Changes Are Coming For Bellaire’s Comprehensive Plan

First up at the April 1, 2024, was a City Council discussion to update the Bellaire Comprehensive Plan was the Pont Alba apartments, located at 4301 Bissonnet.  The current zoning for that area is R-MF, Residential Multi-Family, apartments or condominiums.

In the new Comp Plan the Pont Alba area becomes Small-Lot Residential Attached, and presents an opportunity for homes on smaller lots or fee simple townhouses. However, a new zoning ordinance will be required to complete the change.  Until then the site is still zoned for multi-family. 

The really bad news?  Multi-family remains in the UV-D, the Urban Village Downtown.  Some members on Council seem to think that’s a good idea, and that means apartments or condos could be built on the old Randall’s site as mixed-use multi-family. Bellaire residents may recall the shiny new apartments that were built about 50 years ago in what is now known as the Gulfton area.  A highrise condo development, The Sussex, was built in the 1960s in Sharpstown. 

Others have mentioned the number thefts of autos and the transitory nature of occupants of multi-family developments. Condos are often purchased or converted for rental units, as is the case with a condominium development just outside Bellaire. Currently only 9 of the 27 units are homesteaded, and some investors own multiple units in the complex.

In addition, the UV-D was expanded in 2014 to include the north side of the 5100 and 5200 blocks of Spruce St., which means multi-unit developments could be built 15 feet from the backyards of homes on the south side Locust St.  Meanwhile, small upscale cities like West University do not allow any multi-family.

The zero-lot line setback will become ‘narrower setbacks’, allowing more green space in the UV-D and the UV-T (located in the Loop 610/Westpark area), and the 2-story minimum building height is scheduled to be removed, .  Stay tuned, I’ll try to parse out more Comprehensive Plan updates as I finish watching the video from the April 1st City Council meeting. 

Feel free to email comments to the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk at tdutton@bellairetx.gov, and to members of the Planning and Zoning Commission via zoning@bellairetx.gov.

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Is It Time For An Updated Tree Ordinance In Bellaire?

Bellaire currently has a tree ordinance, primarily for new construction. This information can be found on the City’s website:  Does the City have a Tree Ordinance? 

Yes, and it applies to construction-related situations that would require a tree disposition permit. You can refer to Chapter 9, Article XI of the City’s Code of Ordinances for more information.

A large portion of the March 4, 2024, City Council meeting was devoted to the possible adoption of an updated ordinance, directed towards saving existing trees of value or replacing them when necessary with a similar tree or trees of equal size.  Not just in connection with new construction, but rather to save our stock of valuable older trees and our tree canopy.  A list of trees that would require a permit for removal will be provided.  Find that agenda item here. Find a second proposal, to add a charge to oversee the disposition of large trees here.

Permits would be required, and City staff recommended hiring the services of a certified arborist as needed to inspect proposed removals. Discussion focused on the current ordinance in West University Place which has been on effect for 30 years. Entitled the Urban Forest, it explains the large trees and tree-lined streets in that city.  Bellaire’s would be similar, and the ultimate goal is to discourage removal of valuable trees and to encourage planting and maintenance of an extensive tree canopy.

Trees are valuable additions to a property and to a city, both for their beauty and their usefulness.  Let your Mayor and members of City Council know what you think of these proposals.  Email them via our Tracy Dutton, our City Clerk, at tdutton@bellairetx.gov

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Public Hearing March 18, 2024 – Bellaire Comprehensive Plan Update

Public Hearing Announcement

UPDATE: 3/13/2024: A lot of questions from Council and answers by Gary Mitchell and Mike Baker. Highlights include lifestyle living, small-lot residential, no more multi-family, and R-5 zoning (townhouses). Revise the zoning for the commercial areas. Possibly do away with zero setbacks and 2-story minimum heights. It’s going to take months and probably more hearings to arrive at a final Plan. 

Find my comments to the Mayor and members of City Council here. Watch the March 18TH Public Hearing video here. There’s still time to send your comments to the Mayor and City Council.

Come to the meeting on March 18, 2024, and voice your comments about improving the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  Or email them to the City Council in care of Tracy Dutton, our City Clerk, at tdutton@bellairetx.govThis is an important time in Bellaire’s development, please send your comments or speak at the hearing.

Numerous meetings regarding the Comp Plan and possible revisions to our zoning ordinances have been held in the past several months, and the final decisions may soon be made by City Council.  Let them know your expectations for the City’s residential and commercial areas, and what your expectations are for the City’s future growth.  

View suggestions for updates here.

How do you feel about zero setback for commercial developments, that is, right at the property line? (Think H-E-B, or the view of the back of the building at 4460 Bissonnet & Newcastle.)  Would a 15 or 20 foot setback with landscaping, trees, and on-site parking be better?

What about 90% site coverage, and tall building heights in the middle of downtown? Would you prefer one and two-story retail and office buildings? Where you can pull in and park? With ground level parking, no parking garages?

Do multi-family apartments and condos belong in Bellaire?  (Not to be confused with residential single-family townhouses.) How do rental properties affect a city?  Continue reading

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What About Multi-Family Developments In Bellaire?

Bellaire’s Planning and Zoning Commission held a Public Hearing on February 8, 2024, regarding the possible rezoning of the property located at 4301 Bissonnet, the Pont Alba apartments, which covers 3.4 acres.  Find the agenda and meeting video here, it’s a short meeting.   Although only this location was under discussion, multi-family permeates Bellaire’s zoning districts, including the R-MF, UV-D, CMU, and UV-T. 

Please let the City know what you think about this 4301 Bissonnet property and your views on multi-family in general.  Do we want apartments or condos (which may end up as rentals)?  Email P&Z at zoning@bellairetx.gov and email City Council at tdutton@bellairetx.gov.

A multifamily home is any residential property with more than one housing unit. A duplex, townhome, or apartment complex is a good example of a multifamily home, also condominiums, not to be confused with single-family townhouses such as those in Bellaire.  Most upscale cities in our area, including West University, do not allow any form of multi-family construction.  That multi-family exclusion is a draw for many and adds to the value of homes in those cities.   

Numerous residents voiced objections to multi-family at the P&Z meeting.  They fear tall buildings, troublesome tenants, loitering, and tenant parking on adjoining streets.  When I did some research on the condos located at the corner of Jessamine and Mapleridge in Houston, I found that two-thirds of them are not homesteaded, they are used as rental properties.  Find more information on multi-family from an earlier article below:      Continue reading

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Most Recent City Survey Results – February 2024

From the Agenda: Ron Gailey, CEO of OnPointe Insights, will report to City Council regarding the results of the 2024 Citizen Satisfaction Survey. The survey was available to residents from January 9, 2024, through February 9, 2024. The results will be used to inform future decisions about the community’s needs, priorities, and concerns. A copy of the survey summary is attached for reference.

Note: There were just over a thousand responses.

2024 Citizen Satisfaction Survey link to results dashboard: https://app.displayr.com/Dashboard?id=0a90c4a3-44d9-4681-8a25-c509061183b4#page=669a68fc-322d-41f6-899b-db37db637768

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Little Known Facts About Relocating METRO’s Bellaire Transit Center, Plus Metro Income To The City

On December 11, 2023, Mayor Friedberg distributed an email regarding the Metro Transit Center, located in the 5100 Block of Bellaire Blvd in the City of Bellaire.  The Transit Center was approved by City Council in 1986.  Find the agreement for the Transit Center, dated March 3, 1986, here

In addition, many Bellaire residents may be unaware that the City receives annual revenue from Metro, a percentage of the sales tax Metro receives within the City. The anticipated revenue for 2024 is $1.7 million, and only applies to transportation and mobility projects in the City.  Find the agreement here. Find a 2020 amendment extending that agreement here.

The articles included in the Mayor’s presentation are available thanks to the Portal of Texas History. They are from The Texan, published in Bellaire, and dated 1986 and 1987.  Find the Mayor’s explanation below:   

Relocating METRO’s Bellaire Transit Center, December 11, 2023
https://cityofbellairemayorsmusings.blogspot.com/2023/12/relocating-metros-bellaire-transit.html
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Brief Overview Of The State of the City

Find the entire video of the Bellaire City Council Meeting of February 5, 2024, here.

Highlights include current City staff, stable tax base and tax rate, debt and debt service, and much more.  Please view the meeting.

Please send comments to City Council via tdutton@bellairetx.gov

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Methodist Hospital Planned Development: No Longer Headed to City Council At This Time!

2/8/2024 UPDATE:  At this time Houston Methodist has withdrawn their application for a planned development at 5130 Bellaire Blvd.

1/12/2024 UPDATE:  Last night, by a vote of 5 to1, the Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission approved a recommendation to send the Methodist application on to City Council.  It’s uncertain at this point, but this may end up on a Council agenda sometime in February, 2024.

Phrase of the night from one commission member,  “This sounds like gossip”, after another commission member stated that Methodist was “talking to other developers” but would provide no further information.  A Methodist representative flatly denied that statement and instead suggested that P&Z consider the current application.  View the agenda and video here.     Continue reading

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Draft Comprehensive Plan for Joint Meeting of Council and P&Z on January 31, 2024, Bellaire State of the City Address – February 5, 2024, Town Meeting on Comprehensive Plan, February 7, 2024

Click to view entire document and graphics.

On January 31, 2024, Bellaire City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission met in a joint session for a presentation by Gary Mitchell, president of Kendig and Keast, to discuss a draft Comprehensive Plan.  Find video and the agenda of the meeting here.  The City received 1169 responses to an earlier online survey, leading to a 33-page report.

Suggestions include taking a close look at the “Actions for Land Use and Community Character” and “Future Land Use and Future Land Use Map”.  Another area to follow is the “Zoning Parameters to Implement Comprehensive Plan Direction”. One Council member promoted condos.  Watch the meeting, it’s somewhat confusing but this is really important for the future appearance of Bellaire.  Review the document above, please.  Then let the City know what you think when you attend the Comprehensive Plan Open House on Wednesday, February 7, 2024, 6:00 PM at City Hall.  

Review the document above, please.  Then let the City know what you think when you attend the Comprehensive Plan Open House on Wednesday, February 7, 2024, 6:00 PM at City Hall.  Find current and draft Comprehensive Plans here: https://www.bellairetx.gov/628/Comprehensive-Plan  You can email comments to City Council via Tracy Dutton at tdutton@bellairetx.gov and to Planning and Zoning at zoning@bellairetx.gov

There is a special session of Planning and Zoning scheduled for Monday, February12, 2024, but no information at this time on the content.

Bellaire City Council will convene at 5:00 PM for board interviews for the Audit Finance Board, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and the Culture and Arts Board.  A regular session of City Council will follow by 7:00 PM, including reports from all City boards and commissions and the Mayor’s address on the state of the City.  Find the full agenda here.  

The City is holding an Open House  on February 7, 2024, at 6 PM regarding possible revisions to the Comprehensive Plan.  All residents are invited!

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Please Participate In The Bellaire Citizen Satisfaction Survey!

Just got this notice from the City of Bellaire:

We are excited to announce that the Bellaire Citizen Satisfaction Survey is open! The survey is designed to gather feedback from residents on various city-provided services and issues and help us better understand the community’s needs, priorities, and concerns. We would greatly appreciate your participation in this survey, which should take approximately 8 – 10 minutes to complete. 

