Tonight’s meeting of the Zoning Board of Adjustment of the City of West University Place is the latest jab over the operation of AT&T, at 4068 Bellaire Blvd.
The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building, 3800 University Blvd.
In recent months, West U’s ZBA has become the forum for a small band of lively residents to voice their opposition to the operation of AT&T. There have been ZBA actions filed about the location of the dumpster, the loading of service vehicles, the issuance of building permits and the zoning interpretations of the city’s zoning official.
The operation of AT&T’s facility began in the 1930’s when the lots at the northeast corner of Bellaire Blvd. and Academy Street were developed into a telephone switching facility. All telephone “land lines” in West U still connect in this building.
As technology and telecommunications evolved, so has the use of this facility.
Today, the site is also an AT&T U-verse service center. Four AT&T U-Verse service crews are dispatched from this site, employing 52 service technicians.
Uses of the actual buildings include administrative, office, service center and computer support, all of which are permitted in the city’s “C-Commercial” zoning classification.
At issue tonight is the use AT&T’s parking district, which is located on residentially zoned lots.
In 1956, a new building was constructed and used for administrative offices. Because of the new building, more vehicles parked along the residential streets. Neighbors complained. So AT&T purchased some residential lots fronting Ruskin St. and the city council granted special authority for a parking lot on the residentially zoned lots.
In 1997, AT&T remodeled their building with a new rear loading dock, all on the commercially zoned property.
However, AT&T submitted a site plan this included access to the new loading dock by passing through the residentially zoned parking lot.
Based on that site plan, the city approved the plan, and issued a building permit.
When the permit was issued, the city believed these uses were permitted. However, in 2015, the city changed its mind and said the law did not allow for trucks to use the loading dock by driving through the residentially zoned parking district.
Tonight, AT&T asks the ZBA to grant an exception to the city’s change of heart because the city issued issued the building permits in 1997 believing these uses were lawful and that the both the city and AT&T acted upon the city’s 1997 opinion. AT&T believes that it acted in good faith based on the city’s approval and reconfigured its building. So AT&T feels, the ZBA should grant them an exception.
The ZBA is granted the authority to give this exception in Section 12-106 of the city code.