Click to enlarge, find all images in the Agenda Statement.
The Bellaire City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission will meet in a Joint Special Session (Workshop) to discuss development alternatives for the Houston Methodist Hospital on Thursday, September 28, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber. There are no appreciable changes in building size or the parking access off South Rice. Find the updated plan here.
Back on August 21, 2023, Bellaire City Council voted unanimously against a request from Harris Heatlth Care for an employee event to be held at the NBSDD location, the old Chevron property along Fournace between Loop 610 and Sourth Rice. The last employee event created numerous noise complaints from neighbors in the area.
However, with a second request for the event on September 18, 2023, City Council approved the event. Per the agenda item, “From 9:00 a.m. until noon, the DJ will be available for announcements regarding the field day activities. No music will be played on Friday or Saturday other than from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and will include intermissions.” Essentially only the live music will be missing. Only Council member Lewis voted against, the rest of Council jumped on board .
Music will still be played though the City leaders assured us that the noise will be controlled. Noise enforcement will be the duty of Bellaire PD if residents complain. Listen to the meeting here. My question is, how does a private event that runs from 8 am to 7 pm, attended by an estimated 4,000 employees and with a PA system and a DJ in attendance, benefit residents of the City of Bellaire? What do Bellaire residents think about this reversal of votes? Find the Agenda Item here.
Election day is November 7. 2023, with early voting from October 23 through November 3. Elections in the City of Bellaire are non-partisan. The candidates are:
For Mayor: Aaron Perry Nathan Wesely Gus E. Pappas
For Council Member – Position No. 2: Catherine Lewis Mike Stanton
For Council Member – Position No. 4: Elan Tavor Cindy Cohen Taylor
For Council Member – Position No. 6: Kevin Newman Jackie Georgiou
Voters will also be asked to authorize the sale of the Ruffino Hills landfill property, located along Keegan’s Bayou close to Hwy 59 and the Beltway in Southwest Houston. West University sold their half of that property last year for $10.5 million. Because Bellaire’s portion is a dedicated park, state law requires Bellaire voters must approve of the sale.
Find detailed voting information for Harris County here. Go to the Voter link to find more registration information.
Early voting in person runs from October 23rd through November 3rd.
Due to recent changes in Texas laws, registered voters are advised to check to be certain they are still registered prior to the November election. Update changes to name or address here or fill out and submit a new voter registration application.
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On Tuesday, August 15, 2023, a Special Session discussion with members of City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission will be held at 6:00 PM. Find the full agenda here.
“Presentation and discussion of results from the Bellaire Today phase (May-July), and provide input and direction for the Bellaire Tomorrow phase (August-November), of the Comprehensive Plan review process – Facilitated by Gary Mitchell, President of Kendig Keast Collaborative.” Continue reading →
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Residents are once again complaining about the poor conditions along the Holly Street Trail. That’s the esplanade portion of Holly that runs from the Loop to South Rice Avenue. The walking trail portion was developed many years ago.
After complaints in 2014 from homeowners along Holly Street, the City began to make landscape improvements. During the approximate 6-year period from March of 2014 through February of 2020 the City paid out over $270,000 for Trail improvements. Find the list of expenditures here.
In the near future I plan to submit another Public Information Request for a list of City expenditures for the Trail for the past 3+ years. With our finances restrained due to $100 million in bonded debt, is it time to just pave it or plant grass? Stay tuned.
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Bellaire City Council will hold a Public Hearing for the 2024 City Budget on Monday, August 7, 2023. The bottom line for the budget is $60.8 million. Find the PowerPoint presentation here.
Find the proposed budget FY2024, presented to Council on July 17, 2023, here. Find a link to the entire meeting here.
Highlights include holding to a nominal tax rate with anticipated increases in revenues from property taxes and sales taxes. Medical and pension costs will increase and a COLA of 4% is proposed. Residents can expect increased rates for water, wastewater, and solid waste services. Continue reading →
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UPDATE 7/19/23: City Council chose to postpone a decision on the Methodist Hospital application. Council member Lewis stated she had counted 175 resident comments opposing the development in that location, 16 in favor, including physicians and patients. Continue reading →
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Many years ago Bellaire solid waste collection was changed from containers to plastic bags. For decades bags have been distributed for free on a quarterly basis, delivered to each residence. Residents are indirectly paying for the bag expense through their water bills, at something like $6 per roll. The current annual cost for this service is over $138,000. But it turns out that up to 25% of residents may not even use the City bags and prefer to purchase other bags, while others double bag because they fear leaks. Continue reading →
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The City of Bellaire is conducting a survey to learn more about your preferences and opinions about Bellaire’s future and the comprehensive plan. Please take the time to read each question before responding. What would you like to see in a future Bellaire? Continue reading →
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The June 9, 2023, Planning and Zoning meeting was short, but interesting. It included a public hearing regarding proposed ordinance amendments and a presentation of the proposed 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Find a link to the meeting here.
Public comments were encouraged on changes to the following zoning ordinances:
Through Lots Prohibited, to allow for the approval of through lots if a property meets certain zoning requirements. No public comments.
To increase the necessary documentation submittal requirements during city plan review related to environmental assessment reporting. No public comments.
To increase the allowable scoreboard signage area and allow team accolades as apart of the scoreboard signage – to allow team accolades. Two comments.
The Draft CIP FY2023-2027
Take a look!
