By NICOLE JONES
Friendswood’s Planning and Zoning Commission has delayed recommendation of a site plan for a church set to be constructed on what is known the Whitcomb property on FM 528.
“This is such a prime piece of property, we’ve got to get it right,” Planning and Zoning Commissioner Brett Banfield said. “The city went out of their way in 2015 to make great concessions, in my opinion.”
Described as the crown jewel commercial site in the city, the 135-acre property has been the topic of much debate over the years. In August 2015, Friendswood City Council approved a zone change that would allow the property owner, Clear Creek Community Church, to move forward with building a new church on the site previously slated for commercial development. The remainder, both the city and church agreed, could be developed according to the original zoning and add commercial property to ease the tax burden on residential property owners.
Those who opposed the agreement argued that allowing a tax-exempt entity to build on one of the largest remaining undeveloped commercial spaces places more burden on city residents.
At the July P&Z meeting, Jennifer Whitley, who lives near the proposed development, expressed concerns with the site plan, particularly with drainage.
“It needs every bit of green space to not flood in the future,” she told the commission, adding that the plan optimizes drainage for the church, but not potential commercial space.
“I feel like there’s some sort of bait and switch going on with this design,” she said. “I just ask the committee to reject this new site plan and consider the past flooding that we’ve had, and any future flooding.”
While the commission was pleased with planned sidewalks and trees, members took issue with the placement of a detention pond near the front of the property they felt would restrict future development.
“Right now it’s just a rectangle in the ground right at the front of the property,” Banfield said. “You’re devaluing the property. I would at least dress it up and make it look better.”
“We’ve gone back and forth on that many times, but they are meeting the community overlay requirements,” City Planning and Community Development Director Aubrey Harbin told Planning and Zoning.
The drainage plan was reviewed by Harris County Flood control and Friendswood city staff, she said.
P&Z, which submits its recommendations to City Council, tabled its approval of the plan. The commission meets on the second and fourth Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at City Hall.