All That Debt – Where Has The Money Gone?

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

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Siemens – Where Do We Stand On The $12.8 Million Siemens Contract?

  • Have you received notification of the free Aquahawk Alerting system?
  • Dealt with a water leak not far from your new water meter?
  • Do you even know that you have a new water meter? 
  • Or what an Aquahawk is? 

Continue reading

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Mike Jacobs – A Presentation to Bellaire City Council, September 9, 2019

Please click on the page below to view Mike Jacobs’ Budget Analysis FY2020 as presented to Bellaire City Council on September 9, 2019.  The pdf can also be downloaded.  Thank you.

 

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4301 Bellaire Blvd – Can We Trust Our Zoning?

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

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Tax and Spend – Bellaire Council’s Budget Session #3 and Some Updates

Final Budget Revisions FY2020

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.
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Bellaire Budget FY2020 – And The City Manager’s Hit List!

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

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Bellaire Property Taxes Up 25% Over The Next 5 Years?

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

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4800 Fournace & 5901 South Rice – Development & Apartments – Undermining Residents and Our City of Homes?

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.

Portion of Warranty Deed

Find recent Environmental Assessment reports on the City of Bellaire website: https://www.bellairetx.gov/DocumentCenter/Index/825    

“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

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Bellaire’s Future & the Status of the 2016 Bond Funds

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

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Flood Mitigation Task Force Meeting March 26, 2019

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

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Council Meeting March 4, 2019 – “Vote No Bonds” and A Raise For City Manager

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 tdutton@bellairetx.gov

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Welcome To A Lush Grove? Now It’s Migrated To The City’s Website!

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

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How Much Debt Is Too Much?

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

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How Is Our City Money Being Managed?

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

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Council Votes 6 to 1 To Proceed With The Spruce/Fifth St Project at 2/18/2019 Meeting

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

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15. Bellaire’s 10th Decade 2000 – 2008 A Centennial Year

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.

Find Lynn’s latest chapter on our town’s history here.

All Chapters are listed under Bellaire History on the main menu.

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Cost Savings Won’t Lower The City’s Debt – See A Debt Comparison Courtesy Of The Texas Comptroller

Cost Savings and Future Costs

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

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What’s All This About Downtown Redevelopment in Bellaire?

Do We Value Our Small Businesses?

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

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About Those Bids for Spruce and Fifth + Maple and Bolivar

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.

Please email the Mayor and City Council via tdutton@bellairetx.com regarding these projects.  Your comments at the Council meetings matter, too!  Here’s my email of February 13, 2019.

February 5, 2019

Dear Mayor and Members of City Council,

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

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A Sidewalk Petition and Some Fireworks at the January 28th Council Meeting!

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

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2019: Drainage Plan – Town Hall Meeting – Spruce St

The highlight of the December 17, 2018, Council meeting was the presentation a Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan, beginning with a proposed interlocal agreement among Bellaire, TX-DOT, and the Harris County Flood Control District.  Bellaire is located at the east/southeast terminus of various watersheds that flow into Brays Bayou.  Continue reading

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A Master Plan For Wasteful Spending – While Harming Local Businesses

At this point the proposed date for Council’s approval of the project is February 18, 2019.  A pdf of the presentation can be found here: 1_7_19_Spruce&Fifth        

The City of Bellaire seems determined to narrow 60 foot wide commercial streets to 26 feet wide (about the width of a residential street) – for 2 lanes of traffic.  Traveled every day by 18-wheelers!  With 2016 Bond money as part of a project to reconstruct streets, drainage, and sidewalks.
Continue reading

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City Council Update on Spruce/Fifth St Leads To An Unpleasant Exchange; The 4th Quarter Financial Report Is Available

At the November 19th City Council meeting, Denton Ragland, CEO of the Bellaire Business Association, made a presentation promoting a campaign to encourage residents to ‘Stay Local to Bellaire Resources’  and stay loyal to their local businesses, then City Manager Paul Hofmann presented his report.  Continue reading

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Chapter 14 – Controversy and Changes In The Last Decade Of The 20th Century!

It was the last decade of the twentieth century. There was much speculation and even foreboding by some that the century’s end might be doomsday…

Bellaire in the 1990s was fraught with controversy, criminal charges, and a succession of mayors.  Find Lynn’s latest chapter on our town’s history here.

