The Community Pathways Plan Hits A Dead End At Bellaire City Council

Bellaire City Council faced a large crowd of Bellaire residents who turned out for the August 6, 2018, City Council meeting.  The Council chambers and the City Hall atrium were full, and resident after resident spoke their mind on the Pathways Plan. Continue reading

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Chapter 9 of Bellaire’s History – The Fifties Boomtown

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

All installments are are available on this page.

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City of Bellaire- Proposed Budget FY 2019

 

View the August 13th City Council Session on the Proposed Budget:  http://bellairecitytx.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=1880&Format=Agenda

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Bellaire Community Pathways – And The Nightmare on Spruce and Fifth Streets

UPDATE:  City Council has tabled the Pathways Plan but did not vote it down.  Unless it returns for consideration and approval it will sit on the same shelf as the Branding proposal, available for a rerun in the future. The latest Pathways Plan information can be found here.    

Meanwhile, please review the articles on the nightmare proposal on Spruce and Fifth Street! Here’s the latest post.  This is another project the City Manager has been involved in for over a year. The businesses and land owners are not objecting to the new street and drainage improvements, only the plans for the parking that would narrow the street and hinder or block parking at their businesses.

See Costello Plans

It will harm our longtime local businesses, interfere with deliveries to the new H-E-B, create dangerous traffic patterns, and the costs, of course, will be provided after approval!

Read about the City Manager’s plans for Spruce and Fifth streets here.

At the very least it should be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review.  Please stay engaged in these important matters.  Continue reading

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Are You Covered? Up To Date on Your Flood Insurance?

Link to FIRM – toggle Streets

July, 2018 – Even as we enter another hurricane season many residents in Bellaire and the Houston area continue to suffer from the damage and the costs of Hurricane Harvey. Numerous homes have yet to be repaired with the owners living in them as best they can, some living on upper floors; others have moved out and are living with relatives or in rented quarters.

After three devastating floods in our area in three years (May 2015, April 2016, August 2017), only one of which was hurricane related, let’s first focus on the need for flood insurance.

Flood Insurance – Who, What, Where, How?
Continue reading

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

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

All installments are are available on this page.

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P&Z Does Not Approve the Pathways Plan – Due to Move On To City Council for Review

Streets shown on current maps: 8 feet wide path – South Rice, Evergreen, Fournace, Newcastle; 6 feet wide  path – Maple, Alder, Chimney Rock, Ferris, Anderson/Second, Englewood, Avenue B, Mulberry, Sunburst.  (This Plan is not part of the sidewalk project currently in progress.)

See all files and graphics at the bottom of this article.

After a fractious meeting last Thursday evening, July 12, 2018,  the Planning and Zoning Commission voted not to approve the Pathways Plan.  Lack of communication, lack of transparency, Continue reading

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Do We Need A Revolving Door At The New City Hall?

When a new City Manager takes the reins in Bellaire we might expect that he or she would bring a former executive assistant along, someone already in tune with their style of management.           Continue reading

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Pathways Project – The Latest Version – June 2018

UPDATE: The Pathways Plan was  presented to Planning and Zoning on Thursday, July 12, 2018.  The Meeting video is  available to view online. P&Z voted unanimously not to recommend the Plan to City Council at this time. 

The Pathways Project will be ‘reviewed’ at the City Council meeting on August 6, 2018.  You can email Council at tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your email be forwarded to the Mayor and City Council.

Streets shown on current maps: 8 feet wide – South Rice, Evergreen, Fournace, Newcastle; 6 feet wide – Maple, Alder, Chimney Rock, Ferris, Anderson/Second, Englewood, Avenue B, Mulberry, Sunburst.  (Let me know if I missed any.)  See maps at the bottom of this post.


One of the items on the agenda for the June meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board was “Discussion and possible action regarding the Community Pathways Project”.  Updated project files can be found at the end of this post.

Ayo Bello, an engineer with HR Green, the contractor for this $75,000 dollar plan, explained that the Pathways plan was developed based on a City survey.  The survey garnered 430 responses out of over 16,000 residents – about 2.7%.

