High Level Endorsements For Andrea Ehlers!

The 2021 election for City Council has been extremely contentious, with a slate of candidates opposing the lone woman in the race, Andrea Ehlers.  Although she is eminently qualified to serve, this slate and their associates are working to undermine those qualifications.  Now a large number of past and present members of Bellaire City Council, including a popular Mayor, are endorsing her candidacy.  Continue reading

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Master Drainage Concept Plan for City of Bellaire – UPDATE

In December of 2017 City Council watched a presentation of the Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan.  Bellaire would partake in a proposed interlocal agreement among Bellaire, TX-DOT, and the Harris County Flood Control District.  The City contributed $221,000 towards the initial study.  Continue reading

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City Council Election And More Possible Changes At City Hall

November 2, 2021 – Election Results – Bellaire Mayor and City Council

Three Council seats were in play in the November election, and two have declared winners.  Two of a slate of three candidates, Winfred Frazier and Ross Gordon, will replace Neil Verma for Position 1 and Gus Pappas for Position 3.  Position 5 was a three-way race, with candidates Andrea Ehlers and Brian Witt moving to a runoff election.

Ms. Ehlers is running as an independent, Mr. Witt is running a part of a PAC backed slate of candidates.
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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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Board of Adjustment Variance Request For Southwest Corner of Bissonnet @ Loop 610 – September 23, 2021

UPDATE 9/24/2021: The request for a variance was refused by a 4-to-3 vote. You can watch the meeting here.  One of the owners stated that prior to the purchase they had received a letter from AT&T assuring them that the small parcel could be developed, and that based on that letter the City staff also assured them it could be developed.  That letter was not included in the application.    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.

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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How Are Things Going In The UV-D District?

This article 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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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 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 zoning ordinance was approved by a 4 to 3 vote on May 24, 2021.
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.  Find the new proposed draft for the district here.  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 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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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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HISD Baseball Field Layout and Conditions – November 2, 2020

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

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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?

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.    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?

Now it’s a wall high enough to require a railing to prevent someone falling into the street. The right turn lane is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?
Continue reading

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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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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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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.  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.
Continue reading

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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:
Continue reading

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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.

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 $54 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.
Continue reading

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A 4 to 2 Vote and We Get 5 Foot Sidewalks

The Final List of Stand-Alone Sidewalks

Update – 10/15/2018:  Late summer and into the fall of 2018 residents protested and submitted petitions to remove their streets from the projects, and their requests were approved.  But most Council members still continued to vote in favor of installing stand-alone sidewalks.  Finally, on October 15, 2018, after RAC Industries withdrew their bid to construct the stand-alone sidewalks in Group D Phase 1 because so many had been removed from the project, City Council voted to rescind Ordinance Nos. 18-056 and 18-057.  The stand-alone sidewalks were ‘shelved’.   

The cost for the sidewalk program?  Over a quarter of a million dollars in 2 years.


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 and moved to retain Prop 4.  His motion was voted down 4 to 3, with Council members Pollard, Reed, McLaughlan, and Fife in favor of rolling the sidewalks into Prop 1.  In addition, the $12.8 million Siemens no-bid contract was included in Prop 3, not listed as a separate proposition.  


Two years later, 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 a City Council Special Session on August 13, 2018,  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 and moved to retain Prop 4.  His motion was voted down 4 to 3, with Council members Pollard, Reed, McLaughlan, and Fife in favor of rolling the sidewalks into Prop 1.


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 13, 2018, 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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City of Bellaire- Proposed Budget FY 2019

 

View the August 13th City Council Session on the Proposed Budget:  http://bellairecitytx.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=1880&Format=Agenda

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Bellaire Community Pathways – And The Nightmare on Spruce and Fifth Streets

UPDATE:  City Council has tabled the Pathways Plan but did not vote it down.  Unless it returns for consideration and approval it will sit on the same shelf as the Branding proposal, available for a rerun in the future. The latest Pathways Plan information can be found here.    

Meanwhile, please review the articles on the nightmare proposal on Spruce and Fifth Street! Here’s the latest post.  This is another project the City Manager has been involved in for over a year. The businesses and land owners are not objecting to the new street and drainage improvements, only the plans for the parking that would narrow the street and hinder or block parking at their businesses.

See Costello Plans

It will harm our longtime local businesses, interfere with deliveries to the new H-E-B, create dangerous traffic patterns, and the costs, of course, will be provided after approval!

Read about the City Manager’s plans for Spruce and Fifth streets here.

At the very least it should be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review.  Please stay engaged in these important matters.  Continue reading

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Are You Covered? Up To Date on Your Flood Insurance?

