What’s All This About Downtown Redevelopment?

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 succeed as a community.  A great location, terrific schools and parks.  Friendly residents living in quiet neighborhoods with tree-lined streets.  A city government that includes our own library, police and fire departments, and a public works department. 

There’s a sizable number of eating places and a variety of small businesses, all conveniently located.  What more can we ask for,  who or what else are we trying to attract?  And why would we want to harm established businesses?

My core belief is that it is morally wrong for a local government to plan to drive longtime businesses out of any town, but that’s just what the City of Bellaire seems to be doing. 

The city manager has cherry-picked the City’s Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Code to justify adding a streetscape to a street/drainage project along 5100 and 5200 Spruce and Fifth St by H-E-B.  And the Mayor and City Council may acquiesce.  I think our city is better than this

Our public works director stated that the cost of the streetscape is an additional $195,000.  How he arrived at that figure by January 7th is unknown, since bids for the project are to be opened on January 17th.  Is this the best way to spend those bond funds?

The City’s Reasons For The Project

The streets are slated to be reconstructed and new drainage installed, and the appearance of the entire area will be greatly improved. 

The business and property owners are in agreement to that portion of the proposed project.  Their only objection is the addition of angled public parking and 7 foot wide sidewalks on the City right-of-way. 

The  black slanted lines indicate angled spaces.  Other areas in the street would be sidewalks or planters.  Only the daycare in the 5200 block of Spruce retains clear access to parking.

The most recent plan will narrow the streets to 26 feet total width and hinder or block access to private parking lots. 

Imagine your home with no driveway, only a public street for parking.

The design will also create difficulties for deliveries to all the businesses in the area, including H-E-B.

The stated reason for the Spruce/Fifth streetscape portion of the project is to promote redevelopment in the area to attract new businesses that ‘conform’ to the Comprehensive Plan and our zoning ordinances. 

This is an excerpt from the January 7th council meeting agenda: “There are seven properties within the limits of the Spruce and Fifth Street Reconstruction Project that do not align with current zoning requirements. No one has enumerated which seven businesses no longer “align” or what those zoning requirements are. 

Access to every parking lot along the north side of 5100 Spruce is affected. 

In fact all the businesses on Spruce and Fifth appear to meet current zoning requirements for permitted uses, including Business and professional offices and services, General retail sales and services, and Restaurants and cafeterias.

Among the affected businesses are a restaurant, an auto repair, a beauty salon, a bakery, a day care, a wine and liquor store, and an auto parts business. Most have been serving the community for 20 to 30 years or more and all are valued by the community.

The last update for zoning in this area was in 2014, prior to the construction of H-E-B.  At that time City Council approved everything from single family townhouses to mixed-use multi-story apartments and businesses.

Sunday morning at the corner of Spruce and Fifth

A quick drive through the Spruce/Fifth area on a Sunday morning is an eye opener.  The public parking in the 5200 block of Cedar and all the private parking lots made available in the area for after-hours parking are filled with H-E-B employee vehicles.

 What Will Replace These Businesses?

Using images from the Comprehensive Plan, the city manager and public works director are promoting a Sugar Land look.  Upscale shopping area suggestions include Market Street in the Woodlands (situated in the middle of 2 million s/f of shops and businesses), City Centre, Pearland Town Center, and Arrive River Oaks, located at the corner of Kirby and Westheimer.

View of the rear H-E-B from Spruce & Fifth

City Centre covers 9 acres, Pearland Town Center covers acres more and includes a 25 acre lake, and instead of a view of  River Oaks our Arrive River Oaks would face the rear of a grocery store and parking garage and a gas station.

Is This Move By The City Necessary?

Here’s the thing.  Change occurs in an area if and when a business or developer decides it’s worth making an investment.  Land and businesses are acquired through private agreements and eventually a new development is planned or a new business opens.

Bellaire didn’t have to drive out the owners of the strip center that changed hands in the 5200 block of Cedar, or force Earthman’s to put their Dashwood property on the market, where 401 and several other businesses are now located.

Anyone can enter into an agreement to purchase any of the properties in the 5100 or 5200 blocks of Spruce or along Fifth and renovate in the same manner.  But once most of the private parking access is limited or blocked the value and use of those properties will be negatively affected for both current and future owners.