City staff member Cristin Emshoff and Mr. Bello presented the details of the new plan in hopes of gaining the Board’s approval.  After a PowerPoint presentation they explained that no pathway would be on private land, all would be built on public right-of-way (ROW).

That sounded good – at first.                 Continue reading

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Council Priorities and the Minutes of the Pre-Budget Planning Workshop

Final version of Council Priorities:  https://www.bellairetx.gov/DocumentCenter/View/18482/Council-Priorities—Adopted-61818?bidId=

Find it here: Council Priorities 2018-06-18.  Take a look at the overview – the Chevron property;  the costs to the city from Hurricane Harvey – $3.5 million, much of that will be reimbursed by FEMA and the Texas Municipal League, but a recent financial report estimated the City’s non-reimbursable loss at around $621,000.        Continue reading

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The City Manager’s 7 Steps To Beautify Bellaire

Here are the City Manager’s 7 easy steps to beautify downtown Bellaire:

1) Take the 60 foot wide commercial Spruce Street that runs behind a large grocery store, contains no small retail stores or boutiques, and is traversed daily in both directions by large delivery vehicles, narrow it to 30 feet or less and add sidewalks and angled public parking on the north side, which will…

2) Force large trucks turning from intersecting streets to swing wide to avoid jumping curbs while trying to avoid hitting other vehicles when making deliveries to businesses that line the narrow street while…

3) Being blocked from entering business parking lots along the north side of the street because of blocked or limited access to those businesses which…

4) Will damage those businesses economically due to the loss of private parking spaces and customer access and will also…

5) Endanger the lives of people parking in those angled parking spaces as they jaywalk to the other side of the street or try to back out into traffic on the narrow street and meanwhile the plan also…

6) Widens the intersecting Fifth Street that runs alongside the grocery store which would wipe out parking spaces for more businesses and then…

7) Narrows that street while constructing more sidewalks and angled parking spaces along the side of the new grocery store. Continue reading

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Spruce and Fifth Street Neighborhood Meeting – What Will Happen To Local Businesses?

5100 block of Spruce – business parking spaces have been blocked, loss of parking at Jax. Click for larger image.

Some background: On March 19, 2018,  Public Works presented a plan to City Council to reconstruct the 5100 and 5200 blocks of Spruce St. and three blocks of North Fifth by the new H-E-B grocery. (Watch the meeting here.) The plan would add public angled parking along the north side of Spruce and the east side of Fifth on City right of way and narrow the streets, eating up the right of way.  See Costello Overlays Updated May 2018 . Also fancy lamp posts and trees.  Paid for by bond funds for streets and drainage. Continue reading

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What’s With All These Bellaire Plans and Studies?

The City Council and the City Manager are fond of referring to various plans and studies to justify expenditures, sometimes on questionable projects and more studies.  We hear about the Comprehensive Plan, the Branding Study, Terrain Studios and something called Visioning Bellaire, and the Pathways Plan.  And now the Spruce and Fifth Streets project, which if approved as planned will harm businesses in the area around the new HEB.  The project has not yet been approved but some of those businesses are already suffering from current street construction. Continue reading

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Bellaire Agenda: Mayor and Council Special Session (Pre-Budget Planning Workshop)

Click to enlarge pg 10, see Redevelopment

Thursday, May 3, 2018, the Mayor and City Council will hold an all day pre-budget planning session in the Centerpoint Energy Community Center, located over the entrance to the Aquatics Center.  For those residents unable to attend the Session you can find information on updates, fiscal forecasts, and City Council priorities in the 2018-05-03 Mayor and Council – Full Agenda-1708.          Discussion on:

  • Pushing out small businesses around HEB that don’t meet Bellaire’s ‘higher standards’ (see Spruce/Fifth Streets) and see page 10 of the Agenda pdf above.  (The euphemism is “to encourage commercial redevelopment”)
  • Adding to Bellaire’s debt with a $48.5 million bond issue in 2019
  • Increasing Bellaire’s water and sewer rates over the next 5 years
  • Ensuring public safety; money for infrastructure, public works and library buildings, and parks.
  • Encourage new business development (see Spruce/Fifth Streets)
  • Using Bellaire’s brand identity
  • Property tax increase is not addressed.  Will we need one?
  • and more…

PLEASE review this agenda, especially pages 54-57, in preparation for the final budget due in September.