To take the survey, click the following link: Bellaire Citizen Satisfaction Survey

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Bellaire Comprehensive Plan Open House Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The City is holding an Open House  on February 7, 2024, at 6 PM regarding possible revisions to the Comprehensive Plan.  All residents are invited!

We invite you to join us for an open house to share your thoughts and ideas on how to improve our city. This is part of the process of reviewing the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which will guide our future growth and development. The meeting will be led by Kendig Keast Collaborative, our planning consultant for this project.  The open house will start with a presentation at 6 pm, followed by a discussion session.  Everyone is welcome!

Date:  February 7, 2024
Time:  6:00 PM
Location:  Civic Center Auditorium, 7008 S Rice Ave, Bellaire, Texas 77401
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2023 Election News For The City Of Bellaire – Gus Pappas Wins Election For Mayor

Gus Pappas has been elected Mayor of Bellaire. Two new Council members, Cindy Cohen Taylor and Jackie Georgiou, will join him on City Council in January, 2024.

ChoiceVotesPercent
Aaron Perry1,41943.01%
Gus E. Pappas1,88056.99%
Total3,299

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Notice An Increase In Your Bellaire Water Bill?

A neighbor recently wondered what was going on with his water bill. I dug out a mailer that was included in our bill, which shows another increase.  We are now on what appears to be a plan for annual increases, mostly because of a cost increase for the water the City purchases from the City of Houston. 

In addition, revenue from our water bills is credited to the City Enterprise Fund, which normally produces a positive balance.  In turn, funds from the Enterprise Fund are transferred to the General Fund to help fund the costs of running the City.

Finally, there has been no report fron Siemens on purported savings generated by the installation of automatic water meters in 2018 at a cost of $4.5 million dollars.  As mentioned in that article, with constant rate increases how will we ever know if any savings have occurred.  Find more information on that Siemens contract, paid from the $54 million dollar bond issue in 2016, here: Siemens – Where Do We Stand On The $12.8 Million Siemens Contract?  See item vi, Increase In Water Revenue?  Maybe one takeaway from this issue is to read the fine print in those bond issues, especially the cost of the annual debt service, currently about $9.5 million.

Of interest, since the installation of the new meters 898 meter registers (the things that register water usage) have been replaced, with another 153 on the replacement list.  For now the cost of those replacement registers has been paid by Neptune Technology.  The City paid $14,938 to the company that hosts the AquaHawk customer portal, and another $2,926 to Tyler Technologies to transmit updated information to the AquaHawk portal.  Apparently no count is maintained for resident calls for leaks at the meters, nor the cost of Bellaire personnel called out for those leaks.

Find a portion of the FY2024 Budget introduction regarding the various revenue streams here.  Find the entire FY2024 Budget here.

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Possible Public Hearings in 2023: BHS And Methodist Hospital’s Newest Application

Monday, December 4th, 2023 – A joint Public Hearing before Bellaire City Council and Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission regarding mitigating problems with or moving dumpsters at Bellaire High School.

Monday, December 11, 2023 –  The decision to hold a joint Public Hearing before Bellaire City Council and Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission regarding a revised application from Methodist Hospital for the site at 5130 Bellaire Blvd was postponed.  A new look at the traffic analysis and more details on the development of the project was mentioned, however there appears to be no basic change from the last application.  Look for this to go to P&Z at a later date. Continue reading

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Methodist Hospital Alternatives – Bellaire City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission Joint Special Session

Click to enlarge, find all images in the Agenda Statement.

Update: Here is the full Agenda for September 28, 2023 @ 6:00 PM Joint Special Session City Council and Planning & Zoning.  Nothing new was discussed at this meeting, apparently it was misreported as a joint session.  Methodist may be back on the agenda in the near future.

The Bellaire City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission will meet in a Joint Special Session (Workshop) to discuss development alternatives for the Houston Methodist Hospital on Thursday, September 28, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber. There are no appreciable changes in building size or the parking access off South Rice.  Find the updated plan here.

Find an earlier article here: Methodist Application Goes To City Council on July 17, 2023

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Harris Health Care Event.2; Noise Ordinance; Public Hearing On Tax Rate & FY2024 Budget

Back on August 21, 2023, Bellaire City Council voted unanimously against a request from Harris Heatlth Care for an employee event to be held at the NBSDD location, the old Chevron property along Fournace between Loop 610 and Sourth Rice. The last employee event created numerous noise complaints from neighbors in the area.

However, with a second request for the event on September 18, 2023, City Council approved the event.  Per the agenda item, “From 9:00 a.m. until noon, the DJ will be available for announcements regarding the field day activities. No music will be played on Friday or Saturday other than from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and will include intermissions.”  Essentially only the live music will be missing.  Only Council member Lewis voted against, the rest of Council jumped on board . 

Music will still be played though the City leaders assured us that the noise will be controlled.  Noise enforcement will be the duty of Bellaire PD if residents complain.  Listen to the meeting here.  My question is, how does a private event that runs from 8 am to 7 pm, attended by an estimated 4,000 employees and with a PA system and a DJ in attendance, benefit residents of the City of Bellaire?  What do Bellaire residents think about this reversal of votes?  Find the Agenda Item here.

Meanwhile, the Mayor is boosting the approval of a new noise ordinance.

And there will be a Public Hearing on October 2, 2023, for the proposed tax rate for 2023.  Council approved the City Budget FY2024 at the September 18, 2023, meeting.


Send comments or questions to the Mayor and members of City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request they be forwarded to the Mayor and Council.

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New Temporary Offices For Public Works – Renovation of Dog Pound

Mayor Friedberg announces plans for a new, temporary office location for Public Works The new offices will  be in leased space in an office building located in the immediate area.  Follow the link above for more information.  The Public Works building was located on Edith St, and after a second flood in 2015 it was quietly demolished and offices are now in a temporary structure.  The list of proposed Capital Improvement Plans FY2024-2028  includes $547,000 for repairs and improvements to the Public Works campus, though no location is specified.   A new Public Works building is listed FY2026 at an estimated cost of $9.8 million.      Continue reading

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Bellaire Comprehensive Plan Review – Special Session for City Council and Planning & Zoning

On Tuesday, August 15, 2023, a Special Session discussion with members of City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission will be held at 6:00 PM.  Find the full agenda here.

“Presentation and discussion of results from the Bellaire Today phase (May-July), and provide input and direction for the Bellaire Tomorrow phase (August-November), of the Comprehensive Plan review process – Facilitated by Gary Mitchell, President of Kendig Keast Collaborative.”     Continue reading

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Holly Street Trail: Over A Quarter Of A Million Dollars Spent From 2014-2020

Residents are once again complaining about the poor conditions along the Holly Street Trail.  That’s the esplanade portion of Holly that runs from the Loop to South Rice Avenue. The walking trail portion was developed many years ago. 

After complaints in 2014 from homeowners along Holly Street, the City began to make landscape improvements.  During the approximate 6-year period from March of 2014 through February of 2020 the City paid out over $270,000 for Trail improvements.  Find the list of expenditures here.  

In the near future I plan to submit another Public Information Request for a list of City expenditures for the Trail for the past 3+ years.  With our finances restrained due to $100 million in bonded debt, is it time to just pave it or plant grass?  Stay tuned.  

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Public Hearing – Bellaire FY2024 Budget – August 7, 2023

Bellaire City Council will hold a Public Hearing for the 2024 City Budget on Monday, August 7, 2023.  The bottom line for the budget is $60.8 million.  Find the PowerPoint presentation here

Find the proposed budget FY2024, presented to Council on July 17, 2023, here.   Find a link to the entire meeting here.

Highlights include holding to a nominal tax rate with anticipated increases in revenues from property taxes and sales taxes.  Medical and pension costs will increase and a COLA of 4% is proposed. Residents can expect increased rates for water, wastewater, and solid waste services.    Continue reading

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Methodist Application Goes To City Council on July 17, 2023

UPDATE 7/19/23: City Council chose to postpone a decision on the Methodist Hospital application.  Council member Lewis stated she had counted 175 resident comments opposing the development in that location, 16 in favor, including physicians and patients.    Continue reading

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No More Free Garbage Bags? Uh Oh…

See the Cost

Many years ago Bellaire solid waste collection was changed from containers to plastic bags. For decades bags have been distributed for free on a quarterly basis, delivered to each residence. Residents are indirectly paying for the bag expense through their water bills, at something like $6 per roll. The current annual cost for this service is over $138,000. But it turns out that up to 25% of residents may not even use the City bags and prefer to purchase other bags, while others double bag because they fear leaks.    Continue reading

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Two Dog Pounds! Problem Solved.

A unanimous decision by City Council at the July 10, 2023, Council meeting finally provided a solution for our dog pound problems.

Find a message from Mayor Friedberg here.  Problem Solved:  Not One Dog Pound but Two    Watch the meeting here, the pound discussion starts about 1:16 into the video.

 

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Please Take The City’s Survey!

The City of Bellaire is conducting a survey to learn more about your preferences and opinions about Bellaire’s future and the comprehensive plan.  Please take the time to read each question before responding.  What would you like to see in a future Bellaire?    Continue reading

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P&Z: Bellaire High & The Sign Ordinance – Solar Panels – Proposed CIP

The June 9, 2023, Planning and Zoning meeting was short, but interesting.  It included a public hearing regarding proposed ordinance amendments and a presentation of the proposed 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).  Find a link to the meeting here.

Public Hearing

Public comments were encouraged on changes to the following zoning ordinances:

  • Through Lots Prohibited, to allow for the approval of through lots if a property meets certain zoning requirements.  No public comments.
  • To increase the necessary documentation submittal requirements during city plan review related to environmental assessment reporting. No public comments.
  • To increase the allowable scoreboard signage area and allow team accolades as apart of the scoreboard signage – to allow team accolades.  Two comments.

The Draft CIP FY2023-2027

Take a look!

Each year as Bellaire City Council begins budget discussions for the upcoming fiscal year 5-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) may be updated.  A proposed 5-year CIP was presented to P&Z by Joshua Pascua, Capital Projects and Grants Manager in Public Works, on June 8, 2023.   Continue reading

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What’s Next For The Methodist Hospital Application?

Enlarge the photo for a 1954 view of Weingartens Grocery, now the Randalls site, thanks to Mike McCorkle. Find his photo history of Bellaire at www.bellairebook.com.    Continue reading

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May/June 2023 Meetings – Methodist Application – Noise/Lighting Regulations – Comprehensive Plan

Bellaire City Council – Agenda for June 5, 2023 @ 6:00 PM – Public Hearing – Houston Methodist Hospital 
UPDATE: View the June 5th Public Hearing here  The application may be submitted to City Council for consideration and approval on July 17, 2023.   
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Bellaire – Is It Time To Go Back to Basics? Sounds Like A Plan!

The plan takes care of “the basics” by repeatedly reinforcing the fundamental importance of neighborhood integrity in the City of Homes, as well as the priority residents place on parks and recreation opportunities, safe streets, and preservation of a small-town atmosphere amid a vast metropolitan region.”  Excerpt from the updated City of Bellaire Comprehensive Plan in 2015.