Each year as Bellaire City Council begins budget discussions for the upcoming fiscal year 5-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) may be updated. A proposed 5-year CIP was presented to P&Z by Joshua Pascua, Capital Projects and Grants Manager in Public Works, on June 8, 2023. Continue reading →
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“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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There were three Public Hearings scheduled for Monday’s City Council meeting on May 15, 2023, at 6:00 PM. However the Noise and Lighting hearing has been withdrawn. The withdrawal notice mentions a possible Town Hall at a later date. Regardless, if you have suffered from loud noise or bright lights, why not let Council know? Public comments to the Mayor and Council are welcome in person or via email via email@example.com.
Have you ever given any thought to running for Bellaire City Council? Do you want to make a difference in our community?
The City of Bellaire holds non-partisan city elections for Mayor and members of City Council in off years, and the next election will be in November of 2023. The current Mayor is term limited and cannot run again, and Council seats 2, 4, and 6 will also be on the ballot. Find full information the Mayor and Council here. No previous experience necessary, just common sense and a willingness to work to benefit your Bellaire neighbors and improve your community.
Below is an excerpt from the terms for office and below that you’ll find the information posted on the City website for the 2023 election. Continue reading →
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Regarding a proposed moratorium on applications for development in the commercial areas of Bellaire, our City Attorney advised City Council that such a moratorium would take many months to enact and involves specific limitations, including a demonstration that a current commercial ordinance proves to be inadequate to prevent new commercial developments from being detrimental to public health, safety, or welfare. At that point the discussion just faded away.
Now on to our current conundrum regarding a proposed Methodist development on the old Randalls site. Residents may find this to be the best choice in a district that allows tall mixed-use/multi family structures!
Those Yellow Signs Along Bissonnet in the Museum District Area Are Back!
Planning and Zoning ordinances are the result of decisions made by the Planning and Zoning Commission, comprised of Bellaire residents who volunteer to serve, and then with final approval of the ordinances by City Council.
P&Z Commissioners and members of City Council may be attorneys or artists, oil and gas executives or real estate agents, retired engineers or homemakers. They are seldom professional city planners or traffic flow analysts, and they rely on the advice of City staff, City management, and occasionally outside consultants.
A public hearing before the City Council is scheduled for Monday, May 15, 2023, at 6:00 p.m., on a petition from 80% of the property owners along the 5200 block of Cedar Street for the installation of traffic control devices (speed humps) on said block. Find the Notice here.
Workshop: Installation of a Rooftop Solar Energy System on City Hall Submitted by Sharon Citino, City Manager; presented by Rajiv Pandya, Environmental Sustainability Board Member.
Per this proposal the cost for solar panel installation on the roofs of City Hall and the adjoining Civic Center is approximately $250,000. There are numerous charts and spreadsheets. Continue reading →
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A clear majority of Bellaire residents who spoke at meetings or sent emails oppose the idea of large buildings on that site. Most of those in favor were physicians associated with Methodist Hospital. The representative for Methodist advised that all of the land and improvements would be subject to property taxes, and that seemed to sway some of the Commission members. The application will now move on to Bellaire City Council for consideration and approval.
Please email comments, concerns, or questions to the Mayor and members of City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at firstname.lastname@example.org request that your email be forwarded to the Mayor and Council.
A Public Hearing Before City Council For The Closure Of A Portion Of Mapleridge Has Been Scheduled At City Hall on Monday, March 6, 2023 @ 6 PM
UPDATE 4/4/2023: The applicant requested a delay on their application and staff issued a new deadline. The deadline has passed and the application will no longer be considered by City Council. That portion of Mapleridge will remain open.
To the Mayor and Members of Bellaire City Council and Members of Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission
Re: Houston Methodist Application for 5130 Bellaire Blvd
Dear Fellow Residents,
I have nothing against Methodist, but I don’t want to see a huge block of a building in the center of downtown Bellaire. Those types of buildings belong on the perimeter of a small city, not in a prime location. I understood that Methodist had leased space in one of the old Chevron buildings in the NBSDD. That would be a more suitable location.
This is one of those choices that will seriously impact the future of Bellaire. Please, revise the zoning for the UV-D and UV-T before this progresses any further. It is apparent that many other Bellaire residents want a small-town atmosphere in our Town Center. They mention Rice Village, for instance, a busy shopping and dining area mainly comprised of one and two-story buildings. Continue reading →
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UPDATE 4/21/2023: The application was approved by P&Z on a 3 to 2 vote at the April 13th meeting.
UPDATE 3/23/2023: Until a hearing is scheduled before City Council residents may continue to send their comments on this application email@example.com
Methodist is tax-exempt and the new Methodist buildings could be exempt from property taxes. The land is owned by Weingartens; there is uncertainty about whether property taxes on the land could also be exempt. UPDATE: A Methodist representative stated that property taxes would be paid on the land and the improvements.
Possible flooding in underground parking during flood events.
Quite a bit of concern about traffic problems, especially off South Rice.
Methodist does have an ‘out’ from the lease.
Proposal needs to be consistent with the zoning ordinance and with the Comprehensive Plan.
Sharon Citino, our new City Manager, is steadily filling open positions, including a new director, Travis Tanner, in Development Services. He came to City Council meeting on February 20, 2023, to propose some much needed changes to our city ordinance regarding construction sites. It’s about time that we protect our neighborhoods from trash and stop allowing dirt and debris to wash into our storm sewers.
Consideration of and possible action on the adoption of an ordinance of the City Council of the City of Bellaire, Texas, amending Chapter 9, Buildings, Article I, In General, Section 9-5, Duty of contractors and other persons performing construction work within the city, of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Bellaire, Texas, for the purpose of adding additional requirements for maintenance of construction sites, including temporary fencing, stormwater facility protection measures, disposal of trash, and condition of portable sanitary facilities, and providing the Building Official with additional authority to enforce such requirements – Submitted by Travis Tanner, Director of Development Services.
