The items that raised the most discussion were a number of variances for the Chapel Run subdivision by The Woodlands-based The Signorelli Company real estate development company in Municipal Utility District 149 that were ultimately approved, including a tree variance, a setback variance, a sidewalk variance and a street variance.
All passed unanimously except the street right of way variance, on which the council voted in a 2-2 tie broken in favor of the variance by Mayor Toby Powell, who only votes when the council votes in a tie. The controversy surrounded whether emergency vehicles could pass two SUVs parked directly across from each other along one of the narrower streets.
"If people are allowed to park on the street, it's going to be a major problem," Council Member Duane Ham said at the Jan. 9 workshop. "We're in a pickle."
Representatives from Signorelli said at the workshop that driveways could be staggered, garages will be built, and the future HOA can create street parking rules.
The tree variance agreement included adding green space to the Chapel Run neighborhood with amenities such as a walking path around a pond.
"It was a pasture, and [the former owners] had been hauling hay on it for some time. ... A [few] trees are alive, but not attractive and in the wrong area," Director of Community Development Nancy Mikeska said at the Jan. 9 workshop. "The developer in this case did not clear the site. ... Time is not going to change anything on this site. At the end of the day, the rule of reasonableness has to come into play. Are we leaving this project, as far as trees go, better than it started? Today it's a haphazard site with trees everywhere, no homes live in there, the city does not benefit from not acquiring taxes that would come [if the property development moves forward]. That's what I would apply to it."
Without the tree variance approval, Signorelli could have been subject to either planting more than 1,000 trees on the 114-acre MUD or paying the city $1 million in mitigation if it moved forward with the Chapel Run development.
In other news Thursday, council:
• Unanimously named Kingwood-based Martinez Architects as designer of the new police services fleet facility for $185,000.
• Unanimously contracted Conroe-based Bleyl Engineering to replace a storage tank in the industrial park for $157,840.
• Unanimously approved an utility agreement with CTM Holdings for the Maxedon Property development.
• Unanimously approved an interlocal agreement to expand Farrell Road.