March 5, 2012
Update on the Ashby High-Rise Project
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 afternoon/evening trips per peak hour 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:
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.
A community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 12, 2012, at Congregation Emanu El, 1500 Sunset Boulevard, Houston 77005 in order to address this matter further. If you have questions, email City Attorney David Feldman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the best ideas are generated at the grassroots level so I hope Southampton residents will remain engaged as we continue the work of protecting quality of life in our neighborhoods.
Annise D. Parker