Open Letter to Mayor and City Council: Time To Call For Some Changes?

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 12/7/19: No decisions at 12/6/19 meeting, 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
Continue reading

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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?

Now it’s a wall high enough to require a railing to prevent someone falling into the street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Construction is underway on Spruce and Fifth St. alongside and behind H-E-B.  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

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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ChristChurch Presbyterian in Bellaire Is For Sale

ChristChurch Presbyterian, at the corner of Bellaire Blvd and South Rice Avenue, is for sale.  Originally established as a Presbyterian church in 1919, Bellaire Presbyterian merged with Braeburn Presbyterian in 2006.  According to Bellaire history the current red brick sanctuary was built in 1957, and is part of an attractive campus rimmed by beautiful live oak trees. Continue reading

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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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Bellaire Planning and Zoning – A Primer

I want to preface this article with one piece of information.  Many Bellaire residents point to the Rice Village as an example of shops 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 no multi-family, and nothing over 2 1/2 stories, is allowed in West U except a church and the elementary school, both on University Blvd.    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 $125 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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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? 

Continue reading

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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.
Continue reading

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Bellaire – 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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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.


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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4800 Fournace & 5901 South Rice – Development & Apartments – Undermining Residents and Our City of Homes?

UPDATE: A second workshop is to be scheduled during the week of October 28, with a public hearing to follow during the week of November 18, tentatively. The Commission would then vote at their December 12, 2019, meeting.

Portion of Warranty Deed

Find recent Environmental Assessment reports on the City of Bellaire website: https://www.bellairetx.gov/DocumentCenter/Index/825    

“There are 82 monitoring wells on the property, and the last report that I found on the website said that 41 showed contamination,” said Bellaire resident Charles Platt at the July 11, 2019, P&Z meeting, referencing the TCEQ Continue reading

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Bellaire’s Future & the Status of the 2016 Bond Funds

Click the graphic at left to review the 8 page draft of the end product from the recent City Council Workshop. It is a 5-year priority plan distributed by the City Manager, and a lot for citizens to digest.  For most intents and purposes, for now the future of Bellaire was basically decided in these 2 days.     Continue reading

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Flood Mitigation Task Force Meeting March 26, 2019

I watched the recent Flood Mitigation Task Force meeting held on March 26, 2019, available on Facebook.  The focus was streets and drainage.  How to prioritize what streets get fixed first.  Suggested ranking criteria was first discussed – how many houses flooded in a block.  How old the houses were.   Continue reading

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Council Meeting March 4, 2019 – “Vote No Bonds” and A Raise For City Manager

The Council meeting on March 4th was a quiet affair with one highlight – local resident Dan Sebesta registered his objections to having his engineering qualifications questioned by the the City Manager.  The highlight of his talk was his sign: VOTE NO BONDS.  He opined that giving this City Council more bond money in November was like handing booze to an alcoholic.

Speaking about the upcoming election, four council seats will be in play.  Hold that thought.

After the meeting the Council retired to a closed session and returned to the dais to vote in favor of a $6,000 raise for the City Manager.  Six votes in favor, Council member Pat McLaughlan abstained.  Video of the meeting can be found here.


Bellaire’s Debt is estimated to be $124.8 million at the end of FY2019
Not including the interest

Email your thoughts or opinions to the Mayor and members of City Council in care of our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at tdutton@bellairetx.gov

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Welcome To A Lush Grove? Now It’s Migrated To The City’s Website!

Back in 2017 City Council approved $50,000 for a branding study, with a no-bid contract to a company owned by a Bellaire resident.  The results of that study, a B/leaf logo, a verbal identity, and a green font, were met with derision by many Bellaire residents.
Continue reading

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How Much Debt Is Too Much?

Over half of the $23.38 million in bonds approved in 2016 for Water and Wastewater Improvements did not go toward new water or sewer lines.  It was devoted to a contract with Siemens for new water meters and improvements to the wastewater treatment plant.

According to our longtime Public Works director, who retired prior to this bond issue, the wastewater plant was in working order and in compliance with the TCEQ.   However Council approved $8 million in renovations for the plant.  Complete water meter replacement was based on tests on 70 water meters that showed ‘low flow’ was under-reported. Continue reading

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How Is Our City Money Being Managed?

Don’t be fooled by recent City Council votes on sidewalks.  Five foot wide sidewalks are still the standard with street reconstruction.  The stand-alone sidewalks have been shelved but the funds have not been redirected by City Council to other projects like new streets or drainage, even as Council is considering another $47 million dollar bond issue in 2019 and another $36 million in 2022.  Take a look at the page below. Continue reading

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Council Votes 6 to 1 To Proceed With The Spruce/Fifth St Project at 2/18/2019 Meeting

NOTE: The State of the City Powerpoint presentation from February 4, 2019, can be found at the end of this article.


Despite the large number of speakers at recent City Council meetings who opposed the Spruce/Fifth St project as planned, plus an overwhelming number of emails to members of City Council and the Nextdoor posts in opposition, the mayor and council approved the plan by a 6 to 1 vote at the February 18, 2019 City Council meeting.  Only Pat McLaughlan opposed the project.

H-E-B employee vehicles parked in public spaces in the 5200 block of Cedar

Although the 2016 bonds were promoted for the design and construction of streets and drainage systems with sidewalks on at least one side of the street, the $2.5 million dollar award to Astatus for the Spruce/Fifth project includes $360,449 just  for landscape and irrigation costs.

Further costs cannot be determined for the 7-foot wide sidewalks on both sides of the streets, curbs, angled public parking, decorative street lights, tree wells, etc. that are included in what is described as a street and drainage project.  Continue reading

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15. Bellaire’s 10th Decade 2000 – 2008 A Centennial Year

Welcome to Bellaire in the first decade of the twenty first century.  From 9/11/2001 to Bellaire’s Centennial year of 2008.  A new city manager, new parks, more bonds for streets, drainage and sidewalks, aquatics centers and municipal facilities.  Zoning changes, and more park projects.

Find Lynn’s latest chapter on our town’s history here.

All Chapters are listed under Bellaire History on the main menu.

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Cost Savings Won’t Lower The City’s Debt – See A Debt Comparison Courtesy Of The Texas Comptroller

Cost Savings and Future Costs

The Municipal Facilities cost has reached $21 million.

Council sang the praises of city staff at the January 7, 2019 council meeting for some cost savings – the cost for change orders for the Municipal Facilities was reduced to $302,516. 

So far the amount for the new structures, estimated in 2017 to run about $19 million, is now close to $21 million, paid almost entirely from bond funds.  Still to be completed is the demolition of the old city hall, the construction of a new Civic Center, parking lots,  landscaping, and miscellaneous costs.  Continue reading

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What’s All This About Downtown Redevelopment in Bellaire?

Do We Value Our Small Businesses?

Can’t the appearance of downtown Bellaire be improved without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to drive out our longtime businesses?      

We already have everything we need to remain a successful and attractive community.  A great location, terrific schools and parks.  Friendly residents living on tree-lined streets in quiet neighborhoods.  A city government that includes our own library, police and fire departments, and a public works department. Continue reading

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About Those Bids for Spruce and Fifth + Maple and Bolivar

UPDATE 2/18/2019:  Find the breakdown for the final proposed cost of $5,200,890.50 for the Spruce/Fifth ($2.5 million) and Maple/Bolivar ($1.76 million) projects – plus $1 million to the engineering companies.   About 10% of the 2016 bond issue.  The project was approved on at the City Council meeting.  The full agenda can be found here. Agenda for February 18, 2019

The six (6) estimates are available at the end of this post.

Please email the Mayor and City Council via tdutton@bellairetx.com regarding these projects.  Your comments at the Council meetings matter, too!  Here’s my email of February 13, 2019.

February 5, 2019

Dear Mayor and Members of City Council,

It is important that you understand not only the financial damage that the proposed Spruce/Fifth St project as designed will inflict on our local businesses, but also the added cost to Bellaire taxpayers.       Continue reading

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A Sidewalk Petition and Some Fireworks at the January 28th Council Meeting!

