This letter will provide an update on the City’s position regarding the Ashby High-Rise Project. I want to begin by reiterating that since 2007 I have thought this to be the wrong project in the wrong place. My position has not changed. Unfortunately, the City has no legal basis for stopping it. Even success in the courtroom in the City’s litigation against developers, Maryland Manor Associates and Buckhead Investments, Inc. would not halt the project, since the developers would still be able to proceed with their current permit application, which mirrors that which the City was compelled to approve in 2009. Therefore, I am accepting the advice of City legal counsel and recommending settlement of the lawsuit. I believe this is the best option for the City and the neighborhood because it will ensure some control over how the project proceeds. It will also eliminate any possibility that the developers can build a project as large as that sought in 2007, or that the City may be subject to damages for its failure to approve that permit application, either of which can happen if the City loses the current litigation.
Under the terms of the settlement, the City will approve and permit a mixed-use development that generates 115 net P.M. peak hour trips and does not exceed a total of 21 stories in height, excluding the roof, which is smaller than the previously approved project. One such qualifying plan consists of 228 residential high-rise units, 10,075 square feet of quality restaurant use, and four residential town homes. In addition, the project will incorporate a pedestrian plaza as envisioned in the foundation permit plan originally filed in 2007, which enhances the appearance of the project fronting Bissonnet.
In addition, the settlement provides for the following:
- One curb cut with driveway onto Ashby Street that may be used, at all times, for entrance and exit by single unit trucks and other small utility trucks for either loading or unloading. This driveway may also be used, at all times, by passenger vehicles exiting, but not entering, the property. All traffic exiting through the Ashby Drive will be permitted to make right turns only to Bissonnet.
- One curb cut with driveway onto Bissonnet Street. This driveway will be available for use by all traffic both entering and exiting the project, including the larger trucks prohibited from using the Ashby entrance. However, usage by any trucks that require backing up into the right of way or the assistance of flaggers to enter or exit shall occur only on weekends or between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.
- Free morning and afternoon weekday shuttle service to and from the Texas Medical Center provided to residents by the property owners. In addition, loaner bikes will be available for use by project residents.
- An eight foot fence along the south and east property lines.
- Vegetative covering on the south and east walls of the project’s five-story parking garage to improve aesthetics and provide some camouflage to the garage.
- Screening and directional lighting to protect adjacent residences from garage lighting and car lights inside the garage.
- Noise mitigation that includes concrete walls and steel doors for the project’s equipment and pump room.
I continue to want to explore ways to protect neighborhoods from incompatible development. However, in a city without zoning, our options are very limited and do not always provide the level of protection many of us would prefer. Unfortunately, whatever new regulations the city might enact in the future will not impact the Ashby project. There is just no legal basis for denying the current permit application for this project. This is why I feel so strongly that the settlement parameters outlined above are the best course of action and the only way we can mandate certain performance requirements.
Some of the best ideas are generated at the grass roots level so I hope Southampton residents will remain engaged as we continue the work of protecting quality of life in our neighborhoods. If you have questions or thoughts about the settlement, please let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 12, 2012, at Congregation Emanu El, 1500 Sunset Boulevard, Houston, TX 77005 in order to address this matter further.
Annise D. Parker