square feet to 2,178 square feet.

Taking a step back

The discussion on creating a new residential district was first brought to the table in April following a conversation about the land use zone where Pont Alba apartments are located. Pont Alba is a 92-unit apartment building at Bissonnet Street and Mulberry Lane in Bellaire, where owners have expressed interest in possibly redeveloping the property in the future.

However, as part of the updated comprehensive plan approved in April, the apartment’s future land is recommended to be designated as a small-lot residential attached zone. Bellaire’s code of ordinances does not include a small-lot district, which has led city officials to begin to look into creating one.

City officials said if the new zoning district is approved, Pont Alba would be unable to expand under the new regulations. If the item is voted down, Bellaire’s Development Services Director Travis Tanner said the regulations would stay the same as they are today.

What they are saying

Several residents spoke during the public hearing in favor of the zoning change and keeping Pont Alba from expanding.

Danielle Crockett said she and several of her neighbors near Compton Circle, just south of Pont Alba, are not in favor of having anymore multifamily dwellings near the neighborhood. She said their concerns about a new multifamily dwelling included loss of privacy, loss of single-family character neighborhoods, and increased noise and street parking.

Derek Groenewold, a resident of Mulberry Lane—a street that borders Pont Alba—stated in a written comment that he is also opposed to the construction of any new or expanded multifamily developments.

“The addition of a large multifamily complex on Mulberry Lane will only contribute to more fast-moving, cut-through traffic that is not only dangerous to residents but is detrimental to property values,” he said. “No one wants to live on cut-through streets where children can’t play in their front yards without the fear of getting run over by cars.”

Dan Sebesta, a 50-year homeowner in Bellaire, said he was an apartment dweller for 12 years before becoming a homeowner.

“Apartments aren’t all bad," he said. "You need apartments, but they just need to be very restricted in numbers so you don’t get a cumulation in the area where criminals can come in and disappear. We need some small apartments; it’s just about what kind of apartments we should allow in the city.”

What’s next

Tanner said changing the zoning would be a two-step process.

The joint hearing was the first step in making changes to the text amendment. The planning and zoning commission now needs to make their recommendations by July 11, and council could vote July 15.

To actually change the zoning, Tanner said it is a separate process that will include another joint hearing Sept. 9 followed by a planning and zoning commission recommendation Sept. 12 and final council action Sept. 16.

Dates are subject to change.