For years one of Bellaire’s biggest draws has been that, unlike Houston, we have zoning. Continue reading

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Upcoming Public Hearings At City Council on May 15, 2023

There were three Public Hearings scheduled for Monday’s City Council meeting on May 15, 2023, at 6:00 PM.  However the Noise and Lighting hearing has been withdrawn.  The withdrawal notice mentions a possible Town Hall at a later date.  Regardless, if you have suffered from loud noise or bright lights, why not let Council know?  Public comments to the Mayor and Council are welcome in person or via email via tdutton@bellairetx.gov.

  1. Public Hearing – Speed Bumps along 5200 Spruce
  2. Community Block Grant – Cypress Slough Ditch
  3. Noise and Lighting Ordinances – Withdrawn
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Can You Find A Few Hours Each Week To Serve On City Council?

Have you ever given any thought to running for Bellaire City Council?  Do you want to make a difference in our community?  

The City of Bellaire holds non-partisan city elections for Mayor and members of City Council in off years, and the next election will be in November of 2023. The current Mayor is term limited and cannot run again, and Council seats 2, 4, and 6 will also be on the ballot.  Find full information the Mayor and Council here.  No previous experience necessary, just common sense and a willingness to work to benefit your Bellaire neighbors and improve your community.

Below is an excerpt from the terms for office and below that you’ll find the information posted on the City website for the 2023 election.    Continue reading

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How Would Bellaire Residents Feel About A Mini Ashby Highrise?

Regarding a proposed moratorium on applications for development in the commercial areas of Bellaire, our City Attorney advised City Council that such a moratorium would take many months to enact and involves specific limitations, including a demonstration that a current commercial ordinance proves to be inadequate to prevent new commercial developments from being detrimental to public health, safety, or welfare.  At that point the discussion just faded away.   

Now on to our current conundrum regarding a proposed Methodist development on the old Randalls site. Residents may find this to be the best choice in a district that allows tall mixed-use/multi family structures!   

Those Yellow Signs Along Bissonnet in the
Museum District Area Are Back!   

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A Short Primer on Bellaire’s Planning and Zoning

Planning and Zoning ordinances are the result of decisions made by the Planning and Zoning Commission, comprised of Bellaire residents who volunteer to serve, and then with final approval of the ordinances by City Council.

P&Z Commissioners and members of City Council may be attorneys or artists, oil and gas executives or real estate agents, retired engineers or homemakers. They are seldom professional city planners or traffic flow analysts, and they rely on the advice of City staff, City management, and occasionally outside consultants.  

Bellaire has debated the question of protecting residential zoning versus encouraging commercial ventures for 50 years or more. Overreach by developers was a primary cause of the recall election in the 1970s.         Continue reading

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City Council on April 17, 2023 – Speed Bumps, Solar Panels, And Outdoor Lighting

Speed Bumps Requested For The 5200 Block of Cedar

A public hearing before the City Council is scheduled for Monday, May 15, 2023, at 6:00 p.m., on a petition from 80% of the property owners along the 5200 block of Cedar Street for the installation of traffic control devices (speed humps) on said block.  Find the Notice here.

Workshop: Installation of  a Rooftop Solar Energy System on City Hall
Submitted by Sharon Citino, City
Manager; presented by Rajiv Pandya, Environmental Sustainability Board Member.

Watch the Council Meeting hereThe Workshop portion of the meeting begins about 1:11 into the video.     Find the PDF of the proposal here

Per this proposal the cost for solar panel installation on the roofs of City Hall and the adjoining Civic Center is approximately $250,000.  There are numerous charts and spreadsheets.    Continue reading

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Planning and Zoning Approves Methodist Application

At the P&Z meeting of April 13, 3023, the application by Methodist Hospital for the redevelopment of the old Randall’s site at 5130 Bellaire was approved by a by a vote of 3 to 2.  The application includes a 3-story, 55′ tall, 95,000 sq. ft. structure in the center of downtown Bellaire.  Find the full video of the meeting here, including comments by Bellaire residents

A clear majority of Bellaire residents who spoke at meetings or sent emails oppose the idea of large buildings on that site.  Most of those in favor were physicians associated with Methodist Hospital.  The representative for Methodist advised that all of the land and improvements would be subject to property taxes, and that seemed to sway some of the Commission members.  The application will now move on to Bellaire City Council for consideration and approval.

Please email comments, concerns, or questions to the Mayor and members of City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your email be forwarded to the Mayor and Council.


Methodist Hospital P&Z Presentation Of March 9, 2023

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Bellaire Triangle Owners Offer $1.00 For Mapleridge Between Bellaire Blvd and Bissonnet

A Public Hearing Before City Council For The Closure Of A Portion Of Mapleridge
Has Been Scheduled At City Hall on Monday, March 6, 2023 @ 6 PM

UPDATE 4/4/2023: The applicant requested a delay on their application and staff issued a new deadline. The deadline has passed and the application will no longer be considered by City Council.  That portion of Mapleridge will remain open.

Continue reading

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An Opinion Piece – A Methodist Building In Center Of Town? Or Worse?

Click to enlarge

UPDATE: Bellaire P&Z Meeting on April 13, 2023 @ 6:00 PM: Update by Page Southerland Page, Inc. on behalf of The Methodist Hospital regarding site changes for traffic flow.  Find the April meeting agenda here.   Exits for right turns only.  Find the original presentation of March 9, 2023, to P&Z here.


March 28, 2023

To the Mayor and Members of Bellaire City Council and Members of Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission

Re: Houston Methodist Application for 5130 Bellaire Blvd

Dear Fellow Residents,

I have nothing against Methodist, but I don’t want to see a huge block of a building in the center of downtown Bellaire. Those types of buildings belong on the perimeter of a small city, not in a prime location. I understood that Methodist had leased space in one of the old Chevron buildings in the NBSDD.  That would be a more suitable location.    

This is one of those choices that will seriously impact the future of Bellaire.  Please, revise the zoning for the UV-D and UV-T before this progresses any further.  It is apparent that many other Bellaire residents want a small-town atmosphere in our Town Center.  They mention Rice Village, for instance, a busy shopping and dining area mainly comprised of one and two-story buildings.  Continue reading

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Methodist Hospital P&Z Presentation Of March 9, 2023

UPDATE 4/21/2023:  The application was approved by P&Z on a 3 to 2 vote at the April 13th meeting. 

UPDATE 3/23/2023: Until a hearing is scheduled before City Council residents may continue to send their comments on this application to zoning@bellairetx.gov

  • Methodist is tax-exempt and the new Methodist buildings could be exempt from property taxes.  The land is owned by Weingartens; there is uncertainty about whether property taxes on the land could also be exempt.  UPDATE:  A Methodist representative stated that property taxes would be paid on the land and the improvements.
  • Possible flooding in underground parking during flood events.
  • Quite a bit of concern about traffic problems, especially off South Rice.
  • Methodist does have an ‘out’ from the lease.
  • Proposal needs to be consistent with the zoning ordinance and with the Comprehensive Plan.

Continue reading

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Positive Developments Ongoing At Bellaire City Hall

Sharon Citino, our new City Manager, is steadily filling open positions, including a new director, Travis Tanner, in Development Services.  He came to City Council meeting on February 20, 2023, to propose some much needed changes to our city ordinance regarding construction sites.  It’s about time that we protect our neighborhoods from trash and stop allowing dirt and debris to wash into our storm sewers.

Consideration of and possible action on the adoption of an ordinance of the City Council of the City of Bellaire, Texas, amending Chapter 9, Buildings, Article I, In General, Section 9-5, Duty of contractors and other persons performing construction work within the city, of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Bellaire, Texas, for the purpose of adding additional requirements for maintenance of construction sites, including temporary fencing, stormwater facility protection measures, disposal of trash, and condition of portable sanitary facilities, and providing the Building Official with additional authority to enforce such requirements – Submitted by Travis Tanner, Director of Development Services. 

Council approved the updates.  Watch the full meeting here: https://bellairetx.new.swagit.com/videos/208623     Next up may be lighting and noise pollution.  Find more information in this post.   

Check out the new City of Bellaire website.  It’s bright and inviting, accessible and informative.  And it’s no longer grey!     Continue reading

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Busy Bellaire P&Z Meetings Reveal Possible Application From Methodist And Ordinance Updates For Noise And Lighting

2023 has already required plenty of time and effort from the members of the Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission.  

A Public Hearing Will Be Scheduled on a Proposal From
Methodist for the Randalls Site

During the January 23 meeting City staff liaison Monique Alejos reported on the receipt of a formal application to P&Z for the planned development of the Methodist medical office building at the former Randalls property on Bellaire Blvd. They are waiting on additional documentation before scheduling the public hearing.  Apparently Methodist has signed a 35-year ground lease for the property. Find a link to the January, 2023, meeting here.  Expect more information on the Methodist application on this site in a few weeks!

The February 9, 2023, of the P&Z meeting focused on discussion and final consideration on a new Noise and Lighting ordinance.        

The noise portion covers residential, commercial, and City activities.  What about weekend hours for construction work?  There’s a long list of noise complaints in the Agenda statement.  The research was impressive and the discussion was thoughtful and reasonable. Find a link to the February 6, 2023, P&Z meeting here and the Agenda statement here.  P&Z will send a letter of recommendation to City Council on the proposed updates.      Continue reading

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Letter To City Council Re Bellaire Dog Pound

February 7, 2023

Dear Mayor and Members of Bellaire City Council,

After the Council meeting on January 23, 2023, I drove by the location of the West University dog pound. It is situated with the City’s wastewater plant at 2801 Braeswood, literally on the north bank of Brays Bayou. More information on the West University Kennel can be found here: https://www.westutx.gov/318/City-Kennel

The location of that pound led me to wonder if the Bellaire pound could remain on Edith St. It’s a quiet area for the dogs and our residents. Yes, it’s in a flood zone, so why not elevate the pound site and add detention if required?  

Please, drive by the site of the new O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. Due to the current zoning in the UV-D the side of the building now faces Spruce St. The foundation facing the street is elevated far above the original lot.      Continue reading

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Mayor Friedberg’s State Of The City Report, February 6, 2023

February 7, 2023 – Please take the time to view Mayor Friedberg’s February 6, 2023, presentation on the State of the City. Thanks to no floods, a new City Manager, and some fiscally conservative decisions Bellaire is doing well. Bonded debt has fallen below the $100 million dollar mark, we have received millions in grant monies, to be used for parks and public works projects. This report provides an overview of City Departments and the state of the City’s finances.


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First Report From Ardurra Group Hired To Oversee Regional Drainage Program for Bellaire

On December 19, 2022, Bellaire City Council approved a work order contract with Ardurra Group Incorporated (Ardurra) to manage a regional drainage improvement program.  The twelve month contract cost is not to exceed $390,795.  Ardurra will produce monthly reports for City Council.  Find the full Agenda Statement for the January 23, 2023,meeting here.     Continue reading

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Bellaire Dog Pound Proposal To Be Presented To City Council At The Jan. 23, 2023 Meeting

UPDATE 1/24/2023:  At last night’s meeting, Bellaire City Council members agreed to postpone a decision on the location of a new dog pound.  Instead they have requested that City staff provide more information on zoning issues for the 1311 N. First St in Bellaire location,  They also suggested that staff explore other possible locations, within the City or at least close to City limits.  Several residents either spoke or emailed to request that the pound be located within Bellaire. Most of the Council members seemed to agree. Find a link to the meeting here.  Stay tuned!