2023 has already required plenty of time and effort from the members of the Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission.
A Public Hearing Will Be Scheduled on a Proposal From Methodist for the Randalls Site
During the January 23 meeting City staff liaison Monique Alejos reported on the receipt of a formal application to P&Z for the planned development of the Methodist medical office building at the former Randalls property on Bellaire Blvd. They are waiting on additional documentation before scheduling the public hearing. Apparently Methodist has signed a 35-year ground lease for the property. Find a link to the January, 2023, meeting here. Expect more information on the Methodist application on this site in a few weeks!
The February 9, 2023, of the P&Z meeting focused on discussion and final consideration on a new Noise and Lighting ordinance.
The noise portion covers residential, commercial, and City activities. What about weekend hours for construction work? There’s a long list of noise complaints in the Agenda statement. The research was impressive and the discussion was thoughtful and reasonable. Find a link to the February 6, 2023, P&Z meeting here and the Agenda statement here. P&Z will send a letter of recommendation to City Council on the proposed updates. Continue reading →
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After the Council meeting on January 23, 2023, I drove by the location of the West University dog pound. It is situated with the City’s wastewater plant at 2801 Braeswood, literally on the north bank of Brays Bayou. More information on the West University Kennel can be found here: https://www.westutx.gov/318/City-Kennel
The location of that pound led me to wonder if the Bellaire pound could remain on Edith St. It’s a quiet area for the dogs and our residents. Yes, it’s in a flood zone, so why not elevate the pound site and add detention if required?
Please, drive by the site of the new O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. Due to the current zoning in the UV-D the side of the building now faces Spruce St. The foundation facing the street is elevated far above the original lot. Continue reading →
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February 7, 2023 – Please take the time to view Mayor Friedberg’s February 6, 2023, presentation on the State of the City. Thanks to no floods, a new City Manager, and some fiscally conservative decisions Bellaire is doing well. Bonded debt has fallen below the $100 million dollar mark, we have received millions in grant monies, to be used for parks and public works projects. This report provides an overview of City Departments and the state of the City’s finances.
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UPDATE 1/24/2023: At last night’s meeting, Bellaire City Council members agreed to postpone a decision on the location of a new dog pound. Instead they have requested that City staff provide more information on zoning issues for the 1311 N. First St in Bellaire location, They also suggested that staff explore other possible locations, within the City or at least close to City limits. Several residents either spoke or emailed to request that the pound be located within Bellaire. Most of the Council members seemed to agree. Find a link to the meeting here. Stay tuned!
1/23/2023 – Monday night’s City Council meeting will include approval or rejection for grant applications and expenditures for various utility and equipment items.
But the last item on the Agenda may generate a fair amount of discussion. It’s the possible action to approve replacement of Bellaire’s dog pound.
The cost to the City if the pound is built on City land located in the UV-T, in the Westpark/610 area and originally estimated at $225,000, is now $403,120. Less a $100,000 donation from the Jerry and Maury Rubenstein Foundation the final cost would be around $300,000.
If the pound is moved to the Rubenstein property at 2328 W. Bellfort in Houston, with costs paid by the Rubenstein Foundation, the cost to the City would be about $35,000. Quite a difference in price, but also quite a bit more travel time for Bellaire residents and Bellaire police officers. The pound is checked at least twice daily, including weekends. Find a floor plan drawing below: Continue reading →
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The Environmental Sustainability Board will vote on submission of a resolution to City Council to install solar panels on the roof of City Hall at the January 4, 2023, meeting.
Click on the image above to view an earlier ESB presentation prepared by ESB member Rajiv Pandya. Mr. Pandya is a principal with SHINE Partners, which builds solar projects.
The estimated cost is $244,500. Proposed financing includes Federal tax credits, a 5-year grant from Shell, and City of Bellaire funds.
Please email comments, concerns, or questions to the Mayor and members of City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at firstname.lastname@example.org request that your email be forwarded to the Mayor and Council.
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My sincere wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy holiday season and a wonderful start to 2023!
Some quick updates:
The Dog Pound dilemma is scheduled to go to Council soon, probably in January.
The Board of Adjustment chose unanimously to approve additional signs at Bellaire High School, overruling our current zoning. They would have done the same regarding the scoreboard on the new baseball fields, but two BOA members voted no. Kind of makes one wonder how effective our zoning ordinances are, doesn’t it?
City Council held a workshop on Monday, November 21, 2022, regarding the proposed new dog pound. Find the meeting here. Find the presentation for a new pound by Bellaire Chief of Police Lopez here.
I encourage every Bellaire resident to view that meeting. Let the Mayor and members of Council know what you think about the various plans and structures, and possible locations. Should the facility remain in the City, or move to Houston?
The current shelter is located at 4300 Edith St and floodiing in that area has been a problem, thus the desire to move the facility to a new site. Bellaire currently has an Animal Control officer, and BPD officers check on the shelter twice a day, including weekends. Continue reading →
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On August 20, 2020, Bellaire’s Board of Adjustment voted NO, 4 to 2, on a request from O’Reilly Auto Parts for a variance in the zoning of the UV-D to construct a new one-story building at their current location at 5134 Spruce. Find the original plans here.A representative for O’Reilly Auto Enterprises explained that a 2-story structure for the store was unnecessary and financially unfeasible.