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Pathways Plan Is Under Scrutiny

Residents are speaking out in opposition to the proposed Pathways Plan.  The cost may be paid by the 2016 Bonds for  Better Bellaire funds for Streets, Drainage and Sidewalks.  The estimated cost eight to twelve million dollars.  You’ll find more information at Pathways Study under City Studies in the main Menu.

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

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

NOTES from the February 20th presentation:  The proposed Loop System pathway width may be 8 feet and it runs throughout Bellaire neighborhoods.

PLEASE study the maps included in this presentation. The estimated total cost is approximately $ 8 to $12 million, not including the cost for rights of way, utility relocation, and other attendant costs.  Another $1.5 million is shown for sidewalks.

According to the PowerPoint presentation a survey (Survey Monkey) of Bellaire residents garnered 440 responses, 7 of them non-residents.   Let City Council know what you think.   Were you aware of the presentation in January or February?  I was not.  Nothing in the water bill, nothing distributed door-to-door with the trash bags.  What do you think?  Is it time to organize?  Please post your comments on the User Comments page.

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

Thank you for reaching out. I can inform you the original recommendation to install a pathway along Baldwin for both bicyclists and pedestrians has been removed from the Community Pathways Plan.

During our open comment period, we have received comments similar to what you have indicated in your email. This caused a closer examination of this recommendation. The pathways identified in this plan are intended to be within the City’s right of way and are not intended to be on resident’s property. In Bellaire, most right of ways are 60’. This is not the case for Baldwin – it’s a 50’ right of way. In order to add a pathway on Baldwin, the entire roadway would have to be realigned, very similar to how the Newcastle Trail was constructed when Newcastle Street was completed. In addition, Baldwin was recently constructed in 2011 and is in good condition. There are also numerous conflicts (trees, utilities) in the right of way that would have to be relocated or removed. For this area, the Newcastle Trail can be used as an alternative pathway.

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

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Takeaways from April 16th City Council Meeting

Substandard and Abandoned Houses

Substandard and abandoned houses were an early topic of last Monday’s regular Council meeting. After numerous complaints from residents on Nextdoor and articles in the Southwest News about abandoned houses the City Manager provided a PowerPoint presentation on the subject.  Continue reading

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City of Bellaire – A Bully Pulpit Or Just A Bully?

Why would a City choose to harm its small businesses?  Spend hundreds of thousands  of dollars to do so?

In November of 2016 Bellaire voters gave the City Council and City Manager a big pot of money – right at $54 million dollars. About $34 million was available to be spent on streets, water, drainage, and sidewalks. In 2017 City Council approved about $3 million dollars of contracts to 6 engineering firms. As one Council member noted – before one drop of concrete was poured. Continue reading

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City of Bellaire Website – User Friendly?

Have you tried to find information on the City of Bellaire website?  One example: search for City Council agenda packets.  You’ll find the calendar for the current month where you can click on the Council meetings.  The next best possibility is City archives, except the most recent agenda shown is for March 24, 2014.  If you really want to find the most recent agendas you literally have to go back month by month.

Search for transparency or transparency in government.  First up is annual local debt report – informative (and scary), but not really about transparency in government.  Then some type of City report, and so on.  Nothing close to West University’s site, which lists Transparency in Government as a main menu item.

What’s your experience with Bellaire’s website?  Comments are welcome

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Is Our City Logo Still An Issue?

Ever wonder if the $50,000 Branding Study has gone away? Despite the tepid to downright comical response to the meaningless logo presented to City Council in January 2018, there’s been no word from the City that the contract with the firm engaged to provide the study, Principle, has been terminated.  Continue reading

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Who Is Promoting the Spruce Street Project? And Why?

This excerpt is from the most recent City newsletter, The Boulevard:

  1. Group C Phase II: Streets, Drainage and Sidewalks project – There are five street blocks identified in this project. Three of the street blocks are adjacent to the HEB area and will have wide sidewalks, landscaping, trees, irrigation, streetlights, and onstreet parking. A waterline was added to this project after identification in the condition assessment for Proposition Three. Construction is estimated to begin this fall.

Continue reading

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What’s the Hallway in the new City Hall that will house art?

Per the April 11th Cultural Arts Board agenda, Item D: DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION – Recommendations to name the hallway in City Hall that will house art. – Chair Terry Leavitt-Chavez

What art?  Donated or Purchased?

Here’s the agenda: Cultural Arts Board Agenda for April 11, 2018

 

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Bellaire History is at your fingertips thanks to Lynn McBee

Bellaire has come a long way and thanks to longtime resident Lynn McBee the City’s history will unfold on this web site.  Just click the menu item for Bellaire History and enjoy a good read!

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Why This Sudden Interest in Spruce Street?

When Bellaire voters approved a bond issue for $24 million dollars for Streets, Drainage, and Sidewalks with the explanation that ‘Projects will address replacement of streets and drainage systems in order to reduce the occurrence of flooding and improve street conditions’ they probably thought the City would install new storm sewers, replace corroded water lines, repave tired streets, rebuild damaged curbs, and complete a contiguous sidewalk along at least one side of every street in Bellaire. Continue reading

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How Does the City of Bellaire Spend Taxpayer Money?

As of 2016 the City of Bellaire had over $104 million dollars in outstanding debt, $5600 per person, which is much higher than any of the surrounding municipalities.  Almost a quarter of the  of the City budget, about $9 million,  will go out on debt service this year, and there’s mention of another bond issue in 2019.
Continue reading

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What was included in the 2016 Bellaire Bond Election?

Mentioning bonds in a prior post, I wondered where the City or Council planned to find the $8 million plus for Pathways or the $4.1 million for the Spruce Street upgrade. In 2016 Bellaire voters approved the sale of $54 million in bonds. Continue reading

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Branding, Pathways, Spruce St – What’s Up at Bellaire City Council?

Are you aware of the Branding Study?  Over $50,000 has been spent as of March 15th but the cost could climb!  The result was a new logo to replace our longtime and much loved one.  It’s a B with a leaf and it was very unpopular with most residents who spoke to Council.  Resident responses ranged from “a child could have done a better job” to anatomical references and a giant tongue.  For now Council has agreed to shelve this idea, but another iteration will probably be presented.  Recently Council did adopt a font and verbal identity from the study.  More information and documents on this study, including the contract that contains possible charges, can be found under the Studies link

What do you think?  Email tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your message be forwarded to the Mayor and members of City Council.

What about the Pathways Plan?  If you thought this was just for sidewalks you’re in for a surprise.  The price tag on this study could be $8 million or more and add 8 ft wide walk/bike paths throughout the City, along Baldwin Avenue, for instance.  Plus the cost for sidewalks.  Council has postponed discussion on this plan until May.  The downloads and maps can be found under the Studies link.

Note: By April, 2018:The original recommendation to install a pathway along Baldwin for both bicyclists and pedestrians has been removed from the Community Pathways Plan.

What do you think?  Email tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your message be forwarded to the Mayor and members of City Council.


And coming up for Council’s consideration on Monday, March 19th, is a presentation for the Spruce and Fifth Street Design  Considerations.  Spruce_St&Fifth_Considerations .  This presentation contends there will be no financial impact because the cost, I guess, is contained in the bond monies from the 2016 bond election.  Is this how you thought the bond money would be spent?

What’s not mentioned is the impact on the long-time business owners along the north side of the 5100 and 5200 blocks of Spruce and the small bakery on Fifth St.  How will the large delivery trucks to HEB navigate in this narrow space?

Also not mentioned is the estimated cost, which was revealed to be about $4.1 million.  Mention was made that part of this amount was something about the 4500 block of Maple and Bolivar. Nothing about these streets was shown in the presentation. This presentation is a curious mix of several recent studies. On the map in the presentation the 5100 block of Laurel is still shown, old swimming pool and all, and somehow a second Locust Street shows up running along the alley behind the Shipley’s and Sherwin Williams stores.

I’m concerned there may be some hidden agenda behind this, what do you think?  More on this later, along with the zoning changes that Council passed in 2013 for this area.

What do you think?  Email tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your message be forwarded to the Mayor and members of City Council.

 

 

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