The West University Place City Council on Friday directed staff to proceed with the preparation of an informational brochure on the long-range master plan for city facilities, as a prelude to a citywide survey on public opinion about the so-called Super Block.
The council held a rare mid-afternoon session in order to meet with Dr. Richard Murray, a political science professor and public opinion pollster at the Hobby Center at the University of Houston.
Murray concurred with the council’s decision to provide residents with an information brochure in early January, so that he can conduct a direct-mail survey in mid-January on citywide opinions about the plan to create a municipal campus. The city’s long-range master plan for city facilities would be located on the block bordered by University, Auden, Amherst and College Sts.
The council voted unanimously, with Councilman Ed Heathcott absent, to approve the public information effort, before Murray surveys citizens in mid-January.
Heathcott has recused himself from voting on the long-range master plan for city facilities, because it involves the West University Baptist Church’s plan to build a new Youth Center. Heathcott is a deacon at the church.
The city has already advertised a Request for Proposals that would involve the swap of city-owned property on Milton Street for church-owned property on Amherst St., so that the church could construct its new Youth Center with blocking the development of a future municipal campus.
The city council, citing state and federal laws protecting the development of properties owned by religious institutions, does not believe it can legally stop the church from building the proposed new Youth Center. Some West U residents, who are opposed to the new Youth Center, believe the city can stop its construction.
The council already has hired Lowell F. Denton, a San Antonio attorney who has been deeply involved in lawsuits involving religious institutions and zoning requirements, to offer his legal opinion on the issue.
The city has already advertised for bids. The city’s RFP, published in this week’s edition of the West University Examiner newspaper, read as follows:
REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS TO SELL
OR EXCHANGE PROPERTY
The City of West University Place, Texas (the “City”) is the owner of two (2) tracts of land generally located within its City Center, an area bounded on the south by University Blvd., on the north by Rice Avenue, on the east by Auden Street and on the west by College Avenue. The tracts are more specifically described as follows:
Tract 1: Lots 16, 17 and 18 of Block 15, Collegeview Section 3,
a subdivision of Harris County, Texas.
Tract 2: Lots 2, 3, 4 and 5 of Block 19, Collegeview Section 1,
a subdivision of Harris County, Texas.
Purpose. The Purpose of the Sale and/or Exchange is to allow the
City to consolidate its property holdings within the southern block of the City Center. Preference will be given to offers that further this purpose. Any property offered in exchange must be located within the block bounded by University Blvd. on the South, Amherst Street on the north, Auden Street on the east and College Avenue on the west.
Minimum Price. Any offer must be at least for the fair market
value of the property in cash, equivalent property for exchange or a combination thereof. The City has preliminarily determined a minimum fair market value for the land of each tract is as follows: Tract 1 $1,575,000; and Tract 2 $2,202,300. The associated buildings may add to the fair market value.
Special Consideration. The City’s properties are being offered on
an “as is” basis and the City will not be responsible for removing or modifying any permanent structures currently on such tracts unless otherwise agreed. The City currently occupies buildings on each of the tracts. The City will vacate Tract 1 within 90 days of closing or as otherwise agreed; however, the City expects to continue to occupy the buildings located on Tract 2 for a minimum of ten (10) years following closing. At the end of the period and at the City’s option, the parties shall negotiate an additional tenancy period for a period not to exceed 10 years. During the period of any tenancy, the City shall retain responsibility for all maintenance and improvements.
A handful of West U residents attended the meeting Friday, to complain that the city council appeared to be reversing their November 17 decisions about the so-called Super Block.