1/23/2023 – Monday night’s City Council meeting will include approval or rejection for grant applications and expenditures for various utility and equipment items.  

Agenda Statement Report Submitted by Chief of Police Onesimo Lopez

But the last item on the Agenda may generate a fair amount of discussion.  It’s the possible action to approve replacement of Bellaire’s dog pound.

The cost to the City if the pound is built on City land located in the UV-T, in the Westpark/610 area and originally estimated at $225,000, is now $403,120. Less a $100,000 donation from the Jerry and Maury Rubenstein Foundation the final cost would be around $300,000.

If the pound is moved to the Rubenstein property at 2328 W. Bellfort in Houston, with costs paid by the Rubenstein Foundation, the cost to the City would be about $35,000.  Quite a difference in price, but also quite a bit more travel time for Bellaire residents and Bellaire police officers.  The pound is checked at least twice daily, including weekends. Find a floor plan drawing below:    Continue reading

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Bellaire Is Due To Receive Over $3 Million In Grants

Some great news!  Per the most recent Mayor’s Musings January 13, 2023:

Another $3.3 Million in Grant Funding Coming Our Way

A great way to start the new year, we’ve recently been informed that several of our federal and state grant applications have been approved.

With sincere appreciation to Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher for once again going to bat for us, Bellaire secured $3 million in the latest round of federal appropriations.

Find the entire report here    

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ESB – Possible Proposal For Solar Panels On City Hall

The Environmental Sustainability Board will vote on submission of a resolution to City Council to install solar panels on the roof of City Hall at the January 4, 2023, meeting. 

Click on the image above to view an earlier ESB presentation prepared by ESB member Rajiv Pandya.  Mr. Pandya is a principal with SHINE Partners, which builds solar projects.

The estimated cost is $244,500.  Proposed financing includes Federal tax credits, a 5-year grant from Shell, and City of Bellaire funds.  

Please email comments, concerns, or questions to the Mayor and members of City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your email be forwarded to the Mayor and Council.  

 

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Happy Holidays!

My sincere wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy holiday season and a wonderful start to 2023!  

Some quick updates:

The Dog Pound dilemma is scheduled to go to Council soon, probably in January.

The Board of Adjustment chose unanimously to approve additional signs at Bellaire High School, overruling our current zoning.  They would have done the same regarding the scoreboard on the new baseball fields, but two BOA members voted no.  Kind of makes one wonder how effective our zoning ordinances are, doesn’t it?  

Mayor Friedberg has posted information on Bellaire’s regional drainage program, Actionable Next Steps in Regional Drainage Improvement Program.  

Find more information on earlier City plans in this BCC.com article: Master Drainage Concept Plan for City of Bellaire – UPDATE – Preliminary Cost is $335 Million

The new bridges over Brays Bayou are almost complete, and hopefully will help to prevent future severe flooding in our area.  Find information from the Harris County Flood Control District here.

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City Council Held A Workshop On The Proposed Bellaire Dog Pound

City Council held a workshop on Monday, November 21, 2022,  regarding the proposed new dog pound.  Find the meeting here.  Find the presentation for a new pound by Bellaire Chief of Police Lopez here

I encourage every Bellaire resident to view that meeting.  Let the Mayor and members of Council know what you think about the various plans and structures, and possible locations.  Should the facility remain in the City, or move to Houston?

The current shelter is located at 4300 Edith St and floodiing in that area has been a problem, thus the desire to move the facility to a new site.  Bellaire currently has an Animal Control officer, and BPD officers check on the shelter twice a day, including weekends.  Continue reading

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O’Reilly Auto Parts Plans To Rebuild

On August 20, 2020, Bellaire’s Board of Adjustment voted NO, 4 to 2, on a request from O’Reilly Auto Parts for a variance in the zoning of the UV-D to construct a new one-story building at their current location at 5134 Spruce. Find the original plans here.  A representative for O’Reilly Auto Enterprises explained that a 2-story structure for the store was unnecessary and financially unfeasible.

At the joint workshop for City Council and Planning and Zoning, Bellaire Development Services Interim-Assistant Director Christian Somers exlained that O’Reilly Auto Parts will have a new building in the same location on Spruce, described as a redevelopment project. 

Due to the current zoning, customer parking will be along one side, in front of what will now be the storefront.  In order to meet the setback and the 2-story zoning requirements the building will be one-story with a 2nd story mezzanine at the front property line.

O’Reilly Auto Parts has been a good neighbor in that location for years, and many residents still remember Charlie Fischer’s original Hi-Lo Auto Supply.  

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Councilmember’s Proposal For A Workshop On Zoning Is Sidelined

UPDATE: The discussion at the October 11, 2022 joint workshop included a decision to hire a consultant and suggestions on seeking public input, What do residents want in their commercial areas, especially the UV-D and the UV-T.  

Buildings at 4460 Bissonnet @ Newcastle in the CMU. The rear and the side of the building face a main thoroughfare. The garage towers over residences to the north.  

Would they prefer the opportunity to pull in and park in front of a shop or store?  What do they think about multi-story parking lots adjacent to multi-story office buildings, nextdoor to homes, as built at 4460 Bissonnet?    

What about a similar design on the old Randalls site?  Are Bellaire residents okay with zero setback, up to 90% lot coverage, and possibly a couple of 5-story buildings?  Please, let City Council and P&Z know what you think,        Continue reading

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HISD Requests Variances For Sign Ordinances: Now Scheduled for October 20, 2022

UPDATE 10/21/2022: Because a unanimous decision was required to approve the requests the appeal for the oversized scoreboard was voted down.  However, by unanimous vote the Board of Adjustment voted in favor of additional signage at Bellaire High School even though they violated our zoning ordinances.  Here’s a link to that meeting.

UPDATE: The September 15th meeting was cancelled and is now scheduled for October 20, 2022 

After the completion of the new Bellaire High School and the ball fields at Bissonnet and Avenue B, the Houston Independent School District is not happy with Bellaire’s sign ordinances.  An HISD representative is scheduled to appear before the Board of Adjustment on Thursday, September 15, 2022, October 20, 2022, due to the denial of sign permits per City Ordinances as follows:       Continue reading

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FY2023 City Of Bellaire Budget Approved

Bellaire City Council approved the final numbers for the 2023 City budget on September 19, 2022. First up was a vote to retain the current property tax rate of $ .4473, approved by 7-0.  A hearing on the tax rate is scheduled for October 3, 2022.  Find the complete FY2023 budget here.    Continue reading

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Houston Methodist Architect’s Presentation For A PD On The Randalls Site

Options 1, 2 & 3

On September 8, 2022, members of the Planning and Zoning Commission were treated to a conceptual presentation for a Planned Development, a medical office building on the old Randalls grocery store site. 

At right are three options proposed by Page Architects.  If you think H-E-B is oppressive, how about a 5-story building and the adjacent 5-story garage, bordering Bellaire Blvd and Bissonnet per Option 1?   Continue reading

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Big Plans For The Old Randall’s Space

Realty News Report’s Michelle Smith reports that the Randall’s space at 5130 Bellaire Blvd has been leased by a group associated with Houston Methodist Hospital. Find the article here.

A small town feel?

The old grocery store, erected in the 1950s, would be demolished to make room for a 4-story building full of medical facilities including a surgery center.  The site is in the UV-D, Urban-Village Downtown District, and if approved will certainly put an end to any small-town or ‘village’ feel in that area. 

In fact, when this area was rezoned in 2014 a “small-town” feel was part of the City’s promotion to rezone these areas.  Read the item at left.  Instead it’s zoned with zero setbacks and minimum 30-foot tall buildings.

It’s hard to imagine any other affluent community allowing these large developments in the center of town or directly adjacent to residences.  If they are permitted at all they are on the periphery, as in West University and Southside Place.  But the Mayor seems to feel a 4-story building will fulfill the plan for urban development in Bellaire’s original downtown.  No doubt it also will lead to an increase in traffic.  Continue reading

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Renovation Plans For The Bellaire Triangle

An article in the Houston Chronicle reports that a re-design is planned for the Bellaire Triangle.  The center’s longtime owners, MC Management & Development, plan extensive renovations including the addition of an open-air space for outdoor events.  There’s no word yet on the future of the current tenants. 

The center is bounded by Bellaire Blvd, Mapleridge, Bissonnet, and Chimney Rock, located in the CMU zoning district, and the renovation plans apparently will reflect the current one-story design.          Continue reading

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Proposed Budget FY2023 – Q&A Items You Can Review

7/15/2022 – After a review of the 232 pages of the proposed FY2023 budget I was unable to find estimates for anticipated revenues.  Although there are totals for each sector of the City government, no grand total for the proposed expenditures is provided.  It’s clear that some of these items will change, but wouldn’t it be helpful to see some estimated totals? 

Find an example of consolidated revenue and expenditures for 2022 here.  Will there be $40 million available, or $60 million?  More?  Below is an example from page 3 of the proposed Budget for just the property tax revenue:

This budget will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year’s budget by an amount of $_______, which is a _____ percent increase from last year’s budget. The property tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year is $________.      Continue reading

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It’s Budget Time In Bellaire! Find The Proposed Budget, Also Plans for World Trade Center Artifact

City Council – July 18 2022  Presentation of the proposed annual budget for the City of Bellaire, Texas, for the fiscal year commencing on October 1, 2022, and ending on September 30, 2023 – Submitted by Deacon Tittel, Interim City Manager.

A copy of the budget document can be accessed and downloaded through this link:
https://bellairetx.gov/DocumentCenter/View/29865/–FY-2023-Proposed-Budget-7-18-22         
Continue reading

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Harris County Flood Control District: Tunnel Visions

Harris County Flood Control District is proposing a system of large diameter tunnels, 80 to100 feet underground and 30 to 45 feet in diameter, to carry flood waters to Buffalo Bayou and the Ship Channel.  The suggested location for these tunnels is below various bayous  and watersheds in the County, including Brays Bayou. Continue reading

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Bellaire Hires A New City Manager

From the Mayor’s recent article, Council has hired a new City Manager:

“Following a nationwide search that attracted candidates from far and wide, we ended up finding our next City Manager just a few blocks away. A resident of Braeswood Place and a Bellaire High School parent, Sharon Citino is already very familiar with our community and jumped at the opportunity to serve in this role. She’s got a wealth of municipal experience spanning more than 20 years, with a strong track record of leadership and team building, and has demonstrated the skills and temperament the City Council was looking for.”       Continue reading

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A Softball Toss To A Commercial Developer?

FINAL UPDATE 7/12/2022:  At the third meeting before City Council to address the SUP application from Salad And Go the motion to approve the application was denied by a unanimous vote of 7-0. You can watch the meeting here.

UPDATE:  The July 11, 2022 Council meeting begins at 5:30 PM.  Find the Agenda here:  Agenda for July 11, 2022 @ 5:30 PM – Regular Session begins with a Closed Meeting re City Manager; then interviews for boards and commissions; finally on to usual Agenda items.  