At the joint workshop for City Council and Planning and Zoning, Bellaire Development Services Interim-Assistant Director Christian Somers exlained that O’Reilly Auto Parts will have a new building in the same location on Spruce, described as a redevelopment project.
Due to the current zoning, customer parking will be along one side, in front of what will now be the storefront. In order to meet the setback and the 2-story zoning requirements the building will be one-story with a 2nd story mezzanine at the front property line.
O’Reilly Auto Parts has been a good neighbor in that location for years, and many residents still remember Charlie Fischer’s original Hi-Lo Auto Supply.
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UPDATE: The discussion at the October 11, 2022 joint workshop included a decision to hire a consultant and suggestions on seeking public input, What do residents want in their commercial areas, especially the UV-D and the UV-T.
Buildings at 4460 Bissonnet @ Newcastle in the CMU. The rear and the side of the building face a main thoroughfare. The garage towers over residences to the north.
Would they prefer the opportunity to pull in and park in front of a shop or store? What do they think about multi-story parking lots adjacent to multi-story office buildings, nextdoor to homes, as built at 4460 Bissonnet?
What about a similar design on the old Randalls site? Are Bellaire residents okay with zero setback, up to 90% lot coverage, and possibly a couple of 5-story buildings? Please, let City Council and P&Z know what you think, Continue reading →
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UPDATE 10/21/2022: Because a unanimous decision was required to approve the requests the appeal for the oversized scoreboard was voted down. However, by unanimous vote the Board of Adjustment voted in favor of additional signage at Bellaire High School even though they violated our zoning ordinances. Here’s a link to that meeting.
UPDATE: The September 15th meeting was cancelled and is now scheduled for October 20, 2022
After the completion of the new Bellaire High School and the ball fields at Bissonnet and Avenue B, the Houston Independent School District is not happy with Bellaire’s sign ordinances. An HISD representative is scheduled to appear before the Board of Adjustment on Thursday, September 15, 2022, October 20, 2022, due to the denial of sign permits per City Ordinances as follows: Continue reading →
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Bellaire City Council approved the final numbers for the 2023 City budget on September 19, 2022. First up was a vote to retain the current property tax rate of $ .4473, approved by 7-0. A hearing on the tax rate is scheduled for October 3, 2022. Find the complete FY2023 budget here.Continue reading →
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On September 8, 2022, members of the Planning and Zoning Commission were treated to a conceptual presentation for a Planned Development, a medical office building on the old Randalls grocery store site.
At right are three options proposed by Page Architects. If you think H-E-B is oppressive, how about a 5-story building and the adjacent 5-story garage, bordering Bellaire Blvd and Bissonnet per Option 1? Continue reading →
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Realty News Report’s Michelle Smith reports that the Randall’s space at 5130 Bellaire Blvd has been leased by a group associated with Houston Methodist Hospital. Find the article here.
A small town feel?
The old grocery store, erected in the 1950s, would be demolished to make room for a 4-story building full of medical facilities including a surgery center. The site is in the UV-D, Urban-Village Downtown District, and if approved will certainly put an end to any small-town or ‘village’ feel in that area.
In fact, when this area was rezoned in 2014 a “small-town” feel was part of the City’s promotion to rezone these areas. Read the item at left. Instead it’s zoned with zero setbacks and minimum 30-foot tall buildings.
It’s hard to imagine any other affluent community allowing these large developments in the center of town or directly adjacent to residences. If they are permitted at all they are on the periphery, as in West University and Southside Place. But the Mayor seems to feel a 4-story building will fulfill the plan for urban development in Bellaire’s original downtown. No doubt it also will lead to an increase in traffic. Continue reading →
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An article in the Houston Chronicle reports that a re-design is planned for the Bellaire Triangle. The center’s longtime owners, MC Management & Development, plan extensive renovations including the addition of an open-air space for outdoor events. There’s no word yet on the future of the current tenants.
The center is bounded by Bellaire Blvd, Mapleridge, Bissonnet, and Chimney Rock, located in the CMU zoning district, and the renovation plans apparently will reflect the current one-story design. Continue reading →
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7/15/2022 – After a review of the 232 pages of the proposed FY2023 budget I was unable to find estimates for anticipated revenues. Although there are totals for each sector of the City government, no grand total for the proposed expenditures is provided. It’s clear that some of these items will change, but wouldn’t it be helpful to see some estimated totals?
This budget will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year’s budget by an amount of $_______, which is a _____ percent increase from last year’s budget. The property tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year is $________. Continue reading →
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City Council – July 18 2022 Presentation of the proposed annual budget for the City of Bellaire, Texas, for the fiscal year commencing on October 1, 2022, and ending on September 30, 2023 – Submitted by Deacon Tittel, Interim City Manager.
Harris County Flood Control District is proposing a system of large diameter tunnels, 80 to100 feet underground and 30 to 45 feet in diameter, to carry flood waters to Buffalo Bayou and the Ship Channel. The suggested location for these tunnels is below various bayous and watersheds in the County, including Brays Bayou. Continue reading →
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From the Mayor’s recent article, Council has hired a new City Manager:
“Following a nationwide search that attracted candidates from far and wide, we ended up finding our next City Manager just a few blocks away. A resident of Braeswood Place and a Bellaire High School parent, Sharon Citino is already very familiar with our community and jumped at the opportunity to serve in this role. She’s got a wealth of municipal experience spanning more than 20 years, with a strong track record of leadership and team building, and has demonstrated the skills and temperament the City Council was looking for.” Continue reading →
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FINAL UPDATE 7/12/2022: At the third meeting before City Council to address the SUP application from Salad And Go the motion to approve the application was denied by a unanimous vote of 7-0. You can watch the meeting here.