Why would any new business owner or developer prefer public parking spaces where anyone can park, when they could have accessible private spaces reserved for a particular business or development, even room for expansion? 

Picture the small shops along University Blvd and Rice Blvd in the Village.  How could they stay in business without dedicated pull-in parking?

Are There Other Options for the City?

Sure.  Reconstruct the streets and add new drainage. Work with the property owners and businesses on some updates, including sidewalks and landscaping.  This is from the Comprehensive Plan regarding the downtown businesses:

“Offer mini-grants to existing commercial property and business owners to help finance building facade improvements, enhanced landscaping, or other site upgrades that might not otherwise occur where no construction activities are planned that would trigger compliance with newer development standards”

Working in concert with the land owners, the City can incorporate five foot wide sidewalks without curbs into the private parking lots.  (See the image of the Bellaire fire station below.)  Landscaping possibilities can be offered.  That’s the sort of accommodation or assistance the City can provide to the owners.  H-E-B had already planned on sidewalks along Spruce and Fifth, now the City can build them.

Finally there’s the question of fairness.  Is it appropriate for a city government to use its power and funds to limit access to a business, to interfere with deliveries and to obstruct or block private parking spaces?  All of which will harm the businesses, not help them.

We are supposed to be mindful of a campaign to support our local businesses.  Let it begin on Spruce and Fifth Streets.


Residents were unaware that they were voting for this streetscape plan in the 2016 bond issue for streets, drainage, and sidewalks.  Find more information on this plan at: https://www.bellairecivicclub.com/spruce-and-fifth-street-neighborhood-meeting-what-will-happen-to-local-businesses/


Email the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton at tdutton@bellairetx.gov.  Ask her to forward your email to the Council.


Bellaire’s Bonded Debt will be $129 million by the end of FY2019
With interest the debt runs about $180 million.  Another bond issue is under discussion for 2019.

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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

Council sang the praises of city staff at the January 7th meeting for some cost savings – the cost for change orders for the Municipal Facilities was reduced to $302,516.  So far the cost for the new structures, estimated in 2017 to run about $19 million, is now close to $21 million, paid almost entirely from bond funds. Many residents felt the new City Hall and Civic Center were not necessary. 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. 

 Combined with upstream development to the west/northwest that drains into Brays Bayou. the loss of permeable areas, and changes in the area’s topography including the construction of Loop 610, Bellaire is now more prone to flooding. 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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A Master Plan For Wasteful Spending – While Harming Local Businesses

UPDATE: The Spruce/Fifth St plans were presented to City Council on Monday evening, January 7, 2019, at 7 PM.  The meeting can be viewed online: https://www.bellairetx.gov/1504/Watch-Meetings-Live-Agendas-and-Minutes  

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&Fift Continue reading

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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

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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.
Continue reading

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A 4 to 2 Vote and We Get 5 Foot Sidewalks

Reminder – Flood Insurance information is available here: https://www.bellairecivicclub.com/are-you-covered-up-to-date-on-your-flood-insurance/


2. 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

 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.

Also about the possibility of a decline in the assessed Bellaire property values for 2018 due to the Harvey flood, which would lead to a decline in tax revenues.  The City Manager seems to think the total value on the tax rolls will remain the same.  We’ll know more in late August when the final numbers are distributed by Harris County.

Council member David Montague had some questions during the Council meeting, and he’s certainly paying attention.  He noticed that the cost for a proposed $1.3 million dollar sidewalk project had ballooned to a $1.8 million contract for 15 blocks, which he then pointed out was almost half the $4 million from the bond issue that was supposed to cover 50 blocks.  Someone actually questioning costs!

Public Works director Michael Leech could provide no explanation for the increased cost.  Later in the meeting Council member Pollard mentioned that projects always seemed to end up costing more than the original proposals.

The $4 million is supposed to be for 4′ wide stand-alone sidewalks like the one proposed for my street, not ones tied to street reconstruction.  Mr. Montague said what he heard at the earlier meeting was that a lot of people opposed plain sidewalks as well as Pathways.  That’s when the Mayor suggested that considering how many people have objected to these sidewalks, coupled with the need for more pressing street and drainage projects, the $4 million might be better spent on those.