Agenda item I addresses Unfinished Business regarding the Salad And Go (SAG) Special Use Permit application.  Included in the attachments is a Written Protest signed by neighbors within 200 feet of the property.  The Protest meets the Code of Ordinances requirement, therefore approval of the SAG will require six (6) votes on Council.      Continue reading

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We Lost A Valued Member Of Our Community Today, Kathy Ballanfant

With her children at her side, Kathleen Ballanfant, longtime resident and the publisher of the Southwest News and the Village News, passed away on Friday, June 24, 2022.  Kathy has been a a prominent member of the community and a fount of local lore for many years.  She reported on the ins and outs of city halls in Bellaire and West University, political campaigns, local events and local characters.  She was a friend to many and will be missed.

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It Looks Like We’re In For A Long, Hot Summer

Budget talks have begun, the City’s fiscal year begins October 1st.  The City Manager position has been in play for some time, hopefully we’ll have a new, highly qualified City Manager soon.  Meanwhile Council is currently mulling over a number of projects, some funded, some not.

  • A new bathroom for Mulberry Park was approved some time ago, to replace the use of porta-potties by the sports teams.  The last price I recall was around $150,000, to include a prefab unit, a foundation, new water line, new sewer line, and electrical.  It was initially listed in Capital Improvement Projects for $250,000, but that was when it was supposed to be funded by donations, which were never received.  It will require ongoing cleaning and maintenance.
  • Designs for a stand-alone sidewalk are in the works along the 4700-5000 block of Maple St, to connect to Bellaire High School.  Some of the Maple St residents want 5-foot wide sidewalks along both sides of the street, however Council approved only the south side.  The initial estimated cost was around $200,000, but no firm price has been set.  Neighbors affected by the sidewalk need to review the installation plans for their property.
  • A new dog pound has been discussed, but no location or costs have been provided.  In the past Bellaire averaged 3 to 4 stray dogs per month.  Update 6/14/22: This was just released by the City: Upping Our Game at the Bellaire Pound

There have been numerous complaints about lack of oversight and code enforcement on new home construction in the City.  Development Services is responsible for inspections and verification that the builder is adhering to the City codes.  Continue reading

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HISD Baseball Field Layout and Conditions – November 2, 2020

UPDATE – June, 2022: 13 Investigates: HISD’s Field of Dreams comes at time others are lacking

This is from the Mayor’s blog, 11/10/2020.  A modified design and 20 conditions: 

Continue reading

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P&Z Public Hearing: A Mixed Use Development Is Proposed In The UV-T

UPDATE: MAY 13, 2022: There is no application for a PD at this time.  Greg Thompson with Thompson+Hanson Landscape Company, located in Bellaire, spoke and his representatives made a conceptual presentation for one and two-story structures located in a garden-like area in the Urban-Village-Transit District, the UV-T.  Based on the drawings it would be a delightful pedestrian-friendly commercial area with space for gardens and open air events. Find a link to the video here. 

Sadly, there were several problems with the plans, due to the current zoning restrictions regarding zero setback and building height.

Continue reading

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How Are Things Going In The UV-D District?

UPDATE: Portions of recently completed 5100-5200 Spruce are once again being demolished and reconstructed due to improper installation of electrical conduit and irrigation lines.  Ponding and poor drainage are also problems.  The good news is that the cost is on the contractor, not the City. The question is, what do these patched areas mean for the future stability of the pavement?

This was part of a $5.2 million dollar contract to A Status Construction.  The streetscape design was opposed by residents and businesses but approved in 2017 by the Mayor and City Council.  The then city manager promoted this design as a pedestrian friendly area.  What do you think?  The article below from August, 2021, was initially inspired by my queries to the City concerning the “ornate” street lights along the 5100-5200 blocks of Spruce St and Fifth St along H-E-B. “What lights?”, you may ask. The ones purchased in 2018 but never installed.      Continue reading

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Bellaire P&Z’s Discussion About Questionable Zoning Ordinances

Apparently some of our zoning ordinances aren’t in line the the Comprehensive Plan, and the Planning and Zoning Commission is tasked with review of those “inconsistencies”.  Although the Comp Plan is just that, a plan, and one that is constantly changing depending on who’s in charge, some civic leaders insist that it should set the zoning plans for the City. 

P&Z held a Workshop on this subject on April 14, 2022.  Find a link to that meeting here.  It’s an important subject and the presentation was well-done.  Drop down the agenda below the video and click on Comprehensive Plan Update.  It’s about an hour into the meeting.  Continue reading

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City Notice: Flood Risk Management in Bellaire Workshop Information

Bellaire City Council held a workshop on Monday, April 18, to continue their discussion on flood risk management in Bellaire. You can watch the video or view the presentation online. The next workshop is on May 2 at 6 pm in Bellaire City Hall before the regular council meeting.   

April 18, 2022, Video Presentation on Flood Risk Management in Bellaire

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Discussion On Flood Mitigation At The April 4, 2022, City Council Meeting

Councilmember Gordon made a compelling presentation on flood mitigation in Bellaire at the recent Council meeting, which in turn sparked a lively and informative discussion on past floods and future possibilities.  Find the PowerPoint Presentation here and a link to the Council meeting here.      

Considering the projected cost of the Master Drainage Concept Plan for City of Bellaire, with a preliminary amount of $221 million for Bellaire’s portion, it’s time to examine the history of Bellaire’s recent floods and the best way to fund projects for our area.  Find updated information on the interlocal plans among Bellaire, TX-DOT, and the Harris County Flood Control District for drainage here.  There’s high hopes that Project Brays will ameliorate some of Bellaire’s flooding, but apparently much depends on our drainage capacity.  Flooded streets are acceptable, flooded homes are not.      Continue reading

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Urban Renewal? PDs For 4800 Fournace & 5901 South Rice Avenue Are Approved

UPDATE 3/30/2022:  The last meeting on these PD applications, styled as Bellaire Place, was held on March 21, 2022, when a portion of the PDs was approved.  Here’s a link to that meeting.  After a Public Hearing in January and three successive Council meetings Council chose to approve approximately two of the Planned Developments for now, with an allowance to cover up to 70% of the area and some modifications to the buildings.  It’s up to the developer to choose which portions of the developments will be constructed first. Continue reading

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P&Z Hearing March 10, 2022, For 5201 Bellaire Blvd

UPDATE 4/18/2022: The application was approved by a 5-0 vote from P&Z.  The application will now move to City Council.

Find a Summary below from the Agenda for a hearing for a new food establishment at 5201 Bellaire Blvd. Several residents living on Linden St spoke of problems with the alley that borders this block of homes and businesses.  It is in poor repair and is sometimes blocked by large trucks.    Continue reading

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PDs on Fournace & South Rice Were The Subject of A Third Council Meeting

The City Council meeting on March 7, 2022, once again ran almost 5 hours.  Members addressed City business and then, about an hour into the meeting, the three applications for Planned Developments in the new North Bellaire Special Development District NBSDD) were again discussed.     Continue reading

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ChristChurch Presbyterian in Bellaire Is For Sale

UPDATE:  At the P&Z meeting on February 10, 2022, the commission members discussed the current residential zoning and the apparent intent by the owners or the real estate agents to market the Church property as commercial.  They requested that City staff approach the owners to clarify their intent.  Mention was made of the problems with a past request by a developer to rezone 4301 Bellaire Blvd for a commercial building.  It’s a short meeting, you can watch it here.

2023: Currently there is no For Sale sign on the property.  The article below was posted in October of 2019, updated February 11, 2022. Continue reading

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State of the City of Bellaire

The State Of Our City – February, 2022

On February 7, 2022, Mayor Friedberg delivered his State of the City Address. Prominent in the presentation was on the hiring of a City Manager, Council priorities, filling staff vacancies, and City finances. 

Property taxes and bonded debt were covered.  The Master Drainage Concept and the costly recommendations for flood mitigation will be discussed in greater detail in later meetings.  Find some background on that interlocal study here.  Updated information on the loss of our flood insurance discount was presented.  Almost last, but certainly not least, was discussion of zoning.  You can view the entire address here. 

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Why Are We Really Losing City Staff? What Should We Expect From Management and City Council?

In the last 6 months of 2021 numerous mid-level and high-level employees left the City of Bellaire’s employ.  A recent claim of the Mayor and his candidates in the 2021 City election was that City employees are unhappy and leaving due to actions by the three recent members of Council, Catherine Lewis, Nathan Wesely, and Jim Hotze.  Continue reading

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Variance Request For SW Corner of Bissonnet @ Loop 610 – Update and Public Information Request

UPDATE 12/28/2021: The City of Bellaire received a Public Information Request in November, 2021, from the office of a local attorney.  Find the detailed request here.  As of this date the Request is still open.  Are we going to see more lawsuits?        Continue reading

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Master Drainage Concept Plan for City of Bellaire – UPDATE – Preliminary Cost is $335 Million

In December of 2018 Bellaire City Council viewed a presentation for an interlocal agreement among Bellaire, TX-DOT, and the Harris County Flood Control District.  In July of 2019 the City signed an interlocal agreement with Harris County Flood Control committing $351,000 to the agreement.  A March, 2018 Flood Hazard Mitigation Report from ARKK Engineers is available here.    Continue reading

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City Council Election And More Possible Changes At City Hall

The election for Mayor and three members of City Council is over.  A slate of candidates has been elected: Winfred Frazier, Ross Gordon, and Brian Witt, who ran as a slate and were supported by the Mayor, who ran unoppposed. Does this mean another 4 to 3 majority on Council?  The election involved elements of partisanship by local Democratic and Republican parties in what is supposed to be a non-partisan race. Find the official results here.    

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P&Z Wll Consider 3 PD Applications For The NBSDD, The Former Chevron Site

Update 11/24/2021:  P&Z essentially approved the three applications at the November 18th meeting, with an agreement to add some clarifications or conditions.  The Chairman will draft a written agreement for approval.  Once the P&Z process is complete the applications will go to City Council for final consideration.  Find the 11/18/21 meeting video here.

Planning and Zoning CommissionAgenda for November 18, 2021@ 6 PM  Discussion, consideration, and possible action on three (3) planned development applications filed by SLS West Loop, LP, consisting of 5901 S. Rice Avenue, Bellaire, TX 77401 and 4800 Fournace Place, Bellaire, TX 

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A Few Of Bellaire’s Many Comprehensive Plans

We hear a lot about Bellaire’s Comprehensive Plan, the one some Bellaire residents insist must govern our future zoning.  That it’s some sort of civic law or such. Well, for starters, what is a Comprehensive Plan?     Continue reading

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Trying To Deconstruct The Bellaire City Budget

UPDATE: The City of Bellaire Budget FY2022 was adopted on September 20, 2021. Interpreting the budget doesn’t get any easier.  Please take some time to review these pertinent items.  Better yet, grab a cup of coffee and review the Adopted Budget:    Continue reading

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North Bellaire Special Development District Updates

Update 11/24/2021:  P&Z essentially approved the three applications at the November 18th meeting, with an agreement to add some clarifications or conditions.  The Chairman will draft a written agreement for approval.  Once the P&Z process is complete the applications will go to City Council for final consideration.  Find the 11/18/21 meeting video here.  The new NBSDD was approved on a 4 to 3 vote by City Council on May 24, 2021.