UPDATE: The July 11, 2022 Council meeting begins at 5:30 PM.Find the Agenda here: Agenda for July 11, 2022 @ 5:30 PM – Regular Session begins with a Closed Meeting re City Manager; then interviews for boards and commissions; finally on to usual Agenda items.
Agenda item I addresses Unfinished Business regarding the Salad And Go (SAG) Special Use Permit application. Included in the attachments is a Written Protest signed by neighbors within 200 feet of the property. The Protest meets the Code of Ordinances requirement, therefore approval of the SAG will require six (6) votes on Council. Continue reading →
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With her children at her side, Kathleen Ballanfant, longtime resident and the publisher of the Southwest News and the Village News, passed away on Friday, June 24, 2022. Kathy has been a a prominent member of the community and a fount of local lore for many years. She reported on the ins and outs of city halls in Bellaire and West University, political campaigns, local events and local characters. She was a friend to many and will be missed.
Posted inHome|Comments Off on We Lost A Valued Member Of Our Community Today, Kathy Ballanfant
Budget talks have begun, the City’s fiscal year begins October 1st. The City Manager position has been in play for some time, hopefully we’ll have a new, highly qualified City Manager soon. Meanwhile Council is currently mulling over a number of projects, some funded, some not.
A new bathroom for Mulberry Park was approved some time ago, to replace the use of porta-potties by the sports teams. The last price I recall was around $150,000, to include a prefab unit, a foundation, new water line, new sewer line, and electrical. It was initially listed in Capital Improvement Projects for $250,000, but that was when it was supposed to be funded by donations, which were never received. It will require ongoing cleaning and maintenance.
Designs for a stand-alone sidewalk are in the works along the 4700-5000 block of Maple St, to connect to Bellaire High School. Some of the Maple St residents want 5-foot wide sidewalks along both sides of the street, however Council approved only the south side. The initial estimated cost was around $200,000, but no firm price has been set. Neighbors affected by the sidewalk need to review the installation plans for their property.
A new dog pound has been discussed, but no location or costs have been provided. In the past Bellaire averaged 3 to 4 stray dogs per month. Update 6/14/22: This was just released by the City: Upping Our Game at the Bellaire Pound
There have been numerous complaints about lack of oversight and code enforcement on new home construction in the City. Development Services is responsible for inspections and verification that the builder is adhering to the City codes. Continue reading →
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UPDATE: MAY 13, 2022: There is no application for a PD at this time. Greg Thompson with Thompson+Hanson Landscape Company, located in Bellaire, spoke and his representatives made a conceptual presentation for one and two-story structures located in a garden-like area in the Urban-Village-Transit District, the UV-T. Based on the drawings it would be a delightful pedestrian-friendly commercial area with space for gardens and open air events. Find a link to the video here.
Sadly, there were several problems with the plans, due to the current zoning restrictions regarding zero setback and building height.
UPDATE: Portions of recently completed 5100-5200 Spruce are once again being demolished and reconstructed due to improper installation of electrical conduit and irrigation lines. Ponding and poor drainage are also problems. The good news is that the cost is on the contractor, not the City. The question is, what do these patched areas mean for the future stability of the pavement?
This was part of a $5.2 million dollar contract to A Status Construction. The streetscape design was opposed by residents and businesses but approved in 2017 by the Mayor and City Council. The then city manager promoted this design as a pedestrian friendly area. What do you think? The article below from August, 2021, was initially inspired by my queries to the City concerning the “ornate” street lights along the 5100-5200 blocks of Spruce St and Fifth St along H-E-B. “What lights?”, you may ask. The ones purchased in 2018 but never installed. Continue reading →
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Apparently some of our zoning ordinances aren’t in line the the Comprehensive Plan, and the Planning and Zoning Commission is tasked with review of those “inconsistencies”. Although the Comp Plan is just that, a plan, and one that is constantly changing depending on who’s in charge, some civic leaders insist that it should set the zoning plans for the City.
P&Z held a Workshop on this subject on April 14, 2022. Find a link to that meeting here. It’s an important subject and the presentation was well-done. Drop down the agenda below the video and click on Comprehensive Plan Update. It’s about an hour into the meeting. Continue reading →
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Bellaire City Council held a workshop on Monday, April 18, to continue their discussion on flood risk management in Bellaire. You can watch the video or view the presentation online. The next workshop is on May 2 at 6 pm in Bellaire City Hall before the regular council meeting.
Councilmember Gordon made a compelling presentation on flood mitigation in Bellaire at the recent Council meeting, which in turn sparked a lively and informative discussion on past floods and future possibilities. Find the PowerPoint Presentation here and a link to the Council meeting here.
UPDATE 3/30/2022: The last meeting on these PD applications, styled as Bellaire Place, was held on March 21, 2022, when a portion of the PDs was approved. Here’s a link to that meeting. After a Public Hearing in January and three successive Council meetings Council chose to approve approximately two of the Planned Developments for now, with an allowance to cover up to 70% of the area and some modifications to the buildings. It’s up to the developer to choose which portions of the developments will be constructed first. Continue reading →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on Urban Renewal? PDs For 4800 Fournace & 5901 South Rice Avenue Are Approved
UPDATE 4/18/2022: The application was approved by a 5-0 vote from P&Z. The application will now move to City Council.
