Comment of the Day: How the Game Is Played

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED “This is awesome! This is what makes Houston entertaining. With no zoning rules in place, our residential landscape is essentially open to a free for all when it comes to building. Residents have little or no protection against what can go up right next to them. SO what do you do to protect your current neighborhood, you get creative and fight back. Just as the developer has as much of a right to build there, the community also has the right to reject or stop it any legal way they can.” [MericaRulz, commenting on A List of Gentle Ashby Highrise Protest Methods]

28 Comment

  • Emphasis on legal. We have both civil and criminal statutes in this state regarding harassment. Of course you’re dealing with people who don’t think the law applies to them. No doubt at some point a court will determine whether it does or not. In the meantime, well, they are losing their battle in the court of public opinion with their threats to harass not only the developers but everyone else including future tenants of the building including the owner of the restaurant. No doubt property values will plumment. But not because of the hirise.

  • I’m so tired of the argument home values will go down. Have they ever? The anti-Ashby group throw out every potentially negative impact scenario out there hoping some of them, even one of them gains any traction with their cause. They need to all sell and move to West U. Like the Ashby developers have.

    The anti-Ashby group definately need PR help, not V&E help (well, then again, maybe they will need the V&E help when they start their next salvo – Operation Temper Tantrum.)

  • What public opinion has been lost? Yours? I doubt they had it in the first place. If anything, my love for the Ashby neighbors has been forever cemented by their unwillingness to give up in the face of adversity. I and my neighbors are in a similar situation and I intend to engage in every legal matter of warfare available to me. Property rights is a joke, individual homeowners have no rights to protect their property from the greed and corruption of the chosen few who see our neighborhoods as little more than profit centers. Let’s call the lack of zoning and lack of protection what really is- Developer$ Right$.

  • Sure – you have the right to protest something being built in your neighborhood, that’s true. But do you really want to be the person who rages and griefs on an establishment’s employees, patrons, and customers for something that has nothing to do with them? It’s nice to be able to go to work, or go out to eat, or go home after a tough day, and NOT be given a ration of shit from protesters isn’t it? The Ashby-area residents have their right to protest, but that right ends where third party persons’ rights begin.

  • From mel:
    …I and my neighbors are in a similar situation and I intend to engage in every legal matter of warfare available to me… Let’s call the lack of zoning and lack of protection what really is- Developer$ Right$.

    Harassment is not legal. Neither is orchestrating harassment in order to conduct a vendetta. Just because two attorneys from V&E says it’s legal doesn’t make it legal. But you go right ahead with your legal harassment of someone. And then call these two attorneys and when they tell you they can’t help you because what you did was illegal, well, maybe you will get the message. They believe the law does not apply to them. Just to everyone else. As for zoning, well, start a petition and put the matter back on the ballot. It’s not your personal choice to decide. It also isn’t the personal choice of a bunch of pretentious spoiled brats who believe in mob rule. Adn that’s what they’ve become. A mob of pretentious polied brats. The harassment aside, they want to boycott everyone inolved with this project. Maybe the rest of us should boycot everyone involved with them.

  • Another segment in the on-going temper tantrum. These people don’t buy into the ‘smart’ development approach for themselves.

  • It’s almost funny to watch the pro-Ashby crowd on these boards. The argument is always the same, “those rich people in Southampton and West U are getting special treatment. They’re a bunch of spoiled crybabies who think the laws don’t apply to them.”
    In fact, The City often helps neighbors fight unwanted development, and not just rich neighbors. They bought a golf course to prevent unwanted multi-family development in Inwood Forest. They wrote a new ordinance to keep a concrete crushing plant out of Sunnyside. In those two cases it worked, but it doesn’t always.
    And remember what they say about casting stones. You are naïve to think that unwanted development can’t happen near your home. It might not be a high rise; it could easily be a waste transfe station (just ask the people in Glenshire). When something like that pops up near your home, expect to be called names if you complain. You’re supposed to be a good little neighbor: either shut up and put up; or pack up and leave.

  • So,can anyone tell me whatever became of the Hans Bier Haus battle?

  • The trick to not getting unwanted development next to your home is to buy smart. In deed restricted community, don’t buy a lot on the edge of the community. The edge is where the unexpected can crop up. Let other gullible home buyers get those.

    And again, this scenario could have still occurred (actually even easier) with a zoning law in place. The lot already had an apartment complex. Developers could easily lobby the zoning board for this to be a high-rise location. The neighborhood would have had even less recourse to challenge this project than under Houston’s current system.

    People need to grow up and realize that developer friendly doesn’t mean the developers always get their way. If you believe that then you ABSOLUTELY have no clue what you are talking about. Just spend some time attending or watching the Planning Commission meetings and you’ll quickly learn that. The strict conflict-of-interest parameters in Houston’s Planning Commission make it extremely hard to have any direct influence on the voting.

    People think development just happens without the neighborhood’s input. The reality is that most neighborhoods don’t care until it’s too late. If these people truly cared, they would have been involved from the beginning. The Ashby Project actually was said an done with not one peep from the Southampton folks. All the stalling that occurred in this project is from the neighborhood lobbying the city and major. They could have easily done all this at the Planning Commission level very early on. Residents in the Heights are very good at keeping an eye on there neighborhood and watching the variance signs as they are posted. They often make good arguments and get concession from developers.

    The Southampton folks did NOTHING. They relied on political connections to try to change things when it was too late. All the politicians could do is drag the developer through a permit hell, but they could NEVER stop the project approval.

    When you Southampton guys care about your neighborhood, you will learn to do something about it at the beginning of the process.

  • Property rights IS a joke, why do you people even think you have any?

  • From ZAW:
    It’s almost funny to watch the pro-Ashby crowd on these boards. The argument is always the same, “those rich people in Southampton and West U are getting special treatment. They’re a bunch of spoiled crybabies who think the laws don’t apply to them.”
    It would seem that way. But my argument has also been that Maryland Manor is unpleasant and that the Ashby highrise will improve the aesthetic appeal of our neighborhood. I especially look forward to walkable retail and having the dumpster set back more than just a few feet from the sidewalk. I think that your concerns for our neighborhood are unwarranted.

  • Buy smart, no kidding. I live in a deed restricted neighborhood. The house across from me exempted itself 50 years ago. Now how could I have known that when I purchased?Apparently to do your full due diligence, you not only have to run title on the property you are looking to purchase, but all of the properties contiguous and surrounding.

  • Thanks for the concern, Matt. I am very aware of my rights.

  • @ Mel: Anybody buying homes as expensive at those in the Southampton / Boulevard Oaks area should know to do exhaustive due diligence. There’s too much on the line. Not doing it is inexcusable. If they screwed up that bad, then they deserve it.

    (I mean hell, I’ve checked the deed restrictions on livestock for neighborhoods with houses priced at a hundredth the value of these!)

    This apologism is just unbearable.

  • Mel,

    You could intelligently realized that one lot with a single family home (deed restricted or not) couldn’t put a building like Ashby on it. Townhomes? Maybe, but Houston’s development code does have restrictions despite what people think.

    You don’t have to do title research to buy smart.

    No one in Southampton though that site that Ashby is going to be built on was part of their neighborhood with the old and falling apartment complex sitting on it did they? They had to have realized that it could be redeveloped at some point.

    The problem is that the new development is not what the residents assumed what could be built there. Then again, it’s not inside the neighborhood. It’s on the edge. Boundaries can always change.

    I still think its funny when I tell people they should research around them when buying a house and they cry because you just can’t expect them to do that. It’s the largest purchase you’ll likely ever make in your life and you aren’t going to make sure it’s a good one? And then you are going to cry when you find out it was bad…maybe you shouldn’t have rushed into.

  • While I sympathize with the residents of Southampton (we have a luxury midrise under construction 3 blocks from our house), at some point they will have to realize that their guerrilla campaign, if successful, will ultimately backfire.

    If they get what they want – rendering the highrise an economic failure – what will be the result? An abandoned and eventually dilapidated structure awaiting homeless squatters and drug dealers? The owners won’t tear the damn thing down and turn the lot into a park.

    If the integrity of their neighborhood really is the important thing here (and not just prideful stubbornness), they might be well served by helping to ensure the building’s success. If the development is going up anyway (as seems likely), better full residential and commercial occupancy than boarded up windows, and huge banners proclaiming “NO DEPOSIT! MOVE IN SPECIAL! FIRST MONTH’S RENT FREE!”.

    Just something to consider.

  • Gimme a break. The cloak of anonymity on this blog makes it real easy to Monday morning quarterback and judge, doesn’t it? No reasonable person thinks you have to or does research title history on their neighboring properties. And, no reasonable person believes a luxury high rise will go in right next to their house. I am not in these peoples’situation, but I sure feel for them. I find that for a certain segment of our citizenry,unless it’s happening to them, they not only don’t care but seem to enjoy flaming and reveling in the misery. For those of you jeering the neighbors, Kharma is a female dog, y’all- sure hope your properties and the surrounding areas are protected.

  • Ps, checking deed restrictions for chickens is a completely different animal than running title on 9+ properties (and those 9 would only be for the immeduately adjacent properties) to verify that restrictions have not lapsed or were not exempted. You are so full of it, Niche. :p

  • It didn’t take checking deed restrictions in this case. All it took was driving around along Ashby. Two apartment complexes. There’s another complex south of Sunset. And more recently Cheyne Walk. That should have been a clue that everything east of Ashby was not “single-family only.” And that included the possibility of a hirise. One of the things that irritated everyone who knows the area was this proclamation that Southampton and Boulevard Oaks are “single-family” only. Maybe so. But this and everything east of Ashby isn’t in Southampton. Or in Boulevard Oaks. So those who believe these people are protecting “their” neighborhood should realize that in truth they’re not. It’s not “their” neighborhood. And they should have “taken a look around” before they bought. To see what lay on the other side of their neighborhood. The way everyone else in Houston who has any common sense does. Of course they don’t need common sense. They have money and power. And are willing to throw it around. To make up for their lack of common sense. Which is why most likely those who do have common sense will avoid Southampton and Boulevard Oaks when buying. Who wants to live next to someone who will harass you, stalk you and then conduct a vendetta against you if you happen to do something they don’t like?

  • Mel, those exemptions generally only last until the house is sold, then the neighborhood restrictions kick in again. That happened with the house next to us.

  • Mel,

    Maybe not reasonable people check these things, but thorough and intelligent buyers do.

    If I’m going to commit to a 30 year payment system for anything, I want to make sure it’s a good buy.

    Also, you can always make your realtor help you do these things. If they don’t know about it, you shouldn’t consider that realtor.

  • Apparently niche and Kjb ran full title reports on 9+ properties each time they made an offer in residential property. Right.

  • @ Mel: What I do is I check the City’s GIMS website for where the boundaries of the neighborhood are. If I’m near the perimeter and there’s an issue I’m concerned about, then I only pull the deed restrictions for the other neighborhood(s). And if there’s a non-conforming property that I’m adjacent to or influenced by, then I try to figure out why. I want to know who my neighbors are.

    And don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate that I’m more diligent than most people. Hell, I do it just for entertainment value because I appreciate the opportunity to learn about our City’s history. That makes me weird, I know. But anyone is capable of doing these things. If they choose not to embrace knowledge and wisdom, then they do so at their own peril.

  • In addition to the use of the GIMS website, HCAD’s website also gives you a lot of information, you can find a lot about your future or current neighboring properties in the course of an hour. An hour out of my life for a purchase that I’m likely to live with and in for the rest of my life is an extremely small price to pay.

    Harris County and the City of Houston have spent a lot of money to keep their online records up-to-date. Might as well use the free resource as a little of your own research versus relying on property listing websites (which can get out of date).

    Even outside of doing this due diligence, just looking at Google Maps in the satellite view and driving around before you purchase you can see the current uses and likely think of how it can evolve.

    As it has been brought up, the property in question had an existing run-down apartment complex. The fact that the “concerned” Southampton residents haven’t complained about the complex that was approaching abandonment and could be condemn is telling. Now that someone is doing something there (that just happens to not be what the neighbors want) they complain and cry. All in the end of the planning process.

    Ultimately, this whole story is just about a neighborhood that was too lazy to get involved and at the last minute went into full panic mode. Where were the complaints when the variance signs went up?

  • Mel, sorry to pile on,
    but for me the due diligence might include checking a dozen websites, a half dozen kinds of maps, title searches, Code Enforcement searches,walking around, talking around, etc.
    And I am not saying I am unique in this-
    But you seem to doubt the existence of something I take for granted as what I do everyday to make a living.

  • Haha, well, it can happen to anyone. I lived directly adjacent to Mosaic as that was going up… Aside from construction workers taking up all the onstreet parking it was a nonevent. I welcomed the development. I just wish it had inflated the value of that property a little bit more. We are still trying to decide what to do with it…

  • The only due diligence anyone needed to do, again, was walk along Ashby. Or drive slowly. The biggest clue of what was coming, or could be coming, was Cheyne Walk. That isn’t really “appropriate” to the rest of the neighbhorhood either. But, well, that part of the neighborhood has always been unrestricted. Now, suddenly, everyone wants it restricted. They’re a little late.