Link to FIRM – toggle Streets

Update: Due to oversights in the Development Services Department, as of October 1, 2021, Bellaire residents lost the 15% rate discount on flood insurance.  Now FEMA is moving to a new methodology, Risk Rating 2.  Check with your insurance agent.

July, 2018 – Even as we enter another hurricane season many residents in Bellaire and the Houston area continue to suffer from the damage and the costs of Hurricane Harvey. Numerous homes have yet to be repaired with the owners living in them as best they can, some living on upper floors; others have moved out and are living with relatives or in rented quarters.

After three devastating floods in our area in three years (May 2015, April 2016, August 2017), only one of which was hurricane related, let’s first focus on the need for flood insurance.

Flood Insurance – Who, What, Where, How?
Continue reading

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P&Z Does Not Approve the Pathways Plan – Due to Move On To City Council for Review

Streets shown on current maps: 8 feet wide path – South Rice, Evergreen, Fournace, Newcastle; 6 feet wide  path – Maple, Alder, Chimney Rock, Ferris, Anderson/Second, Englewood, Avenue B, Mulberry, Sunburst.  (This Plan is not part of the sidewalk project currently in progress.)

See all files and graphics at the bottom of this article.

After a fractious meeting last Thursday evening, July 12, 2018,  the Planning and Zoning Commission voted not to approve the Pathways Plan.  Lack of communication, lack of transparency, Continue reading

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Do We Need A Revolving Door At The New City Hall?

When a new City Manager takes the reins in Bellaire we might expect that he or she would bring a former executive assistant along, someone already in tune with their style of management.           Continue reading

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Pathways Project – The Latest Version – June 2018

UPDATE: Pathways Plan was ‘shelved’ by Ctiy Council on August 6, 2018.  The Pathways Plan was  presented to Planning and Zoning on Thursday, July 12, 2018.  The Meeting video is  available to view online. P&Z voted unanimously not to recommend the Plan to City Council at this time. 

The Pathways Project will be ‘reviewed’ at the City Council meeting on August 6, 2018.  You can email Council at tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your email be forwarded to the Mayor and City Council.

Streets shown on current maps: 8 feet wide – South Rice, Evergreen, Fournace, Newcastle; 6 feet wide – Maple, Alder, Chimney Rock, Ferris, Anderson/Second, Englewood, Avenue B, Mulberry, Sunburst.  (Let me know if I missed any.)  See maps at the bottom of this post.


One of the items on the agenda for the June meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board was “Discussion and possible action regarding the Community Pathways Project”.  Updated project files can be found at the end of this post.

Ayo Bello, an engineer with HR Green, the contractor for this $75,000 dollar plan, explained that the Pathways plan was developed based on a City survey.  The survey garnered 430 responses out of over 16,000 residents – about 2.7%.

City staff member Cristin Emshoff and Mr. Bello presented the details of the new plan in hopes of gaining the Board’s approval.  After a PowerPoint presentation they explained that no pathway would be on private land, all would be built on public right-of-way (ROW).

That sounded good – at first.                 Continue reading

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Council Priorities and the Minutes of the Pre-Budget Planning Workshop

Final version of Council Priorities:  https://www.bellairetx.gov/DocumentCenter/View/18482/Council-Priorities—Adopted-61818?bidId=

Find it here: Council Priorities 2018-06-18.  Take a look at the overview – the Chevron property;  the costs to the city from Hurricane Harvey – $3.5 million, much of that will be reimbursed by FEMA and the Texas Municipal League, but a recent financial report estimated the City’s non-reimbursable loss at around $621,000.        Continue reading

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The City Manager’s 7 Steps To Beautify Bellaire

Here are the City Manager’s 7 easy steps to beautify downtown Bellaire:

1) Take the 60 foot wide commercial Spruce Street that runs behind a large grocery store, contains no small retail stores or boutiques, and is traversed daily in both directions by large delivery vehicles, narrow it to 30 feet or less and add sidewalks and angled public parking on the north side, which will…

2) Force large trucks turning from intersecting streets to swing wide to avoid jumping curbs while trying to avoid hitting other vehicles when making deliveries to businesses that line the narrow street while…

3) Being blocked from entering business parking lots along the north side of the street because of blocked or limited access to those businesses which…

4) Will damage those businesses economically due to the loss of private parking spaces and customer access and will also…

5) Endanger the lives of people parking in those angled parking spaces as they jaywalk to the other side of the street or try to back out into traffic on the narrow street and meanwhile the plan also…

6) Widens the intersecting Fifth Street that runs alongside the grocery store which would wipe out parking spaces for more businesses and then…

7) Narrows that street while constructing more sidewalks and angled parking spaces along the side of the new grocery store. Continue reading

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Spruce and Fifth Street Neighborhood Meeting – What Will Happen To Local Businesses?

