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.
The first was a recommendation from Planning and Zoning Commission concerning the use of professional services for drafting proposed amendments to Section 24-544, Technical Research Park District (TRPD), to replace the TRPD with a new zoning district to be named the North Bellaire Special Development District. This is the old Chevron property.
P&Z has been tasked with amending the current TRPD, essentially developing a new zoning district. Discussion on this recommendation ranged from overuse of consultants by the City, the scope of the work, what has been accomplished by P&Z to date, and the importance of input from Bellaire residents.
The Planned Development (PD) portion of the new zoning district was discussed. The Mayor feels there should be a minimum set of criteria, restraints on what would be allowed so that applicants would know what would be acceptable to the City. It would be up to the applicant to use their own zoning expert to work up an acceptable application for a PD, not the City staff.
The outcome was a motion to solicit proposals with cost estimates from at least two planning and zoning professionals to work with P&Z to refine a new zoning district to replace the TRPD. The motion was approved by 6 to 1. Council member Lewis voted against. The agenda item can be accessed here.
Next up was a review of Revised Street and Drainage Reconstruction Selection Criteria, much of which was developed prior to the floods of 2015, 2016, and Harvey in 2017. Suggestions from the Flood Mitigation Task Force report are addressed, including a review of that criteria. A workshop will be announced to allow City staff and engineers to present suggested changes in methods used to prioritize streets listed for reconstruction and drainage due to recent floods. Find more information on the Revised Street and Drainage Reconstruction Selection Criteria here.
The final item was “Consideration of and possible action on terminating, modifying, or halting the contracts relating to the Spruce and Fifth Street Reconstruction Project, evaluation of vendor performance, and potential legal action relating to the vendors with contracts relating to said project.” That motion was voted down 4 to 3. In favor were Council members Lewis, Hotze, and Wesely. Opposed were Mayor Friedberg and Council members Verma, Pappas, and Fife, all of whom originally approved the project.
The contract to A Status Construction, LLC for the Spruce and Fifth St project ends on February 15, 2020, however much of the project remains to be completed. The contractor has submitted a request for 157 delay days out of the 300 day contract. That request is under consideration.
The City is aware of complaints from residents about the disorganized worksite, the problems for pedestrians and traffic, lack of signage, storage of materials, and the lack of progress. Access to H-E-B and other businesses has been difficult, and one council member recounted a recent occurrence when a resident left the Brisket Bar-B-Q on a rainy night and drove off an excavated driveway drop-off onto Fifth Street. There was no barricade across the exit. A wrecker was required.
The ARKK representative assured members of Council that the 5100 block of Spruce will be left for last, and that the requested delay days by the contractor are under review. He explained that the project was really about drainage. That the project would be completed in 60 to 90 days.
He also admitted that a request for over 50% of the contract days as delay days was highly unusual. No one discussed the damages for liquidation on any of the A Status Contracts, including two others in work that have already run past the completion dates.
The City Manager insists all is well and the there will be no additional costs to the City. And that when completed the area will be beautiful. Find update information on the project here.
Bellaire’s Debt is $123.8 million at the end of FY2019, one of the highest per capita in the state. Another bond issue is under discussion for 2021.Find Bellaire on the Texas Comptroller’s list for 2018; more bonds have been sold since then: https://comptroller.texas.gov/transparency/local/debt/city.php?cityname=Bellaire&citysubmit=GO
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