My Public Comment on February 18, 2019

Good Evening Mayor and City Council.

There’s really not much left to say about this plan for Spruce and Fifth Streets. It appears the decision has already been made. There are new wooden utility poles lying along Fifth. I saw surveyors working at the corner of Spruce and South Rice. I hope I’m wrong and that there is still an opportunity to reverse course.

Watching the videos of the various meetings about this plan I saw it progress from a project for street and drainage in 2017 to one for beautification and redevelopment in 2018, driven by zoning and the comprehensive plan. Then at one point last summer the public works director explained that vehicular traffic on Spruce was less important than parking.

So the plan would turn a commercial street into a parking lot. But as of 2019 we’re back to drainage, paving, comprehensive plan, zoning code and city council priorities. That should cover all the bases. Too bad about resident or business priorities, city council priorities rule.

To be clear, the businesses do not object to the new street and drainage, only the design that would narrow Spruce and Fifth and block or impede access to driveways and parking lots. Maneuvering the large 18-wheelers making deliveries in that area will be a nightmare. How many folks have had to back up to allow a large truck to make a turn? These commercial streets will be no wider than your residential street.

Residents are told that more parking spaces will be available, but no one with the City mentions that they are PUBLIC parking spaces, open to anyone. I hate to think that some council members have failed to understand the difference.

The City presentations included assurances from staff that the city wanted buy-in from the public, they wanted to be sure they were accommodating to the businesses and the neighbors. At the March 19, 2018 meeting council member Fife insisted that the neighborhood must be involved sooner, not later.

Council member Verma was excited about the bike lane – but there is no bike lane. Council member Montague asked the cost. Council member McLaughlan asked the most pertinent question – why this location? If beautification is desired why not along a major thoroughfare like Bellaire or Bissonnet.

The underlying message is that the current businesses along Spruce and Fifth just aren’t good enough for Bellaire any longer. They don’t conform to someone’s view of what is needed. After years of service to the City they have to go, or as the saying goes, just kick them to the curb.

To me the last thing this plan is about is beautification. I see it as ugly and mean-spirited, appealing to some sort of elitist mentality and false sense of superiority.

I think any member of council who chooses to ignore the appeals and protests of Bellaire residents and the affected businesses, and instead chooses to support this plan out of some sort of allegiance to the city manager and the mayor, do not represent who we are or what this town is about. We are definitely better than this.

As John Bradshaw said many years ago on his PBS series – don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do. Bellaire citizens will remember tonight’s outcome this November.

Thank you.