The vote was 4-3 to postpone a vote on the $1.8 million dollar sidewalk contract until more input is gathered from the community about sidewalks in general.  Mayor Friedberg, Neil Verma, Pat McLaughlan, and David Montague voted to postpone it.

Gus Pappas, Patricia Pollard, and Michael Fife voted to proceed.  Council member Fife opined that a “number of the comments they had heard last week were from people knocking on doors getting people riled up with information that was not strictly correct.  Some well informed and some less than well informed”  However the plans and the costs speak for themselves. She also stated that Council didn’t hear from people with small children who couldn’t make the meeting.  Guess she forgot about all the emails.


You can always submit comments to the Mayor and Council by sending them to City Clerk Tracy Dutton at tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that they be forwarded to Council.  Let them know what you think!

Watch some or all of the meeting here: http://bellairecitytx.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=1880&Format=Agenda

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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 6th 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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Chapter 9 of Bellaire’s History – The Fifties Boomtown

Chapter 9 of Lynn McBee’s Bellaire history is available here.  Houston growth brings Loops and Freeways and a town divided. A time of growth, with more discussion on zoning and desegregation in our schools.

All installments are are available on this page.

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City of Bellaire- Proposed Budget FY 2019

Click to view Proposed Budget

 

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

Here are the Plans. Click to go open the pdf file of the maps.

UPDATE:  City Council has tabled this 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

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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Chapter 8 of Bellaire’s History – Turbulence After WW II – 1946-1949

Chapter 8 of Lynn McBee’s Bellaire history is available here.  It wasn’t easy to agree on a path to arrive at the style of City government we have today.  And we’re still working on it!

All installments are are available on this page.

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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 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

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

According to the Pending Agenda Items in  the City Manager’s Weekly Memo for 7-13-18 the Pathways Project will be ‘reviewed’ at the City Council meeting on August 6th.  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 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: In March of 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. The plan would add public angled parking along the north side of Spruce and the east side of Fifth on City right of way.  See Costello Overlays Updated May 2018 . Also fancy lamp posts and trees.  Paid for by bond funds for streets and drainage, but no cost was provided for the additional parking, utility work, irrigation, and extra amenities. 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 could exceed eight million dollars.  You’ll find more information at Pathways Study under City Studies in the main Menu.

Email the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton at tdutton@bellairetx.gov.  Ask her to forward your email to the Council.

Find a larger map at https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/59d5518947ecf500018f07c8/5a6a1c3c920f950001f4fbc0_Bellaire-Proposed-Pathway-Plan-Loops-01-08-2018.pdf

and more information here: https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/59d5518947ecf500018f07c8/5a71f5f9a5a19b0001252558_Neighborhood-Meeting-Community-Pathways-Plan-01-23-18.pdf

UPDATE FROM A RESIDENT: I got a response from the City Manager as well as the Special Projects Manager. Looks like we don’t have to worry about Baldwin sidewalks!: 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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Weekly Memos From City Manager

You’ll find a new submenu under City Government – Weekly Memos from City Manager.

A quick review of the most recent memos will provide information on current and future items of interest in Bellaire.  For instance Continue reading

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Bellaire City Library Received 2017 Achievement of Excellence in Libraries Award

The City of Bellaire announced on Monday, April 2 that the Bellaire City Library has received the 2017 Achievement of Excellence in Libraries Award from the Texas Municipal Library Directors Association (TMLDA).

“This is the first time that the library has received this recognition,” said Bellaire City Library Director Mary Cohrs. “We are extremely proud that TMLDA chose to recognize the work that our staff does every day for the community. From providing developmental resources for children, teens and adults to supporting education and life-long learning, the Bellaire City Library plays a vital role in our quality of life.” 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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Article from the Houston Chronicle – Warning of More Flooding Ahead

This is a link to an article in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle (April 1, 2018) that issues a warning about our flood plain maps and our future under the new normal of climate changeYou can find information on Bellaire’s flood permit process and flood mitigation task force under Floods in the main menu.

Harvey’s Floods

In Harvey’s deluge, most damaged homes were outside the flood plain, new data show

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/In-Harvey-s-deluge-most-damaged-homes-were-12794820.php?utm_source=chron&utm_medium=linkmodule&utm_campaign=btfpm

 

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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.

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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