Find a Summary below from the Agenda for a hearing for a new food establishment at 5201 Bellaire Blvd. Several residents living on Linden St spoke of problems with the alley that borders this block of homes and businesses. It is in poor repair and is sometimes blocked by large trucks. Continue reading →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on P&Z Hearing March 10, 2022, For 5201 Bellaire Blvd
The City Council meeting on March 7, 2022, once again ran almost 5 hours. Members addressed City business and then, about an hour into the meeting, the three applications for Planned Developments in the new North Bellaire Special Development District NBSDD) were again discussed. Continue reading →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on PDs on Fournace & South Rice Were The Subject of A Third Council Meeting
On February 7, 2022, Mayor Friedberg delivered his State of the City Address. Prominent in the presentation was on the hiring of a City Manager, Council priorities, filling staff vacancies, and City finances.
In the last 6 months of 2021 numerous mid-level and high-level employees left the City of Bellaire’s employ. A recent claim of the Mayor and his candidates in the 2021 City election was that City employees are unhappy and leaving due to actions by the three recent members of Council, Catherine Lewis, Nathan Wesely, and Jim Hotze. Continue reading →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on Why Are We Really Losing City Staff? What Should We Expect From Management and City Council?
UPDATE 12/28/2021: The City of Bellaire received a Public Information Request in November, 2021, from the office of a local attorney.Find the detailed request here. As of this date the Request is still open. Are we going to see more lawsuits? Continue reading →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on Variance Request For SW Corner of Bissonnet @ Loop 610 – Update and Public Information Request
The election for Mayor and three members of City Council is over. A slate of candidates has been elected: Winfred Frazier, Ross Gordon, and Brian Witt, who ran as a slate and were supported by the Mayor, who ran unoppposed. Does this mean another 4 to 3 majority on Council? The election involved elements of partisanship by local Democratic and Republican parties in what is supposed to be a non-partisan race. Find the official results here.
Update 11/24/2021: P&Z essentially approved the three applications at the November 18th meeting, with an agreement to add some clarifications or conditions. The Chairman will draft a written agreement for approval. Once the P&Z process is complete the applications will go to City Council for final consideration. Find the 11/18/21 meeting video here.
Planning and Zoning Commission –Agenda for November 18, 2021@ 6 PM Discussion, consideration, and possible action on three (3) planned development applications filed by SLS West Loop, LP, consisting of 5901 S. Rice Avenue, Bellaire, TX 77401 and 4800 Fournace Place, Bellaire, TX
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 →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on A Few Of Bellaire’s Many Comprehensive Plans
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 →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on Trying To Deconstruct The Bellaire City Budget
Update 11/24/2021: P&Z essentially approved the three applications at the November 18th meeting, with an agreement to add some clarifications or conditions. The Chairman will draft a written agreement for approval. Once the P&Z process is complete the applications will go to City Council for final consideration. Find the 11/18/21 meeting video here.The new NBSDD was approved on a 4 to 3 vote by City Council on May 24, 2021.
Update 9/15/2021: Find a link to the Public Hearing for this application here.
NOTICE OF A PUBLIC HEARING – Planning & Zoning September 9, 2021 @ 6 PM in City Hall
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 →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on North Bellaire Special Development District Updates
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 →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on Loss Of The 15% Discount For Flood Insurance – How And When Did This Happen?
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. Continue reading →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on Any Thoughts On Short Term Rentals In Bellaire?
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 email@example.comContinue reading →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire Church of Christ Requests Additional Parking Spaces For A Lot On South Rice
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 →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on 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 City Council on a 4 to 3 vote on May 24, 2021.
UPDATE 5/5/2021: After another 5 hour marathon session on May 3rd, this matter has been postponed. A date will be set for a Special Session for City Council to continue consideration on the proposed language for the the new NBSDD.
4/6/2021: Consideration by City Council on the proposed language for the NBSDD has been scheduled for Monday, May 3, 2021.
On April 5, 2021, numerous speakers addressed Council at a Public Hearing on the proposed zoning, both in person and by phone. A number of residents spoke in favor of ‘the development’, even though no development has been presented. Others complained that they must leave the City to find decent places to eat. Continue reading →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on UPDATE on Public Hearing Before City Council – Proposed Zoning For The Old Texaco/Chevron Property
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 →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on Bellaire City Library’s 70th Anniversary!
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!
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 →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on The Next Step For SLS Properties (The Old Chevron Property)
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.
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.
Update: 2/12/2021: In a long and somewhat confusing meeting on February 11th the Planning and Zoning Commission essentially approved the proposed draft for the NBSDD with a few minor changes. They will recommend consideration and approval of the new zoning district from members of Bellaire City Council, possibly as soon as the March 15, 2021, meeting. Listen to the meeting here. Continue reading →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on Update on NBSDD Public Hearing on January 14, 2021
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 →
Posted inHome|Comments Off on North Bellaire Special Development District – The Great Wide Open!
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Why Would Bellaire Pay Over $400,000 For Building Officials?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on The City Of Bellaire Is Now Dealing With Another Lawsuit
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Is Bellaire Ready For The Cost, Uncertainty Of Turning Over Wastewater Treatment To Houston And Demolition Of Our Wastewater Treatment Plant?
UPDATE 4/16/2021: An agreement has been reached between the City of Bellaire and the developers of Southside Commons. The parking lot will be dismantled by Public Works. The terms of the agreement are not yet available.
UPDATE: 12/7/2020 – MM Bellaire One LLC, the developers of Southside Commons, filed suit on December 7, 2020, against the City of Bellaire, Evelyn’s Park Conservancy, and Kevin Taylor.
UPDATE 11/16/2020: At a City Council meeting on Monday, November 16, 2020, the City Council also unanimously rejected the rezoning applications.
