Ashby Hi-Rise Debate Continues

The fight over tge future of the Ashby hi-rise continues. The stop Ashy High-Rise task force and Buckhead Developers are working on a compromise. Meanwhile the city officials are backing away from the Ashby project. And as Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, the Ashby High-Rise will serve as a catalyst for an overhaul of the city's development rules.

The developers say they're willing to reduce the size from 23-stories down to 19 stories. They also offered to completely alter the development. They would build four stories of apartment units with a two story garage. But they'll only accept that option if the community or the city pays them $2.6 million. The Task Force has rejected that and counter-offered.

Houston Councilmembers delayed a vote on the high-rise ordinance. They'll take up the issue again in two weeks. Councilmember Anne Clutterbuck.

"It's our hope that the developer and the community might be able to come to an agreement without intervention by the city and this is a path that I personally prefer. But if after this delay an agreement cannot be reached between the developer and the community, I support enforcement of our existing ordinances."

The city does have existing ordinances that could limit the Ashby project. However the city is unlikely to interfere at this point. But Mayor Bill White says council has to come up with some guidelines for future developments.

"The goal is to have some predictable rules for traffic impact on high-density. And there is some thought that we have current regulatory power to do that without having to issue a new ordinance. But we're going to have some new rules and the rules -- or they're going to be clarification of the existing authority that we have -- so that we can have more predictability in the process."

Essentially, the Ashby ordinance is likely to morph into a more comprehensive high-density development plan.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Pam Holm says the city is giving the impression that it cherry-picks projects.

"The fifth neighborhood in District G came to me and said what are you going to do to help us run our campaign so we can get the mayor's attention to stop a project. They're already printing their signs. And so we've got to -- you know it's five neighborhoods, there's more coming -- and that's not the message we need to be sending. We need to set standards that encourages and allows good development as opposed to stopping project by project, street by street, tree by tree, sign by sign."

The mayor says it's not the city's intention to single out certain projects. He says council should hold public hearings over the next several months to come up with a fair ordinance.

Laurie Johnson. Houston Public Radio News.

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...