5100 block of Spruce – business parking spaces have been blocked, loss of parking at Jax. Click for larger image.

Some background: On March 19, 2018,  Public Works presented a plan to City Council to reconstruct the 5100 and 5200 blocks of Spruce St. and three blocks of North Fifth by the new H-E-B grocery. (Watch the meeting here.) The plan would add public angled parking along the north side of Spruce and the east side of Fifth on City right of way and narrow the streets, eating up the right of way.  See Costello Overlays Updated May 2018 . Also fancy lamp posts and trees.  Paid for by bond funds for streets and drainage. Continue reading

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What’s With All These Bellaire Plans and Studies?

The City Council and the City Manager are fond of referring to various plans and studies to justify expenditures, sometimes on questionable projects and more studies.  We hear about the Comprehensive Plan, the Branding Study, Terrain Studios and something called Visioning Bellaire, and the Pathways Plan.  And now the Spruce and Fifth Streets project, which if approved as planned will harm businesses in the area around the new HEB.  The project has not yet been approved but some of those businesses are already suffering from current street construction. Continue reading

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Bellaire Agenda: Mayor and Council Special Session (Pre-Budget Planning Workshop)

Click to enlarge pg 10, see Redevelopment

Thursday, May 3, 2018, the Mayor and City Council will hold an all day pre-budget planning session in the Centerpoint Energy Community Center, located over the entrance to the Aquatics Center.  For those residents unable to attend the Session you can find information on updates, fiscal forecasts, and City Council priorities in the 2018-05-03 Mayor and Council – Full Agenda-1708.          Discussion on:

  • Pushing out small businesses around HEB that don’t meet Bellaire’s ‘higher standards’ (see Spruce/Fifth Streets) and see page 10 of the Agenda pdf above.  (The euphemism is “to encourage commercial redevelopment”)
  • Adding to Bellaire’s debt with a $48.5 million bond issue in 2019
  • Increasing Bellaire’s water and sewer rates over the next 5 years
  • Ensuring public safety; money for infrastructure, public works and library buildings, and parks.
  • Encourage new business development (see Spruce/Fifth Streets)
  • Using Bellaire’s brand identity
  • Property tax increase is not addressed.  Will we need one?
  • and more…

PLEASE review this agenda, especially pages 54-57, in preparation for the final budget due in September.

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Pathways Plan Is Under Scrutiny

Residents are speaking out in opposition to the proposed Pathways Plan.  The cost may be paid by the 2016 Bonds for  Better Bellaire funds for Streets, Drainage and Sidewalks.  The estimated cost is eight to twelve million dollars.  You’ll find more information at Pathways Study under City Studies in the main Menu.

Continue reading

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Takeaways from April 16th City Council Meeting

Substandard and Abandoned Houses

Substandard and abandoned houses were an early topic of last Monday’s regular Council meeting. After numerous complaints from residents on Nextdoor and articles in the Southwest News about abandoned houses the City Manager provided a PowerPoint presentation on the subject.  Continue reading

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City of Bellaire – A Bully Pulpit Or Just A Bully?

Why would a City choose to harm its small businesses?  Spend hundreds of thousands  of dollars to do so?

In November of 2016 Bellaire voters gave the City Council and City Manager a big pot of money – right at $54 million dollars. About $34 million was available to be spent on streets, water, drainage, and sidewalks. In 2017 City Council approved about $3 million dollars of contracts to 6 engineering firms. As one Council member noted – before one drop of concrete was poured. Continue reading

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City of Bellaire Website – User Friendly?

Have you tried to find information on the City of Bellaire website?  One example: search for City Council agenda packets.  You’ll find the calendar for the current month where you can click on the Council meetings.  The next best possibility is City archives, except the most recent agenda shown is for March 24, 2014.  If you really want to find the most recent agendas you literally have to go back month by month.

Search for transparency or transparency in government.  First up is annual local debt report – informative (and scary), but not really about transparency in government.  Then some type of City report, and so on.  Nothing close to West University’s site, which lists Transparency in Government as a main menu item.

What’s your experience with Bellaire’s website?  Comments are welcome

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Is Our City Logo Still An Issue?

Ever wonder if the $50,000 Branding Study has gone away? Despite the tepid to downright comical response to the meaningless logo presented to City Council in January 2018, there’s been no word from the City that the contract with the firm engaged to provide the study, Principle, has been terminated.  Continue reading

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Who Is Promoting the Spruce Street Project? And Why?