UPDATE 10/8/2020: The requests to rezone the parking lot were rejected by Planning and Zoning on October 8, 2020, by a vote of 0-6. Continue reading →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on No Logo, No Welcome Sign – Just A Parking Lot At The Main Entrance To The City Of Bellaire?
The item below is from the Mayor’s blog on 11/10/2020 explaining the City Council’s actions at the November 2, 2020, meeting for approval HISD’s application for construction of two baseball fields on the old Gordon Elementary property.
A modified design and 20 conditions: The shape of the outfield has been modified to save several more of the mature oak trees on the Avenue B side of the property, while also allowing for additional on-site parking. To offset the loss of those trees that will need to be removed, HISD will be planting at least 34 new ones. Should any of the trees to be preserved not survive construction, HISD will be required to replace them with trees of the same size and species if possible, and if not then with multiple smaller trees (each a minimum 8”) that collectively equal the same total caliper size.
Fencing around the entire perimeter of the property will further protect the neighbors by deterring on-street parking, an advantage over the 2017 approved plan. Unlike some of the alternative options that were presented, ingress and egress on Bissonnet only has been restored, to reduce traffic impacts on residential streets. Numerous other conditions attached to the permit are directly responsive to community concerns, including a net reduction in storm water runoff and more on-site detention than the status quo.
We recognize this new site plan may not be entirely perfect in all respects and to all people—no more than the 2017 approved plan was—but hopefully once it’s operational it’ll prove generally acceptable to most. Council carefully considered the thoughtful public comment we received, all of which contributed to a better outcome than would have been achieved otherwise. The conditions below are reflective of and effectuate that input, in attempting to strike the right balance between HISD’s use of the property and reasonable protections for the neighborhood:
(a) No field lights or public address system shall be installed on the property;
(b) The facilities shall be for the sole and exclusive use of Bellaire High School and not by other entities without prior consent from the City Council of the City of Bellaire, Texas (the “City Council”);
(c) The site shall be locked when not in use. However, the City of Bellaire Police Department shall have access to the site at all times. The access plan shall be approved by the Bellaire Police Department;
(d) The facilities shall be used for only the following uses and times listed below, and any other use or time shall require prior approval from the City Council:
Bellaire High School varsity and junior varsity baseball and softball practices – on weekdays until 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays until 5:30 pm;
Bellaire High School junior varsity baseball and softball games, excluding tournaments – on weekdays until 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays until 5:30 pm; or
Bellaire High School baseball and softball community events, not to exceed two events for baseball per year and two events for softball per year – until 7:30 p.m. For such events access/parking management plan shall be submitted to the City of Bellaire Development Services Director for review and approval prior to the event and specifically detail overflow parking and access management considerations to minimize impacts to adjacent residential streets and to prevent excess traffic congestion on Bissonnet Street;
(e) Construction ingress/egress shall be limited to Bissonnet Street, specifically restricting construction access through Avenue B and/or Feld Park, except as required to close the existing driveway to Avenue B and to plant trees along Avenue B;
(f) There shall be no net fill nor significant impediment to sheet flow on the site;
(g) The lowest visual impact netting material shall be utilized for all nets on the perimeter of the site. The netting on the third base line of the baseball field shall be extended to protect parked cars;
(h) HISD shall meet the lot coverage and setback requirements of the Code of Ordinances of the City (applying to schools in residential areas);
(i) As represented by HISD at the public hearing before City Council on September 21, 2020, the fields must be graded to avoid runoff and may only be compacted consistent with residential greenspace and solely for the purposes of creating a safe playing surface;
(j) All trees shall be preserved behind residences on the west side of the property, on the south side of the property adjacent to Feld Park, and along Avenue B, excepting one tree in right field, and HISD shall take all reasonable measures necessary for such tree preservation, including but not limited to following the direction of a professional arborist. However, if any of the above referenced trees on HISD property do not survive construction, HISD shall make all reasonable efforts to replace their lost tree(s) with tree(s) of the same size and species, in approximately the same location. In the event that similar caliper trees are not available, are prohibitively expensive, or cannot reasonably be placed in the same location, HISD may replace their lost tree(s) with multiple similar species trees of minimum 8” caliper to collectively equal the caliper dimension of the tree(s) that do not survive;
(k) No artificial or impermeable turf may be used for the fields. No tarps may be used. No solid (plastic or otherwise) horizontal ground weed barriers may be installed;
(l) No concrete on site except as may be necessary under the batting cages, bleachers, restrooms and storage, for the parking lot, and for sidewalks and pathways which are necessary to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended;
(m) As represented by HISD at the public hearing before City Council on September 21, 2020, the result of the drainage study and drainage plan (including the use of on-site detention) must reflect a net benefit in reduction of runoff and on site detention in comparison to the current condition, taking into account all changes;
(n) Upon the request of City staff (at the direction of Council or on its own accord), HISD must provide an officer to assist with traffic during any games or events;
(o) The pre-existing sidewalk on Avenue B and Bissonnet must be preserved;
(p) No video monitors;
(q) The only on-site lights on the property shall be low impact safety lights directed away from residences;
(r) Except for on the parking lot driveway, HISD shall construct a fence around the entire property inside of the existing sidewalk;
(s) Ingress/egress to the property shall be only on Bissonnet Street; and
(t) On-site parking shall include a minimum of 48 parking spaces.