All Chapters are listed under Bellaire History on the main menu.

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A New Addition To The Menu: Our Environment

Find information on Bellaire’s recycling program.  The wrong items in our recycle bins cost us money!  Find tips on other forms of recycling via the Our Environment tab on the menu. A Holiday Note: Did you know that MOST wrapping paper is NOT recyclable?

  • what can and cannot be recycled (no pizza boxes!)
  • how to dispose of hazardous waste
  • recycling those autumn leaves
  • grasscycling – no matter who does the mowing
  • water conservation and water pollution
  • mosquito misting concerns
  • and terrific information on plants from Aggie Horticulture
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Yes to Chevron Property, No to Car Wash, Pause in the Sidewalk Saga

At the November 5, 2018, City Council meeting a specific use permit for a car wash business at the corner of Bellaire Blvd and Ferris St. was not approved.  The vote was 5 to 2, with Council members Pappas and Montague voting for the permit.  Council had voted unanimously to approve a specific use permit for SLS Properties’ plans for the Chevron Continue reading

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2019 Budget is Adopted – Future Bond Program Planning Session – A Possible $47 million Bond Issue in 2019

2016 Debt – No New Bond Issues

 

The Bellaire City Council, City Manager, and City staff discussed the possibility of another bond issue in 2019.  The amount proposed by City staff is $47 million.  A second bond issue in 2022 was also mentioned, at this point it would be an additional $36 million. Continue reading

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Bellaire History In Tangible Form – The Centennial Walk

Click  for History Walk

Are you aware of Bellaire’s History Walk?  Lynn’s latest chapter of Bellaire history, History In Tangible Form, explains the background of Bellaire’s History Walk and the various monuments around town.  Part of the City’s centennial celebration.  Find it here!

All Chapters are listed under Bellaire History on the main menu.

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Answer The Call For A Referendum on Sidewalks

Call for Referendum To Require a Vote on Sidewalks!

SidewalkChoice was founded by a group of Bellaire residents who feel the $55 million dollar 2016 Bonds for Better Bellaire bond issue left out important facts about how the funds would be applied, and changes were made that obscured the true use of a portion of the funds.

Preface: On August 15, 2016, City Council approved a motion to call a bond election for November 8, 2016, for $53,980,000.  Four propositions were initially discussed:  1) street and drainage facility improvements for $20 million); the construction of new municipal buildings for $5.9 million (City Hall/Civic Center and Police/Courts Building), 3) water line improvements, for $20.38 million and 4) sidewalk improvements for $4 million. 

However Council member Pollard proposed that Prop 4 for sidewalks be included in Prop 1, and that proposition be changed to 1) streets, drainage, and sidewalk improvements for $24 million, effectively removing the opportunity for Bellaire residents to approve funding for stand-alone sidewalks.  Mayor Friedberg objected to this change.  In addition, the $12.8 million Siemens no-bid contract was included in Prop 3, not listed as a separate proposition.  

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What Happened To That $54 Million Dollars?

In response to requests for a printed version of my comments at the October 15, 2018 Council meeting I am posting it below:

Good Evening Mayor, City Council, and Citizens, Continue reading

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Bellaire’s History: The 1980s – Bellaire Special TIFD District Formed to Rebuild Downtown

From boomtown to slowdown, in 1980 population in Bellaire dropped from a high of almost 20,000 to less than 15,000. President Ronald Reagan defeated Michael Dukakis and reigned for the decade until George H.W. Bush took over in 1989. There was Black Monday in 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22.6% on October 19th, largest one-day decline in history. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 closed the decade.  Read the next chapter of Lynn’s Bellaire history!

All Chapters are listed under Bellaire History on the main menu.