Update 9/15/2021:  Find a link to the Public Hearing for this application here.

NOTICE OF A PUBLIC HEARING – Planning & Zoning
September 9, 2021 @ 6 PM in City Hall

SLS Properties’ application for development of the NBSDD, the old Chevron site, has been published by the City of Bellaire.  There will be a Public Hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, September 9, 2021, at 6 PM in City Hall.  Find the full Agenda including detailed descriptions and renderings of the proposed development here, beginning on page 45 of the PDF.

The NBSDD ordinance was approved by City Council in a 4 to 3 vote on May 24, 2021, with some amendments. Voting in favor were Councilmembers Verma, Pappas, Fife and Mayor Friedberg.  Opposed were Councilmembers Lewis, Wesely, and Hotze. Continue reading

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Loss Of The 15% Discount For Flood Insurance – How And When Did This Happen?

FEMA letters in 2021 to the Mayor and to the Interim City Manager.

UPDATE: City Notice: Community Rating System Open House and Community Discussion – September 8, 2021.  

Bellaire residents were informed recently that as of October 1, 2021, they will not receive a 15% discount on flood insurance premiums. 

Thanks to an open records request some of the FEMA documents sent to representatives of the City of Bellaire have been made available, and they reveal a troubling timeline. You can read the FEMA letters by clicking on the image at left.

The letter of January 22, 2021, addressed to Mayor Andrew Friedberg, clearly states “In a CAC letter dated January 16, 2020, we requested copies of Bellaire’s floodplain development repair permits and other documents related to substantial damage determinations for 86 addresses. We had expected that a simple clerical operation to gather and forward the documents would have sufficed, and the CAC would have closed in a matter of weeks; unfortunately, we did not find comprehensive enforcement of substantial damage requirements.      Continue reading

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Any Thoughts On Short Term Rentals In Bellaire?

UPDATE 8/3/2021: A vote on the agenda item was postponed after it became apparent that only Councilmembers Lewis and Hotze felt the ordinance was justified at this time.  Towards the end of the meeting Bellaire’s City Attorney, Alan Petrov, confirmed that West University’s City Council had disallowed short term leases in West University residential neighborhoods over 3 years ago.
You can watch the 8/2/2021 Council meeting here.


Some Bellaire property owners offer properties as short term rentals, usually through the Airbnb or VRBO websites.  Other Bellaire property owners are concerned about this practice.  Back in May of 2021 Councilmembers Lewis and Hotze brought up the issue for discussion to City Council.
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Bellaire Church of Christ Requests Additional Parking Spaces For A Lot On South Rice

UPDATE 8/17/2021: On August 16, 2021, City Council approved the SUP request for the parking lot, with lot coverage at 80% plus some underground detention.

UPDATE 7/23/21: Agenda item was postponed due to petition submissions.  It may be placed on the agenda for the next Council meeting.
UPDATE 6/23/2021: City Council will consider approval of the SUP Request on July 19, 2021. Oral comment has ended but written comments can be submitted through July 15, 2021.  Submit comments to tdutton@bellairetx.gov                  
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Some Thoughts On The Orations By Members Of City Council Re The Proposed NBSDD

UPDATE May 25, 2021: The new zoning ordinance was approved by a 4 to 3 vote on May 24, 2021.
The May 3, 2021, the City Council meeting ended after almost 5-1/2 hours.  The proposed language for the new zoning district along Fournace, the North Bellaire Special Development District (NBSDD) for the old Chevron tract that encompasses approximately 30 acres, covered the second half the evening.

Due to the length of the meeting there will be a Special Session, at a date to be decided, to continue Council consideration of the ordinance.  This tract is bordered by residential areas to the north and the south.  Although residents were not allowed to speak, an owner of the property, Danny Sheena, was allowed to do so towards the end of the meeting.    Continue reading

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UPDATE on Public Hearing Before City Council – Proposed Zoning For The Old Texaco/Chevron Property

UPDATE May 25, 2021: The new zoning ordinance was approved by City Council on a 4 to 3 vote on May 24, 2021.

UPDATE 5/5/2021: After another 5 hour marathon session on May 3rd, this matter has been postponed.  A date will be set for a Special Session for City Council to continue consideration on the proposed language for the the new NBSDD.


4/6/2021: Consideration by City Council on the proposed language for the NBSDD has been scheduled for Monday, May 3, 2021. 

On April 5, 2021, numerous speakers addressed Council at a Public Hearing on the proposed zoning, both in person and by phone.  A number of residents spoke in favor of ‘the development’, even though no development has been presented.  Others complained that they must leave the City to find decent places to eat.  Continue reading

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Bellaire City Library’s 70th Anniversary!

In May of 2021 the Bellaire City Library will celebrate 70 years of service to Bellaire residents.

In January of 1951 a committee was named from the Bellaire Women’s Civic Club for the formation of a Bellaire Library. The Friends of the Bellaire Library formally presented the Library to the City of Bellaire in May of 1951.     Continue reading

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The Parking Lot At 4300 Bellaire Blvd Will Soon Be Gone!

The City of Bellaire has reached an agreement with the developers of Southside Commons regarding the parking lot illegally permitted and built on the CenterPoint property at the entrance to the City.  The lot will be removed by our Public Works Department. 

Terms of the agreement have not yet been released.  Congratulations to the many Bellaire residents who worked so hard to have this lot removed!

Find background on this project here:  No Logo, No Welcome Sign – Just A Parking Lot At The Main Entrance To The City Of Bellaire?

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The Next Step For SLS Properties (The Old Chevron Property)

On February 11, 2021, the Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission approved proposed language for a new zoning district, the NBSDD (24-544 North Bellaire Special Development District), to replace the existing TRPD (24-544 Technical Research Park District) zoning on the former Chevron property. 

New garage was built in 2020.

Find the new draft of the proposed NBSDD at the end of this article.  The proposal will move on to City Council.  Then what? Continue reading

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Another Last Minute Request For Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars

At the March 1, 2021, Council meeting Councilmember Wesely objected to an agenda item for a service agreement contract costing almost a half-million dollars.  A 95-page agenda item for $478,897.95, to be exact, for a 5-year contract for a Police CAD/RMS Upgrade.

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Bellaire’s Timeline For Water Service + CenterPoint Update 2-19-2021

The City distributed this information on the lack of City water on February 17, 2021.  Frozen pipes were not the main problem, and this information was helpful:

We are aware that there has been a lot of confusion regarding the changes that have happened to the City’s drinking water service.  The City staff has created this timeline to explain further the sequence of events that have occurred over the past few days.  We hope this helps to clear up any confusion.

Timeline of Water Pressure and Service Updates

CenterPoint Energy has provided an update regarding power outages and restoration.  Please click on this link CenterPoint Energy Update Press Release 2/19/2021 to read the press release.

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Update on NBSDD Public Hearing on January 14, 2021

UPDATE May 25, 2021: The new NBSDD zoning ordinance was approved by City Council on a 4 to 3 vote on May 24, 2021. Watch the 5 hour meeting here.

Update: 2/12/2021: In a long and somewhat confusing meeting on February 11th the Planning and Zoning Commission essentially approved the proposed draft for the NBSDD with a few minor changes.  They will recommend consideration and approval of the new zoning district from members of Bellaire City Council, possibly as soon as the March 15, 2021, meeting. Listen to the meeting here. Continue reading

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North Bellaire Special Development District – The Great Wide Open!

For over 70 years the 30 acre Texaco/Chevron campus along Fournace between South Rice and what is now Loop 610 was a mix of offices and labs, running primarily on a 9 to 5 schedule five days a week. It had its own zoning district, the Technical Research Park District (TRPD), and operated quietly as a good neighbor.   Continue reading

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Why Would Bellaire Pay Over $400,000 For Building Officials?

What Happened To Our Building Officials?

Update 6/10/2021: The City has hired a new building official,building official, and plans examiner.  Development Services should be fully staffed.

For some reason the City of Bellaire has chosen not to hire, or even attempt to hire, building officials.  Instead, at the January 4, 2021, meeting Council will consider two 9-month contracts totaling $407,250 with an outside vendor.  These contracts were first proposed to Council by Development Services on December 21, 2020.   Continue reading

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The City Of Bellaire Is Now Dealing With Another Lawsuit

The Ongoing Saga Of Spruce and Fifth Streets

The first lawsuit was filed by A Status Construction on August 27, 2020, and is unresolved at this time. The construction contractor claims they are due additional payment for work on Spruce/Fifth (in the area around H-E-B) and Bolivar/Maple.  Some folks may recall that residents and businesses vigorously opposed these projects.      Continue reading

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Is Bellaire Ready For The Cost, Uncertainty Of Turning Over Wastewater Treatment To Houston And Demolition Of Our Wastewater Treatment Plant?

UPDATE 1/25/2021: Updates On Current Events

UPDATE 10/21/2020: City Council voted 5-2 to approve a 1% match in the $65 million dollar CDBG-MIT grant application at the October 19, 2020, meeting.  The application includes the demolition of our wastewater treatment plant to create a detention area, however the cost for detention in that area is not included.  Here’s a link to the meeting.  Start about 4.30 into the meeting. Very interesting.  Bellaire is committed to pay over $650,000 if the grant is awarded and the City accepts it.      Continue reading

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No Logo, No Welcome Sign – Just A Parking Lot At The Main Entrance To The City Of Bellaire?

UPDATE 4/16/2021:  An agreement has been reached between the City of Bellaire and the developers of Southside Commons.  The parking lot will be dismantled by Public Works.  The terms of the agreement are not yet available.

UPDATE:  12/7/2020 – MM Bellaire One LLC, the developers of Southside Commons, filed suit on December 7, 2020, against the City of Bellaire, Evelyn’s Park Conservancy, and Kevin Taylor.

UPDATE 11/16/2020:  At a City Council meeting on Monday, November 16, 2020, the City Council also unanimously rejected the rezoning  applications.

UPDATE 10/8/2020:  The requests to rezone the parking lot were rejected by Planning and Zoning on October 8, 2020, by a vote of 0-6.    Continue reading

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HISD UPDATE FOR BELLAIRE HIGH BASEBALL FIELDS

The item below is from the Mayor’s blog on 11/10/2020 explaining the City Council’s actions at the November 2, 2020, meeting for approval HISD’s application for construction of two baseball fields on the old Gordon Elementary property. 


A modified design and 20 conditions:  The shape of the outfield has been modified to save several more of the mature oak trees on the Avenue B side of the property, while also allowing for additional on-site parking.  To offset the loss of those trees that will need to be removed, HISD will be planting at least 34 new ones.  Should any of the trees to be preserved not survive construction, HISD will be required to replace them with trees of the same size and species if possible, and if not then with multiple smaller trees (each a minimum 8”) that collectively equal the same total caliper size.

Fencing around the entire perimeter of the property will further protect the neighbors by deterring on-street parking, an advantage over the 2017 approved plan.  Unlike some of the alternative options that were presented, ingress and egress on Bissonnet only has been restored, to reduce traffic impacts on residential streets.  Numerous other conditions attached to the permit are directly responsive to community concerns, including a net reduction in storm water runoff and more on-site detention than the status quo.