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on A Semi-Brief History of Evelyn’s Park: 1908 – 2020
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on City Council in November: HISD Ball Fields, Bellaire Blvd Parking Lot, Debt Reduction, And A Search For A City Manager
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Another Developer Wants A Variance – For 1.99 Acres on Bissonnet @ 610
UPDATE 11/8/2022: O’Reilly Auto Parts will have a new building in the same location on Spruce, described as a redevelopment project. To accommodate the current zoning the store will face east (the old storefront faced south). The building will be one-story with a 2nd story mezzanine at the front property line.
On August 20, 2020, Bellaire’s Board of Adjustment voted NO, 4 to 2, on a request from O’Reilly’s Auto Parts for a variance in the zoning of the UV-D to construct a new one-story building at their current location at 5134 Spruce.Find the original plans here.
A representative for O’Reilly Auto Enterprises explained that a 2-story structure for the store was unnecessary and financially unfeasible. Could we lose another longtime Bellaire business? Continue reading →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on What’s The Point Of Our Urban Village-Downtown?
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?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Not Interested In Bellaire’s Proposed FY2021 Budget? How About A $6 Million Dollar Dog Pound?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on A Primer on Bellaire P&Z: Updates, A 30 ft Minimum Height And A Zero Setback!
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on A Status Construction Owner Spoke At City Council
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. Continue reading →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on City Council Is Back In City Hall, And Back In Action!
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.
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?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire After The Virus Shutdown – In Transit and On Hold
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 →
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire’s Trend For Commercial Development – Residents Had Better Pay Attention
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Open Letter – Bolivar, A Double Standard. Is It Time For A Change?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on City of Bellaire – Beautification or Boondoggle?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire City Council – A 5 Hour Marathon
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. Continue reading →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire City Manager Addresses A Problem With Fraudulent Surety Bonds
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on ARKK References For A Status Construction – We Have A Problem!
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. Continue reading →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Hopes For A New Year And A New Bellaire City Council
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on P&Z – HISD Sport Fields and AT&T Bissonnet @ 6400 Loop 610 – UPDATE
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire Receives Grants For Bond Projects and an Urgent Care Center Is Approved
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.
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. Continue reading →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Why Has Bellaire, Our City of Homes, Become A Target For Commercial Developers?
Remember the curb and sidewalk along the right turn lane on Fifth at Bissonnet?
It’s gone, no more right turn lane. Fifth ends at Bissonnet with a wall high enough to require a railing to prevent someone falling into the street.
Construction on Spruce and Fifth St. alongside and behind H-E-B began in late April of 2019. The contract called for a completion date of February 15, 2020. Promoted by the City Manager and approved by 6 members of City Council, the City of Bellaire decided to narrow 60 foot wide commercial streets to 26 feet wide (about the width of your residential street). The affected areas are lined with local businesses. Traveled every day by 18-wheelers and delivery trucks! Continue reading →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on An Ornate ‘Streetscape’ Behind a Multi-Story Grocery Store? Why?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire Council’s Careless Oversight – $6.5 Million Dollars of Bond Funds
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on If Bellaire Can Afford A $280,000 EMS Ambulance, Why Not A Ford Pickup Truck?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on The Sky’s The Limit! At Least For Now…
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Did Bellaire Voters Miss The Fine Print in the 2016 Bond Election?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on All That Debt – Where Has The Money Gone?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on 4301 Bellaire Blvd – Can We Trust Our Zoning?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Tax and Spend – Bellaire Council’s Budget Session #3 and Some Updates
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire Budget FY2020 – And The City Manager’s Hit List!
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire Property Taxes Up 25% Over The Next 5 Years?
UPDATE: A second workshop is to be scheduled during the week of October 28, 2019, with a public hearing to follow during the week of November 18, tentatively. The Commission would then vote at their December 12, 2019, meeting.
“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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on 4800 Fournace & 5901 South Rice – Development & Apartments – Undermining Residents and Our City of Homes?
The end product from the recent City Council Workshop is a 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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Bellaire’s Future & the Status of the 2016 Bond Funds
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Flood Mitigation Task Force Meeting March 26, 2019
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Council Meeting March 4, 2019 – “Vote No Bonds” and A Raise For City Manager
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Welcome To A Lush Grove? Now It’s Migrated To The City’s Website!
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on How Much Debt Is Too Much?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on How Is Our City Money Being Managed?
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Council Votes 6 to 1 To Proceed With The Spruce/Fifth St Project at 2/18/2019 Meeting
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.
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on Cost Savings Won’t Lower The City’s Debt – See A Debt Comparison Courtesy Of The Texas Comptroller
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 →
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.
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on About Those Bids for Spruce and Fifth + Maple and Bolivar
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 →
Posted inGovernment|Comments Off on A Sidewalk Petition and Some Fireworks at the January 28th Council Meeting!
October 28, 2022: Sadly we lost Lynn McBee in 2022. Her volunteerism. historical perspective on city administrations, and her skill in maintaining a written record of Bellaire’s history will be missed. Click on the Trolley to view the Table of Contents for Lynn’s history of Bellaire. Great information on your Home Town!
I couldn’t resist a photo of one of Bellaire’s manhole covers.
Construction on the new Bellaire High school is complete. The original building was demolished during the week of July 13-17, 2021. Find more information here.
Left Overs From the 2016 Bond Issue
Spruce and Fifth Streets – Now the subject of a lawsuit, the $3.2 million in contracts for this project called for completion by February 15, 2020. A drive through the area feels as though you’re in a rundown fun house. Here’s some background on this project.
You’ll find Little Free Libraries popping up throughout Bellaire. Loftin Park, Evelyn’s Park, Ware Family Park, plus private LFLs. “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin