Council OKs consultants to search for new West U city manager

June 12, 2018
In a meeting perhaps more notable for what didn’t occur than what did, West University Place City Council voted unanimously Monday to engage the consulting firm Strategic Government Resources to recruit a replacement for City Manager Chris Peifer, who is expected to retire in January 2019.


SGR, based in Keller, Texas, was one of five firms to place a timely bid on the contract, and one of two firms recommended by city staff. According to its website, most of SGR’s principles are former government officials, which it claims brings the firm “perspective and depth” to its clients.
The brief meeting was originally meant to be a much more involved one, slated to have been a combined public hearing with the city’s Zoning and Planning Commission on the ongoing, controversial dispute over AT&T’s operations on Bellaire Boulevard.
That joint hearing had been scheduled for Monday, but late last week, AT&T withdrew its application for the hearing, according to City Attorney Alan Petrov. Although there was some confusion in the audience Monday, Petrov explained the civil lawsuit is still pending, and the city’s website noted that AT&T has not withdrawn its application altogether.
Assistant City Manager Dave Beach said that although an AT&T item is still on Thursday night’s Zoning & Planning Commission meeting, it will be limited to an update: “There will be no new discussion or action taken by the ZPC until after the joint public hearing with the City Council happens.”

At issue are several lots behind the AT&T building which were are zoned residential but which the city granted special exemptions in the 1970s to serve as parking spaces when the facility (operated at that time by the former Southwestern Bell) served mostly as an office complex.

In the decades since, AT&T has changed its operations at the complex to include servicing customers throughout the Houston area. Now AT&T wants to be able to stock its service vans in the parking area, causing increasing consternation among some residents who live on Ruskin Street behind the parking lot.

At a hearing in June 2016, the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) reversed an interpretation by West U’s administrative official which had allowed AT&T to load and unload in the parking lot after hearing complaints from nearby residents over safety concerns and the potential decline of property values.

AT&T then appealed the decision to Harris County district court. Earlier this year, the city and the company reached a tentative settlement, pending a resolution of the matter by the ZPC.

At its May 21 meeting, the Council voted 3-1 to go forward with AT&T’s request for a joint public hearing with the ZPC, but only after hearing from numerous residents urging the council to let the matter drop.