We recognize this new site plan may not be entirely perfect in all respects and to all people—no more than the 2017 approved plan was—but hopefully once it’s operational it’ll prove generally acceptable to most.  Council carefully considered the thoughtful public comment we received, all of which contributed to a better outcome than would have been achieved otherwise.  The conditions below are reflective of and effectuate that input, in attempting to strike the right balance between HISD’s use of the property and reasonable protections for the neighborhood:

(a) No field lights or public address system shall be installed on the property;

(b) The facilities shall be for the sole and exclusive use of Bellaire High School and not by other entities without prior consent from the City Council of the City of Bellaire, Texas (the “City Council”);

(c) The site shall be locked when not in use.  However, the City of Bellaire Police Department shall have access to the site at all times.  The access plan shall be approved by the Bellaire Police Department;

(d) The facilities shall be used for only the following uses and times listed below, and any other use or time shall require prior approval from the City Council:

Bellaire High School varsity and junior varsity baseball and softball practices – on weekdays until 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays until 5:30 pm;

Bellaire High School junior varsity baseball and softball games, excluding tournaments – on weekdays until 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays until 5:30 pm; or

Bellaire High School baseball and softball community events, not to exceed two events for baseball per year and two events for softball per year – until 7:30 p.m.  For such events access/parking management plan shall be submitted to the City of Bellaire Development Services Director for review and approval prior to the event and specifically detail overflow parking and access management considerations to minimize impacts to adjacent residential streets and to prevent excess traffic congestion on Bissonnet Street;

(e) Construction ingress/egress shall be limited to Bissonnet Street, specifically restricting construction access through Avenue B and/or Feld Park, except as required to close the existing driveway to Avenue B and to plant trees along Avenue B;

(f) There shall be no net fill nor significant impediment to sheet flow on the site;

(g) The lowest visual impact netting material shall be utilized for all nets on the perimeter of the site.  The netting on the third base line of the baseball field shall be extended to protect parked cars;

(h) HISD shall meet the lot coverage and setback requirements of the Code of Ordinances of the City (applying to schools in residential areas);

(i) As represented by HISD at the public hearing before City Council on September 21, 2020, the fields must be graded to avoid runoff and may only be compacted consistent with residential greenspace and solely for the purposes of creating a safe playing surface;

(j) All trees shall be preserved behind residences on the west side of the property, on the south side of the property adjacent to Feld Park, and along Avenue B, excepting one tree in right field, and HISD shall take all reasonable measures necessary for such tree preservation, including but not limited to following the direction of a professional arborist.  However, if any of the above referenced trees on HISD property do not survive construction, HISD shall make all reasonable efforts to replace their lost tree(s) with tree(s) of the same size and species, in approximately the same location.  In the event that similar caliper trees are not available, are prohibitively expensive, or cannot reasonably be placed in the same location, HISD may replace their lost tree(s) with multiple similar species trees of minimum 8” caliper to collectively equal the caliper dimension of the tree(s) that do not survive;

(k) No artificial or impermeable turf may be used for the fields.  No tarps may be used.  No solid (plastic or otherwise) horizontal ground weed barriers may be installed;

(l) No concrete on site except as may be necessary under the batting cages, bleachers, restrooms and storage, for the parking lot, and for sidewalks and pathways which are necessary to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended;

(m) As represented by HISD at the public hearing before City Council on September 21, 2020, the result of the drainage study and drainage plan (including the use of on-site detention) must reflect a net benefit in reduction of runoff and on site detention in comparison to the current condition, taking into account all changes;

(n) Upon the request of City staff (at the direction of Council or on its own accord), HISD must provide an officer to assist with traffic during any games or events;

(o) The pre-existing sidewalk on Avenue B and Bissonnet must be preserved;

(p) No video monitors;

(q) The only on-site lights on the property shall be low impact safety lights directed away from residences;

(r) Except for on the parking lot driveway, HISD shall construct a fence around the entire property inside of the existing sidewalk;

(s) Ingress/egress to the property shall be only on Bissonnet Street; and

(t) On-site parking shall include a minimum of 48 parking spaces.


Find an earlier article here:  51 Trees May Be Removed From The Gordon Elementary Campus

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A Semi-Brief History of Evelyn’s Park: 1908 – 2020

Hopefully City Council’s unanimous decision at the November 16, 2020, meeting to deny the zoning applications by Evelyn’s Park Conservancy for the commercial parking lot at 4300 Bellaire Blvd will lead to the removal of that lot. If you are not familiar with this parking lot issue find information here.

Remarks of Bellaire residents at this meeting and at a previous Planning and Zoning meeting made it clear that lack of transparency surrounding the deals on this parking lot among Evelyn’s Park Conservancy, CenterPoint, and Southside Commons, aided by City of Bellaire staff, has led to stress and dissension among neighbors and to resident disgust, anger, and suspicion of the City and the Conservancy. Continue reading

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City Council in November: HISD Ball Fields, Bellaire Blvd Parking Lot, Debt Reduction, And A Search For A City Manager

HISD Application – Former Gordon Elementary Campus

11/4/2020 UPDATE:  No decision.  Council wants more information on the size of replacement trees.  Listen to the recorded meeting here.
Find the list of conditions and field layout here.


On November 2, 2020, City Council will consider the HISD application for the construction of two baseball fields on the grounds of the old Gordon Elementary School, located at 6300 Avenue B.  Many of the area residents’ concerns have been addressed in the final document presented to Council, including preservation of as many on-site trees as possible.  Continue reading

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A Lawsuit, HISD Fields, Our WWTP.2, The Siemens Contract, And Evelyn’s Park. Good grief!

The action never stops, no wonder we ordinary Bellaire citizens can’t keep up!  Read this post item by item, or drop down to your area of interest.  All of this affects our future.    Continue reading

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September In The City! Our Wastewater Plant, The AT&T Property, The HISD Ball Fields, And The Bellaire Blvd Parking Lot!

After a quiet Labor Day things are picking up at City Hall.       Continue reading

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Another Developer Wants A Variance – For 1.99 Acres on Bissonnet @ 610

NOTE: The BOA meeting was cancelled.

Why will the Board of Adjustment, rather than Planning and Zoning, hear a request on September 17th (7 PM) from a developer for an amendment to a zoning ordinance for a Planned Development? Apparently it’s semi-complicated.

This is  part of an agenda item from a Planning and Zoning Public Hearing this past January regarding the AT&T Property at 6500 West Loop in Bellaire:    Continue reading

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What’s The Point Of Our Urban Village-Downtown?

UPDATE 11/8/2022:  O’Reilly Auto Parts will have a new building in the same location on Spruce, described as a redevelopment project. To accommodate the current zoning the store will face east (the old storefront faced south).  The building will be one-story with a 2nd story mezzanine at the front property line. 

On August 20, 2020, Bellaire’s Board of Adjustment voted NO, 4 to 2, on a request from O’Reilly’s Auto Parts for a variance in the zoning of the UV-D to construct a new one-story building at their current location at 5134 Spruce. Find the original plans here.

A representative for O’Reilly Auto Enterprises explained that a 2-story structure for the store was unnecessary and financially unfeasible. Could we lose another longtime Bellaire business?    Continue reading

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P&Z Hearing 8/13/20 – Update 9/4/20 – The Parking Lot At 4300 Bellaire Boulevard

UPDATE 9/4/2020: A Public Hearing was held on Thursday, August 13, 2020, before the Planning and Zoning Commission, for the parking lot at 4300 Bellaire Blvd. I counted twenty speakers opposed the zoning request, no one spoke in favor. The next P&Z meeting is scheduled for September 10, 2020.  However the September 10th Agenda, just posted, contains no mention of the the parking lot other than in the minutes from the August meeting.  Oversight?  If not, what’s going on?

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Not Interested In Bellaire’s Proposed FY2021 Budget? How About A $6 Million Dollar Dog Pound?

Bellaire’s Municipal budgets are dry and hard to digest.  Lots of verbiage, numbers, graphs, etc.  It’s understandable that most residents don’t spend time reviewing them, and so may have missed the $6 million dollar Dog Pound that was added to the wish list of Future Capital Improvement Projects (CIP).  Continue reading

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A Primer on Bellaire P&Z: Updates, A 30 ft Minimum Height And A Zero Setback!

Many Bellaire residents point to the Rice Village as an example of small shops and boutiques in West University. It is not.  The shops and the huge apartment complex are in Houston.  West University would not allow that huge mixed-use multi-family structure in their city.  In fact West U allows no multi-family, and nothing over 2-1/2 stories.  Bellaire?  Not so much.  Please, read on.  This article was updated on July 24, 2020.

The Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission will be making decisions and recommendations on a number of important zoning matters in the new few months.  Continue reading

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Can We Just Stop This And Reboot? Save Our Businesses And Our Commercial Area?

Demolition was halted in the 5100 block of Spruce

On Friday, July 10th, the contractor for Spruce/Fifth and Bolivar/Maple stopped work on projects over a pay dispute with the City. 

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51 Trees May Be Removed From The Gordon Elementary Campus

UPDATE 11/11/22020:  Council has approved the 2-field plan but with numerous conditions. Find those conditions and the new layout here.

UPDATE: The public hearing by City Council for this application has been postponed to sometime in August 2020 or whenever meetings return to Bellaire City Hall.


As currently approved, the new baseball and softball fields approved by P&Z for use by HISD on the site of Gordon Elementary campus may require the removal of 51 trees on the site.  

The Revised Plan was approved by P&Z on February 13, 2020.

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A Status Construction Owner Spoke At City Council

Public Comments at the July 6, 2020, Council meeting included a call from Raquel Boujourne, the owner and president of A Status Construction LLC, the contractor responsible for the Spruce/Fifth project.  Ms. Boujourne stated that her company has been blamed for the delays on the project and that the accusation was false and unacceptable.    Continue reading

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City Council Is Back In City Hall, And Back In Action!

UPDATE 6/24/2020:  Mayor Friedberg announced that City Manager Paul Hofmann has been hired as the City Manager of Bastrop, TX, and  will be leaving Bellaire on August 2, 2020.


The June 15, 2020, Council meeting was an in-person action packed forum that lasted over four hours.   Unfinished business set the tone for the night with the first agenda item, a second appearance by James Andrews with ARKK Engineers to request additional payment of $116,303.00 for construction management of the long overdue projects of Spruce/Fifth and Bolivar/Maple.
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Catching Up With Bellaire – As We Sheltered At Home

Sorry, this is a long article.  The health crisis and lack of in-person Council, commission, and board meetings have not slowed down the staff meetings and planning sessions at City Hall.  Click on items of interest below to read the various updates at your leisure.  As always, stay safe.

4300 Bellaire Blvd Parking Lot
City Finances
Possible Reorganization of City Departments
South Rice Avenue and Parking in Front of City Hall
Unfinished Bond Projects

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South Rice Avenue In Front Of City Hall – Do We Have To Live With This?

Remember this? South Rice Avenue before the new City Hall/Civic Center was built?  Carefree driving with 2 wide lanes in each direction?  UPDATE:  At the June 15, 2020, City Council meeting the Mayor and members of Council voted unanimously to return this segment of South Rice Avenue to the original arrangement of four lanes with parallel parking along the west side.