This excerpt is from the most recent City newsletter, The Boulevard:

  1. Group C Phase II: Streets, Drainage and Sidewalks project – There are five street blocks identified in this project. Three of the street blocks are adjacent to the HEB area and will have wide sidewalks, landscaping, trees, irrigation, streetlights, and onstreet parking. A waterline was added to this project after identification in the condition assessment for Proposition Three. Construction is estimated to begin this fall.

Continue reading

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What’s the Hallway in the new City Hall that will house art?

Per the April 11th Cultural Arts Board agenda, Item D: DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION – Recommendations to name the hallway in City Hall that will house art. – Chair Terry Leavitt-Chavez

What art?  Donated or Purchased?

Here’s the agenda: Cultural Arts Board Agenda for April 11, 2018

 

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Bellaire History is at your fingertips thanks to Lynn McBee

Bellaire has come a long way and thanks to longtime resident Lynn McBee the City’s history will unfold on this web site.  Just click the menu item for Bellaire History and enjoy a good read!

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Why This Sudden Interest in Spruce Street?

When Bellaire voters approved a bond issue for $24 million dollars for Streets, Drainage, and Sidewalks with the explanation that ‘Projects will address replacement of streets and drainage systems in order to reduce the occurrence of flooding and improve street conditions’ they probably thought the City would install new storm sewers, replace corroded water lines, repave tired streets, rebuild damaged curbs, and complete a contiguous sidewalk along at least one side of every street in Bellaire. Continue reading

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How Does the City of Bellaire Spend Taxpayer Money?

As of 2016 the City of Bellaire had over $104 million dollars in outstanding debt, $5600 per person, which is much higher than any of the surrounding municipalities.  Almost a quarter of the  of the City budget, about $9 million,  will go out on debt service this year, and there’s mention of another bond issue in 2019.
Continue reading

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What was included in the 2016 Bellaire Bond Election?

Mentioning bonds in a prior post, I wondered where the City or Council planned to find the $8 million plus for Pathways or the $4.1 million for the Spruce Street upgrade. In 2016 Bellaire voters approved the sale of $54 million in bonds. Continue reading

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Branding, Pathways, Spruce St – What’s Up at Bellaire City Council?

Are you aware of the Branding Study?  Over $50,000 has been spent as of March 15th but the cost could climb!  The result was a new logo to replace our longtime and much loved one.  It’s a B with a leaf and it was very unpopular with most residents who spoke to Council.  Resident responses ranged from “a child could have done a better job” to anatomical references and a giant tongue.  For now Council has agreed to shelve this idea, but another iteration will probably be presented.  Recently Council did adopt a font and verbal identity from the study.  More information and documents on this study, including the contract that contains possible charges, can be found under the Studies link

What do you think?  Email tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your message be forwarded to the Mayor and members of City Council.

What about the Pathways Plan?  If you thought this was just for sidewalks you’re in for a surprise.  The price tag on this study could be $8 million or more and add 8 ft wide walk/bike paths throughout the City, along Baldwin Avenue, for instance.  Plus the cost for sidewalks.  Council has postponed discussion on this plan until May.  The downloads and maps can be found under the Studies link.

Note: By April, 2018:The original recommendation to install a pathway along Baldwin for both bicyclists and pedestrians has been removed from the Community Pathways Plan.

What do you think?  Email tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your message be forwarded to the Mayor and members of City Council.


And coming up for Council’s consideration on Monday, March 19th, is a presentation for the Spruce and Fifth Street Design  Considerations.  Spruce_St&Fifth_Considerations .  This presentation contends there will be no financial impact because the cost, I guess, is contained in the bond monies from the 2016 bond election.  Is this how you thought the bond money would be spent?

What’s not mentioned is the impact on the long-time business owners along the north side of the 5100 and 5200 blocks of Spruce and the small bakery on Fifth St.  How will the large delivery trucks to HEB navigate in this narrow space?

Also not mentioned is the estimated cost, which was revealed to be about $4.1 million.  Mention was made that part of this amount was something about the 4500 block of Maple and Bolivar. Nothing about these streets was shown in the presentation. This presentation is a curious mix of several recent studies. On the map in the presentation the 5100 block of Laurel is still shown, old swimming pool and all, and somehow a second Locust Street shows up running along the alley behind the Shipley’s and Sherwin Williams stores.

I’m concerned there may be some hidden agenda behind this, what do you think?  More on this later, along with the zoning changes that Council passed in 2013 for this area.

What do you think?  Email tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your message be forwarded to the Mayor and members of City Council.

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