Whenever Houston ISD representatives come before Bellaire’s resident-driven boards and commissions, their discomfort is palpable. That’s understandable. Bellaire’s and West University’s are the only of their nearly 200 campuses and other facilities that are outside Houston city limits and jurisdiction. Houston, where there’s no zoning.
It’s small wonder that of the 40 schools voters agreed to rebuild or massively renovate in a nearly $2 billion bond election in 2012, Bellaire High is still being worked on a decade later, the last to be completed.
That discomfort was clearly evident at the Oct. 20 meeting of the Bellaire Board of Adjustment in the person of Jeffrey Chapman, an architect with PBK, the company which designed Bellaire HS’ new campus. He was there to lodge a series of appeals for signs ruled illegal by the city and a problematic dumpster, and each was turned down.
Chapman employed the same argument for all four signs appeals: That the voluminous paperwork for the specific use permit required for construction of the high school at 5100 Maple St. and ball fields at Feld Park on Avenue B and Bissonnet had included rough visuals and dimensions of the signs. HISD, he said, thought that approval of the SUP meant approval of the signs.
City staff nixed the signs, HISD appealed, and it was up to the board — a quasi-judicial body with significant powers — to evaluate. They didn’t buy the argument that HISD’s assumption trumped the city sign code.
In question were two large decorative metal cardinals to be mounted on the parking garage at the corner of South Rice and Maple (exceeding the number of signs allowed at the campus), the 14-foot proposed height of the school sign on South Rice (only 8 feet is allowed), and the square footage of the scoreboard at the boys’ baseball practice field.
HISD simply moved the old sign from the campus to the new ball fields with no permit. HISD argues that the scoreboard itself conforms and that attached lists of championship teams that flank it are of historical value. “If Bellaire High School was awful at baseball for all these years, we would not be having this conversation,” said Chapman.
You can watch video of the meeting here.
— Charlotte Aguilar