The January 28, 2019, City Council meeting went off like a rocket and just kept climbing. A link to the video of the meeting is available at the end of this article.  Please watch the video, you’ll find it interesting. Continue reading

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2019: Drainage Plan – Town Hall Meeting – Spruce St

The highlight of the December 17, 2018, Council meeting was the presentation a Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan, beginning with a proposed interlocal agreement among Bellaire, TX-DOT, and the Harris County Flood Control District.  Bellaire is located at the east/southeast terminus of various watersheds that flow into Brays Bayou.  Continue reading

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A Master Plan For Wasteful Spending – While Harming Local Businesses

At this point the proposed date for Council’s approval of the project is February 18, 2019.  A pdf of the presentation can be found here: 1_7_19_Spruce&Fifth        

The City of Bellaire seems determined to narrow 60 foot wide commercial streets to 26 feet wide (about the width of a residential street) – for 2 lanes of traffic.  Traveled every day by 18-wheelers!  With 2016 Bond money as part of a project to reconstruct streets, drainage, and sidewalks.
Continue reading

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City Council Update on Spruce/Fifth St Leads To An Unpleasant Exchange; The 4th Quarter Financial Report Is Available

At the November 19th City Council meeting, Denton Ragland, CEO of the Bellaire Business Association, made a presentation promoting a campaign to encourage residents to ‘Stay Local to Bellaire Resources’  and stay loyal to their local businesses, then City Manager Paul Hofmann presented his report.  Continue reading

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Chapter 14 – Controversy and Changes In The Last Decade Of The 20th Century!

It was the last decade of the twentieth century. There was much speculation and even foreboding by some that the century’s end might be doomsday…

Bellaire in the 1990s was fraught with controversy, criminal charges, and a succession of mayors.  Find Lynn’s latest chapter on our town’s history here.

All Chapters are listed under Bellaire History on the main menu.

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A New Addition To The Menu: Our Environment

Find information on Bellaire’s recycling program.  The wrong items in our recycle bins cost us money!  Find tips on other forms of recycling via the Our Environment tab on the menu. A Holiday Note: Did you know that MOST wrapping paper is NOT recyclable?

  • what can and cannot be recycled (no pizza boxes!)
  • how to dispose of hazardous waste
  • recycling those autumn leaves
  • grasscycling – no matter who does the mowing
  • water conservation and water pollution
  • mosquito misting concerns
  • and terrific information on plants from Aggie Horticulture
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Yes to Chevron Property, No to Car Wash, Pause in the Sidewalk Saga

At the November 5, 2018, City Council meeting a specific use permit for a car wash business at the corner of Bellaire Blvd and Ferris St. was not approved.  The vote was 5 to 2, with Council members Pappas and Montague voting for the permit.  Council had voted unanimously to approve a specific use permit for SLS Properties’ plans for the Chevron Continue reading

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2019 Budget is Adopted – Future Bond Program Planning Session – A Possible $47 million Bond Issue in 2019

2016 Debt – No New Bond Issues

 

The Bellaire City Council, City Manager, and City staff discussed the possibility of another bond issue in 2019.  The amount proposed by City staff is $47 million.  A second bond issue in 2022 was also mentioned, at this point it would be an additional $36 million. Continue reading

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Bellaire History In Tangible Form – The Centennial Walk

Click  for History Walk

Are you aware of Bellaire’s History Walk?  Lynn’s latest chapter of Bellaire history, History In Tangible Form, explains the background of Bellaire’s History Walk and the various monuments around town.  Part of the City’s centennial celebration.  Find it here!

All Chapters are listed under Bellaire History on the main menu.

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Answer The Call For A Referendum on Sidewalks

Call for Referendum To Require a Vote on Sidewalks!

SidewalkChoice was founded by a group of Bellaire residents who feel the $55 million dollar 2016 Bonds for Better Bellaire bond issue left out important facts about how the funds would be applied, and changes were made that obscured the true use of a portion of the funds.  For more information on the petition calling for a vote on sidewalks go to www.sidewalkchoice.com

Preface: On August 15, 2016, City Council approved a motion to call a bond election for November 8, 2016, for $53,980,000.  Four propositions were initially discussed:  1) street and drainage facility improvements for $20 million); the construction of new municipal buildings for $5.9 million (City Hall/Civic Center and Police/Courts Building), 3) water line improvements, for $20.38 million and 4) sidewalk improvements for $4 million. 

However Council member Pollard proposed that Prop 4 for sidewalks be included in Prop 1, and that proposition be changed to 1) streets, drainage, and sidewalk improvements for $24 million, effectively removing the opportunity for Bellaire residents to approve funding for stand-alone sidewalks.  Mayor Friedberg objected to this change.  In addition, the $12.8 million Siemens no-bid contract was included in Prop 3, not listed as a separate proposition.  

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What Happened To That $55 Million Dollars?

In response to requests for a printed version of my comments at the October 15, 2018 Council meeting I am posting it below:

Good Evening Mayor, City Council, and Citizens, Continue reading

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Bellaire’s History: The 1980s – Bellaire Special TIFD District Formed to Rebuild Downtown

From boomtown to slowdown, in 1980 population in Bellaire dropped from a high of almost 20,000 to less than 15,000. President Ronald Reagan defeated Michael Dukakis and reigned for the decade until George H.W. Bush took over in 1989. There was Black Monday in 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22.6% on October 19th, largest one-day decline in history. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 closed the decade.  Read the next chapter of Lynn’s Bellaire history!

All Chapters are listed under Bellaire History on the main menu.

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Property Values, Tax Increase, and Our Burgeoning Debt – Good Evening, Mayor and City Council,

Preface: In order to maintain our current revenue stream City Council has agreed on an increase to our property tax rate from $ .4159 to $ .4313 for tax year 2018 to compensate for the lower property values on the tax roll.  Those residents whose assessed value increased or remained the same as the prior year will see an increase in their property tax for 2018.  Those whose assessed value declined will see their tax bills remain the same or may see a decrease.  Here’s a random example of the current situation, a beautiful 3200 square foot home in Southdale built in 1996 that suffered flood damage and was completely rebuilt.  It sold this past July:

  • HCAD Value as of January 1, 2017     $811,160
  • HCAD Value as of January 1, 2018     $737,291  (a decline of $73,869)
  • Sold Price as of July 30, 2018     $670,000 (an additional decline of  $67,291

Assuming the new owners protest the 2018 appraisal, this property’s value on the tax roll will be lowered a total of $141,160, or about 17%, from the 2017 value.  And this is just one of approximately 2000 homes that flooded in Bellaire, many with lowered HCAD appraisals FY2018. Continue reading

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How Do City Bonds Work?

Click to see how Bellaire’s debt compared to other similar sized cities in 2016- the current debt stands at $124 million

Many city governments find themselves up against a wall when they need money for day-to-day operating expenses, building new structures, improving existing structures or making repairs. Ongoing expenses, including employee wages, maintenance andinsurance, plus periodic projects including building schools, improving roadways and ensuring the safety of bridges, represent significant costs for city governments. To pay for these costs, a city’s resources include licensing fees and tax payments. But there are times when city budgets simply cannot sustain the city’s operating costs and city coffers come up shorthanded (or empty-handed) to cover expenses or fund needed projects. During times like these, government officials often turn to city bonds as a resource for raising the money. Continue reading

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Bellaire: A City Divided

UPDATE: Recent information has been received.  Find out what streets in the Group D Phase 1 and Phase 2 are approved for sidewalks and what streets have been removed.   Read it here. 

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, 4 members of Council chose to ignore the Bellaire residents who spoke out against the Pathways Plan and others who spoke against sidewalks in their front yards. By their vote to add 5 foot wide stand-alone sidewalks and even more concrete to our City those 4 members also turned their backs on the many residents who fear another flood. How much more concrete will cover Bellaire with 5-foot wide sidewalks? Or with more sidewalks, period? Continue reading

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Chapter 11: The 1970s – The Bellaire Recall of its Mayor and Council Members

It was 31 years ago, in 1977, that 4,619 Bellaire voters at a Special Recall Election called by a citizens’ initiative referendum succeeded in recalling from elected office the Mayor and three of the five City Council members.

Bellaire citizens were up in arms when the City Council insisted on going against the majority of residents who opposed more commercial development.  Read Lynn’s latest history article here!

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Spruce Street – Not In My Backyard! But The City Manager Just Won’t Give Up. Why?

HEB dumpster service – note how far the truck extends into the current 60′ R.O.W. – over half the width. And the delivery truck at another business. (Click for larger image)

You’ve heard the phrase ‘Not in my backyard’, right? This Spruce St/Fifth St project is everyone’s back yard. We tend to spend most of our home time in our neighborhood, but just about everyone in the City spends some time in our downtown area. 

Initial Plan for 5100 block of Spruce.  Purple parking areas block existing parking lots.

The plans are about 90% complete and the City is still determined to narrow the streets and build public parking – for who?

These folks are our neighbors. Some of them have been in business for 20 or 30 years or more. A bite to eat at Jax, windshield wipers or a plug for the lawn mower at O’Reilly’s, drop off your car at Bellaire Auto or your youngster at Treehouse Learning Center. How will you replace this kind of service if these trusted longtime businesses go away? Accessing the new H-E-B won’t be easy, either, with all the traffic forced into a constricted area if this street is narrowed.
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A 4 to 2 Vote and We Get 5 Foot Sidewalks

Preface: On August 15, 2016, City Council approved a motion to call a bond election for November 8, 2016, for $53,980,000.  Four propositions were initially discussed:  1) street and drainage facility improvements for $20 million); the construction of new municipal buildings for $5.9 million (City Hall/Civic Center and Police/Courts Building), 3) water line improvements, for $20.38 million and 4) sidewalk improvements for $4 million. 

However Council member Pollard proposed that Prop 4 for sidewalks be included in Prop 1, and that proposition be changed to 1) streets, drainage, and sidewalk improvements for $24 million, effectively removing the opportunity for Bellaire residents to approve funding for stand-alone sidewalks.  Mayor Friedberg objected to this change.  In addition, the $12.8 million Siemens no-bid contract was included in Prop 3, not listed as a separate proposition.  


Now to August 20, 2018:  Item for Individual Consideration: Council discussion on sidewalk program implementation and possible action to provide direction to the city manager as appropriate – Submitted by Paul A. Hofmann, City Manager. 

Was this item, posted at the end of the August 20th City Council agenda, sufficient to warn residents that a big change in sidewalk width might occur?  Does this description provide any reason to think we will end up with 5-foot sidewalks?

Protests and Petitions

Group D Phase 2 Layouts – Orange Trees to be Removed

One week earlier, at the August 13th meeting, the stand-alone 4-foot sidewalk program (sidewalks installed only, not part of street reconstruction) was put on hold by Council.  Numerous objections and petitions had been submitted by Bellaire residents who objected to sidewalks planned for their streets.

They objected to sidewalks along both sides of cul-de-sacs, wrapping  Continue reading

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Chapter 10 of Bellaire’s History – The Sixties – Momentous World Changes

When Time Magazine, Inc. published its, “Time 1968 40th Anniversary Special” (© 2008 Time, Inc.) in which it describes that year and the 1960s era as, “War abroad, Riots at Home, Fallen Leaders and Loner Dreams: The Year that Challenged the World.”

The 1960s saw a wave of activism in the country, and Bellaire residents became activists as well.  Catch up with local, national, and world history in Lynn’s latest installment here.

All installments are are available on this page.

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Open Letter to City Council: Debt

Dear Mayor and Members of City Council,

As you work towards the 2019 City budget and the possibility of another $45 or 50 million dollar bond issue I’d like to suggest the following.  First, check out the Comptroller’s Continue reading

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Stand-Alone Sidewalks On Hold For Now

Preface: On August 15, 2016, City Council approved a motion to call a bond election for November 8, 2016, for $53,980,000.  Four propositions were initially discussed:  1) street and drainage facility improvements for $20 million); the construction of new municipal buildings for $5.9 million (City Hall/Civic Center and Police/Courts Building), 3) water line improvements, for $20.38 million and 4) sidewalk improvements for $4 million. 

However Council member Pollard proposed that Prop 4 for sidewalks be included in Prop 1, and that proposition be changed to 1) streets, drainage, and sidewalk improvements for $24 million, effectively removing the opportunity for Bellaire residents to approve funding for stand-alone sidewalks.  Mayor Friedberg objected to this change.  In addition, the $12.8 million Siemens no-bid contract was included in Prop 3, not listed as a separate proposition.  


 It appears that at least some members of City Council were listening to Bellaire residents who attended last week’s Council meeting.  Discussion during the Special Session on August 13th focused  on financial concerns and about flood mitigation rather than adding more concrete to the City.   Continue reading

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The Community Pathways Plan Hits A Dead End At Bellaire City Council

Bellaire City Council faced a large crowd of Bellaire residents who turned out for the August 6, 2018, City Council meeting.  The Council chambers and the City Hall atrium were full, and resident after resident spoke their mind on the Pathways Plan. Continue reading

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