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.
Considering the projected cost of the Master Drainage Concept Plan for City of Bellaire, with a preliminary amount of $221 million for Bellaire’s portion, it’s time to examine the history of Bellaire’s recent floods and the best way to fund projects for our area. Find updated information on the interlocal plans among Bellaire, TX-DOT, and the Harris County Flood Control District for drainage here. There’s high hopes that Project Brays will ameliorate some of Bellaire’s flooding, but apparently much depends on our drainage capacity. Flooded streets are acceptable, flooded homes are not.
Another consideration regarding the Master Drainage plan is funding. With City Debt of over $100 million dollars, how will Bellaire finance hundreds of millions more in improvements? The usual answer is bond issues. Find an overview of our current bonded debt here.
A few years ago some Bellaire residents promoted bond issues for unnecessary projects, concrete pathways and 5-foot sidewalks for instance, stating now was the time to borrow when interest rates are low. By then other residents realized the irony of adding more concrete to our town and borrowing more money to do so. Though more bonds may be inevitable, City staff are pursuing other avenues of funding for flood mitigation, including grants.
Meanwhile Council seems to have no problem approving or reallocating funds for unbudgeted expenditures for sidewalks along a portion of Maple St., a new dog pound to replace the old one, even though the few dogs housed each month are held for only a few days, and a new bathroom for Mulberry Park. Final estimated costs may be $800,000 or more for three projects residents have managed to live without for the past 50 years or so. And the Parks Board is angling for a $5 million dollar renovation of Evergreen Park.
Moving on, Council discussion focused on the new ordinances for the three Planned Developments along the 4800 block of Fournace. Lighting was again mentioned, also possible noise pollution from outdoor events. Councilmember Lewis had prepared a list for possible future changes based on her research of zoning in other area cities, to be forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Then came an examination of the conflicts within City ordinances related to site fill and grading. Section 9-70, which prohibits fill for new construction, and section 9-18, which allows for “fill credits”. Like many of the sections in the City Code, the language of these ordinances is not exactly crystal clear. The incipient event for this Agenda item is the amount of fill and lack of properly installed flood vents on a new residential construction on Marrakech. The confusion over the apparent differences in these fill ordinances will be referred to the Building and Standards Commission for investigation and recommendations.
BTW: The “no-fill” ordinance was passed too late for our little 70+ year old home. Our backyard, which was graded to drain to a 10 foot rear easement, was surrounded by four lots that had as much as 24″ of fill at the rear. Coupled with the City’s decision to quitclaim the rear easement and the extension of tall privacy fences our yard is effectively dammed. During heavy rain events water has nowhere to go except up, into a lake in our backyard and into our backyard structures. There is some good news, though. Due to the rising waters we purchased flood insurance for the first time in 2001. A little over one month later we suffered flood damage from Tropical Storm Allison. Please, consider some flood insurance. We carry enough to at least replace our wood floors!
Send emails and written comments to our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at email@example.com and request that Tracy forward them to the Mayor and members of City Council.