TEXAS MAY DEMOLISH YOUR LOCAL PRESERVATION LAWS Ever worry that Houston’s historical preservation rules are just too darn strict? Tired of having to wait a whole 90 days to go ahead and do whatever you were going to do anyway to that non-protected city landmark? A public hearing has been scheduled for next Tuesday in Austin on a state bill that would gut and restructure local historic preservation procedures across Texas. The bill, as Preservation
Houston Texas put it to VBX‘s Adolfo Pesquera last month, “clumsily attempts to impose a woefully old-fashioned ‘George Washington slept here’ standard of historical significance:” The measure appears to limit new historical designations to either 1) structures lived in by a famous person or 2) places where something “widely recognized as a historic event” happened. (Under that standard, the Astrodome might make the cut for Evel Knieval’s 13-car motorcycle jump.) Houston’s own District 135 rep Gary Elkins is the only sponsor of the measure, which would also require that any movements to designate areas of “historical, cultural, or architectural significance” get support from 3 quarters of the city council or the local planning commission. The measure also may put the final say on any proposed changes to a protected structure in the hands of a single “municipal official,” who will have 30 days to give a yea or nay. [Virtual Builder’s Exchange; bill here; previously on Swamplot] Photo of protected former home of August von Haxthausen at 2120 Sabine St.: HAR
COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ABSURDIST EVERYMAN’S VISIT TO HIS LOCAL MANAGEMENT DISTRICT BOARD “If you attend a TIRZ meeting at 8:00 AM on a Friday morning, you will realize the distrust and dissent that the TIRZ has created in a once cohesive community. As the meeting convenes, you can hear the roar of the cement truck in the background, covering every square foot of the TIRZ district with parking garages and multistory apartments. And where is the detention for all this impervious surface? The storm water runoff is detained in the residential streets and private homes of the surrounding neighborhoods. Just try signing up for the Public Comment period. Your 2 minutes disappear as the Chair detects an speaker unsympathetic to the TIRZ and cuts the mike. Your questions are not answered, so you try again, this time with an Open Records Request. Now you meet the TIRZ lawyers, plural, a sassy bunch, who can look you in the face and say with impunity that the record does not exist. It was just a typo.” [Long Time Houstonian, commenting on State Bill Would Call for TIRZ Elections in Certain Cities That End in ‑OUSTON] Illustration: Lulu
SCENES FROM A PUBLIC-ISH MEETING OF THE MONTROSE MANAGEMENT DISTRICT Yesterday’s mid-day Montrose Management District monthly meeting involved a good deal of waiting around, Nancy Sarnoff reports, as more than a dozen of the Montrose property owners who signed the most recent petition to dissolve the district showed up to chat publicly with the organization’s board members. Some of the owners who had planned to speak reportedly left before doing so, however, as the board started the meeting with a closed executive session that the group’s past agendas and meeting minutes imply usually happens near the end of the monthly sessions. Sarnoff writes that once the board opened the meeting back up for public comments, “many of those who spoke made a similar plea: ‘Accept my petition or drop me from the assessment rolls.‘” A rep from the district says the recent court findings that some of the district’s founding documentation is invalid won’t cause any changes in the organization’s immediate plans (nor cause them to return any of that collected $6.6 million) until any upcoming appeals are finalized; while a final judgment document has been signed in the current case in the 333rd District court, the proceedings are still technically ongoing, as the MMD filed a document last week asking the judge to please change his mind. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of bike rack in Montrose: Montrose Management District
The Gulfgate-Mall-seeded TIRZ that absorbed many of the commercial corridors around Hobby Airport back in 2014 has been weighing plans for redeveloping the acquired zone, working with the Houston-Galveston Area Council through the organization’s agreeably-named Livable Centers program. A few public workshops were held last month; a reader tells Swamplot that the management district’s consultants have also been interviewing area real estate folks as they come up with ideas for new developments to suggest. The next workshop is planned for the evening of Wednesday, July 13th; the district is pushing an online survey in the meanwhile.
Presentation slides from the most recent workshop included the map below of sidewalks in the area being studied (roughly bounded by I-45, Almeda Genoa Rd., Mykawa Rd., and Dixie Dr., as shown above) — roads marked in green have new sidewalks, yellow lines highlight sidewalks rated by the district as good, red shows sidewalks rated as poor, and brown shows roads with sidewalks rated as missing:
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Making a Scene
YOUR CHANCE TO TALK ABOUT LOWER WESTHEIMER BEFORE THE REDO PLANS GET DRAWN UP A meeting is set for 6pm Monday for anyone with opinions about what the Montrose section of Westheimer Rd. should or shouldn’t look like, as the ReBuild Houston folks turns an eye toward the corridor. Traffic consultant Geoff Carleton tells Dug Begley that bike infrastructure is low on the project wishlist, as bike lanes are already planned for W. Alabama. Carleton says that widening the road, which Metro’s larger buses can’t currently fit down, will be a hard enough sell already, adding that current priorities are for Westheimer to be both “walkable and transit-friendly.” A list of links to previous studies of the area’s transit situation is included on the city’s meeting info page. [Houston Chronicle] Image of Lower Westheimer study area: City of Houston
Note: A TxDOT spokesperson has confirmed that the total cost of the project is $1.3 billion. Story updated below.
This map shows where commuters would get in and out of the toll lanes that TxDOT says it will build in the grassy median of Texas 288 — part of a project it’s proposing to help deal with Med Center congestion and development southwest of town by widening 26 miles of the highway between U.S. 59 and County Road 60. Several new overpasses at intersections and upgraded connections to the Loop and Beltway 8 are also included in the project, which TxDOT says will cost about
$1.38 million $1.3 billion. The full extent of the project will be rolled out tonight at a public hearing in Houston and again on Thursday in Pearland.
BIG PLANS FOR NEW SOUTHSIDE PLACE HOMES A LITTLE SMALLER
Those 45 3-and-a-half-story houses that Lovett Homes said it was planning for the western end of the old Bellaire Technology Center site (shown here) met a lot of resistance, reports the Examiner‘s Robin Foster: “In a packed public hearing Jan. 29, neighbors expressed concern over traffic, visitor parking and the taller buildings.” Since then, writes Foster, Lovett Homes met with some of those “neighbors” to share scaled-back plans, which were presented at a second Southside Place hearing on February 27: The revised plans are for 39 homes no taller than 3 stories, with an interior street for more parking, wider setbacks, more common space, and “larger-than-average trees.” [The Examiner; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia
A few highlights from last night’s meet-and-jeer on the third floor of the George R. Brown Convention Center Downtown, where representatives of Walmart, Ainbinder, and the city gave presentations on the Walmart and related retail developments proposed for the area around Yale and Koehler streets in the West End:
- Mayor Parker announced she had originally hoped to hold the meeting at the United Way building at 50 Waugh St. in Memorial Heights, but the nonprofit turned her down — probably because of concerns it might get “rowdy,” she joked. But the night’s meeting format seemed designed to keep public outbursts to a minimum: After the presentations, attendees were asked to break up into smaller groups and gather around tables in the back to get their questions answered, one by one, from city officials or developer representatives. Before attendees could be dispersed, though, a few people managed to work their way to a microphone and ask questions or make statements in front of the entire room.
- A significant percentage of the crowd wore “I don’t want that Walmart” red shirts. It wasn’t clear what portion of the less-vibrantly-dressed people there supported the development, but during his presentation Walmart senior VP Jeff McAllister did announce that many of the company’s suppliers were in attendance.
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