Have you driven southbound lately as it narrows to one lane, especially during rush hour and before the health crisis?  Were you cut off by merging drivers?  Did you try to make a right turn from the ‘legal’ lane, only to be cut off by someone cutting around the one lane of traffic via the angled ‘parking’ space lane?

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Bellaire After The Virus Shutdown – In Transit and On Hold

City of Bellaire Economics in 2020 – A New Paradigm

The economic damage from the current health crisis is alarming, and the City of Bellaire anticipates a decrease in revenues FY2020.  At the April 6, 2020, City Council meeting Council member Wesely requested discussion and possible action on measures to reduce expenditures, including a hiring freeze.       Continue reading

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A Breath Of Fresh Air In Bellaire City Council Chambers

The recent Bellaire City Council meeting on March 2, 2020, which included a Workshop regarding Revised Street and Drainage Reconstruction Selection Criteria, once again revealed a marked change in attitude by Council members.       Continue reading

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Bellaire’s Trend For Commercial Development – Residents Had Better Pay Attention

Members of the Bellaire Planning & Zoning Commission have been tasked with drafting proposed amendments to the Technical Research Park District (TRPD), for the purpose of creating a new zoning district, North Bellaire Special Development (NBSDD) District. Continue reading

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Open Letter – Bolivar, A Double Standard. Is It Time For A Change?

February 17, 2020

Dear Mayor Friedberg and members of City Council,                                              

The City Manager’s weekly memo of 2/14/20 contains another memo, from project manager Joseph McMillen to Paul Hofmann. Mr. McMillen addresses the Bolivar Street and Innsbruck Street projects, trumpeting the quality of the work while disparaging the protests of the residents who apparently didn’t realize their streets had so many problems. The City’s main complaints about Bolivar seemed to be that it was too high and too flat. Continue reading

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City of Bellaire – Beautification or Boondoggle?

What’s the value of a City of Bellaire construction contract?  Apparently if you’re the owner of the company awarded contracts for the City Manager’s pet projects it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.      Continue reading

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Bellaire City Council – A 5 Hour Marathon

The January 27, 2020, council meeting, the second of the year, was eventful – and long.  After discussing and approving various ordinances, some passing after minor tweaks, the meeting moved on to Items for Consideration.      Continue reading

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Bellaire City Manager Addresses A Problem With Fraudulent Surety Bonds

In a recent weekly memo on 1/10/2020 Bellaire City Manager Paul Hofmann explained that last Fall it was discovered that the surety bonds provided by A Status Construction, LLC for three (3) City bond projects, totaling over $6.5 million dollars, were fraudulent.
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ARKK References For A Status Construction – We Have A Problem!

On January 30, 2019, Bellaire’s City engineer James Andrews of ARKK Engineers recommended a company new to Bellaire, A Status Construction, LLC, as qualified to run several construction projects funded by the 2016 bond issue, including the $2.5 million Spruce/Fifth St project.  The question is why, based on what information?   Continue reading

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Hopes For A New Year And A New Bellaire City Council

It’s time for some thoughtful reflection on our recent City Council elections.  I believe the election results revealed that our Mayor and recent Council members had lost the trust of both residents and local businesses while following the lead of the City Manager.  That a majority of Bellaire citizens feel it’s time for fiscal discipline and time for their concerns to be addressed.  We don’t need more divisive and contentious issues or flashy projects, we need calm, thoughtful leadership.
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P&Z – HISD Sport Fields and AT&T Bissonnet @ 6400 Loop 610 – UPDATE

UPDATE 12/31/2019: Notice of public hearings on January 9, 2020, for applications from HISD for revisions to the proposed sports fields at the old Gordon Elementary site on Bissonnet and from Cushman & Wakefield, on behalf of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company (AT&T), regarding the property at 6500 West Loop South.  Find more information in the Agenda for 1/9/2020 P&Z Session.      Continue reading

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Bellaire Receives Grants For Bond Projects and an Urgent Care Center Is Approved

After submitting grant applications to various agencies Bellaire is the recipient of two grants to date.  A Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for $252,033.84, for flooding from 2015, will be applied towards the Group C Phase 3 bond project. specifically the 4300 block of Cynthia.  Council member McLaughlan continued to question the need for reconstruction of this particular block in Southdale.  Continue reading

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A Quick Update On The November 5th Election and December Runoff

UPDATE 12/14/2019:  The results of the Bellaire Runoff Election are in.  The new City Council members are Nathan Wesely for Position 4 and Jim Hotze for Position 6, joining Catherine Lewis on City Council in January, 2020.  Here’s the Agenda.

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Why Has Bellaire, Our City of Homes, Become A Target For Commercial Developers?

Scan the most recent posts on this site.  You’ll find articles on developer requests to rezone numerous Bellaire properties.  Not requests to construct developments that comply with current zoning, but to change it.  These developers want more, in essence to revise Bellaire’s zoning to suit their desires.
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4800 Fournace Place – P&Z Meetings – UPDATES

UPDATE 12/17/19: No decisions at 12/12/19 on SLS Properties, 4900 Fournace.  The next step is the meeting in January, 2020. Environmental issues are still a high priority with residents, as well as the scale of the proposed development.  Click for background on earlier applications for this property.
Find recent Environmental Assessment reports on the City of Bellaire website: https://www.bellairetx.gov/DocumentCenter/Index/825
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An Ornate ‘Streetscape’ Behind a Multi-Story Grocery Store? Why?

Remember the curb and sidewalk along the right turn lane on Fifth at Bissonnet?

It’s gone, no more right turn lane. Fifth ends at Bissonnet with a wall high enough to require a railing to prevent someone falling into the street.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Construction on Spruce and Fifth St. alongside and behind H-E-B began in late April of 2019.  The contract called for a completion date of February 15, 2020.  Promoted by the  City Manager and approved by 6 members of City Council, the City of Bellaire decided to narrow 60 foot wide commercial streets to 26 feet wide (about the width of your residential street).  The affected areas are lined with local businesses.  Traveled every day by 18-wheelers and delivery trucks!    Continue reading

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Bellaire Council’s Careless Oversight – $6.5 Million Dollars of Bond Funds

UPDATE: March, 2020 – Still no actual list of responses to reference checks from the City of Bellaire.  A logical deduction: perhaps none were made, no one was contacted, or perhaps the responses were not positive.

An Open Letter to the Mayor and Members of City Council:

You may recall that I sent you an email on July 31, 2019, about the construction site on Fifth and Spruce Streets, part of $6.57 million dollars in contracts awarded to A Status Construction LLC.    Continue reading

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If Bellaire Can Afford A $280,000 EMS Ambulance, Why Not A Ford Pickup Truck?

Is anyone else curious about the disparity between the proposal to purchase a new EMS ambulance for $280,000, and the fact that Bellaire leases other City vehicles instead of purchasing them?
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The Sky’s The Limit! At Least For Now…

Two Bellaire residents spoke at the City Council meeting on Monday, October 21, 2019, expressing their concern about a new residential construction in their area that is elevated about 10 to 12 feet off the ground.  See the photo at left.   Continue reading

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Did Bellaire Voters Miss The Fine Print in the 2016 Bond Election?

My Comments at City Council on September 16, 2019:

Good Evening, Mayor and City Council,

I realize that you would prefer that we simply support you in your approval of this budget. That we hand you and the City Manager control of over $46 million in City funds with little or no examination of the expenditures. Some of you seem to resent any scrutiny about how that money is to be managed and spent.     Continue reading

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All That Debt – Where Has The Money Gone?

Since 1980 Bellaire voters have approved $199,980,000 in bond issues.  Most of that amount, $165,480,000, has been approved since 2000.  We currently owe about $123 million.  What do we have to show for all that debt? 

Even though many homeowners are recovering from the 2017 flood, and we still have lovely areas of homes lining shady streets, why do so many other streets and especially our main thoroughfares reflect a lack of maintenance?   Continue reading

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Siemens – Where Do We Stand On The $12.8 Million Siemens Contract?

  • Have you received notification of the free Aquahawk Alerting system?
  • Dealt with a water leak not far from your new water meter?
  • Do you even know that you have a new water meter? 
  • Or what an Aquahawk is? 

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Mike Jacobs – A Presentation to Bellaire City Council, September 9, 2019

Please click on the page below to view Mike Jacobs’ Budget Analysis FY2020 as presented to Bellaire City Council on September 9, 2019.  The pdf can also be downloaded.  Thank you.

 

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4301 Bellaire Blvd – Can We Trust Our Zoning?

August 6, 2019: There was good news for Bellaire residents as City Council voted 6 to 1 at the August 5, 2019, Council meeting to retain the existing residential zoning in the Bellaire Boulevard Estate Overlay District (BBEOD).  Only outgoing council member Pat McLaughlan voted in favor.  Let’s hope the same attitudes carry over to the rezoning requests for the property at 4800 Fournace Place.


I planned to write an article about the Planning & Zoning vote on April 11, 2019, on an application filed by a developer to amend the official zoning map.

It would rezone the property located at 4301 Bellaire Blvd from Bellaire Boulevard Estate Overlay District (BBEOD), a low density residential area, to CMU (Corridor Mixed-Used District) to allow for the possible construction of a 22,000 square foot, two-story office building with surface parking.
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Tax and Spend – Bellaire Council’s Budget Session #3 and Some Updates

Final Budget Revisions FY2020

UPDATE 9-27-2019:  On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, the City Council approved an increase the total tax levy for the 2019 tax year (fiscal year 2020) by 3.28% by proposing a tax rate of $0.4473 per $100 valuation.  Less then the original 8% and the second reduction to 7.1% but most property taxes will still increase.

UPDATE 9-30-2019:  After cutting some expenses and moving amounts from one account to another, the City Council essentially adopted the budget submitted in July.  Less than $200K in spending cuts in a $46 million dollar budget.  2020 Bellaire Budget


We learned from the third budget session, held on August 26, 2019, that our appraised property values have appreciated and Bellaire’s property tax revenue for 2019 may increase by about $1.3 million. The City Manager announced that this allows a decrease to a 7.1% tax rate for 2019.  It seems that no matter how much revenue this city takes in, it all gets spent – and then some.
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Bellaire Budget FY2020 – And The City Manager’s Hit List!

Apparently the sky’s not really falling, since the proposed budget FY2020 presented by the City Manager increases expenditures in every major area and includes a million dollars for him to use to plan the next bond issue.  Including the proposed budget FY2020, City spending increased a million dollars a year for the past 5 years.  Some takeaways:
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Bellaire Property Taxes Up 25% Over The Next 5 Years?

UPDATE 9-27-2019 Some good news.  On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, the City Council meeting will include a presentation regarding a proposal to increase the total tax levy for the 2019 tax year (fiscal year 2020) by 3.28% by proposing a tax rate of $0.4473 per $100 valuation.  Based on the earlier suggestions of an 8% increase this comes as a relief to taxpayers, though many residents felt no tax increase was needed due to the increase in revenues of a million dollars or more per years for the past 5 years, plus higher appraised values for many property owners are anticipated.


Could we see our Bellaire property taxes increase as much as 25% over the next 5 years?  A proposal for an 8% increase for 2019, and increases of 3.5% per year though 2024 was  discussed at at the first of several City Council meetings and workshops to discuss next year’s budget.  Continue reading

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