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Property Values, Tax Increase, and Our Burgeoning Debt – Good Evening, Mayor and City Council,

Preface: In order to maintain our current revenue stream City Council has agreed on an increase to our property tax rate from $ .4159 to $ .4313 for tax year 2018 to compensate for the lower property values on the tax roll.  Those residents whose assessed value increased or remained the same as the prior year will see an increase in their property tax for 2018.  Those whose assessed value declined will see their tax bills remain the same or may see a decrease.  Here’s a random example of the current situation, a beautiful 3200 square foot home in Southdale built in 1996 that suffered flood damage and was completely rebuilt.  It sold this past July:

  • HCAD Value as of January 1, 2017     $811,160
  • HCAD Value as of January 1, 2018     $737,291  (a decline of $73,869)
  • Sold Price as of July 30, 2018     $670,000 (an additional decline of  $67,291

Assuming the new owners protest the 2018 appraisal, this property’s value on the tax roll will be lowered a total of $141,160, or about 17%, from the 2017 value.  And this is just one of approximately 2000 homes that flooded in Bellaire, many with lowered HCAD appraisals FY2018. Continue reading

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How Do City Bonds Work?

Click to see how Bellaire’s debt compared to other similar sized cities in 2016- the current debt stands at $124 million

Many city governments find themselves up against a wall when they need money for day-to-day operating expenses, building new structures, improving existing structures or making repairs. Ongoing expenses, including employee wages, maintenance andinsurance, plus periodic projects including building schools, improving roadways and ensuring the safety of bridges, represent significant costs for city governments. To pay for these costs, a city’s resources include licensing fees and tax payments. But there are times when city budgets simply cannot sustain the city’s operating costs and city coffers come up shorthanded (or empty-handed) to cover expenses or fund needed projects. During times like these, government officials often turn to city bonds as a resource for raising the money. Continue reading

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Bellaire: A City Divided

UPDATE: Recent information has been received.  Find out what streets in the Group D Phase 1 and Phase 2 are approved for sidewalks and what streets have been removed.   Read it here. 

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, 4 members of Council chose to ignore the Bellaire residents who spoke out against the Pathways Plan and others who spoke against sidewalks in their front yards. By their vote to add 5 foot wide stand-alone sidewalks and even more concrete to our City those 4 members also turned their backs on the many residents who fear another flood. How much more concrete will cover Bellaire with 5-foot wide sidewalks? Or with more sidewalks, period? Continue reading

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Chapter 11: The 1970s – The Bellaire Recall of its Mayor and Council Members

It was 31 years ago, in 1977, that 4,619 Bellaire voters at a Special Recall Election called by a citizens’ initiative referendum succeeded in recalling from elected office the Mayor and three of the five City Council members.

Bellaire citizens were up in arms when the City Council insisted on going against the majority of residents who opposed more commercial development.  Read Lynn’s latest history article here!

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Spruce Street – Not In My Backyard! But The City Manager Just Won’t Give Up. Why?

HEB dumpster service – note how far the truck extends into the current 60′ R.O.W. – over half the width. And the delivery truck at another business. (Click for larger image)

You’ve heard the phrase ‘Not in my backyard’, right? This Spruce St/Fifth St project is everyone’s back yard. We tend to spend most of our home time in our neighborhood, but just about everyone in the City spends some time in our downtown area. 

Initial Plan for 5100 block of Spruce.  Purple parking areas block existing parking lots.

The plans are about 90% complete and the City is still determined to narrow the streets and build public parking – for who?

These folks are our neighbors. Some of them have been in business for 20 or 30 years or more. A bite to eat at Jax, windshield wipers or a plug for the lawn mower at O’Reilly’s, drop off your car at Bellaire Auto or your youngster at Treehouse Learning Center. How will you replace this kind of service if these trusted longtime businesses go away? Accessing the new H-E-B won’t be easy, either, with all the traffic forced into a constricted area if this street is narrowed.
Continue reading

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A 4 to 2 Vote and We Get 5 Foot Sidewalks

The Final List of Stand-Alone Sidewalks

Update – 10/15/2018:  Late summer and into the fall of 2018 residents protested and submitted petitions to remove their streets from the projects, and their requests were approved.  But most Council members still continued to vote in favor of installing stand-alone sidewalks.  Finally, on October 15, 2018, after RAC Industries withdrew their bid to construct the stand-alone sidewalks in Group D Phase 1 because so many had been removed from the project, City Council voted to rescind Ordinance Nos. 18-056 and 18-057.  The stand-alone sidewalks were ‘shelved’.   

The cost for the sidewalk program?  Over a quarter of a million dollars in 2 years.


Preface: On August 15, 2016, City Council approved a motion to call a bond election for November 8, 2016, for $53,980,000.  Four propositions were initially discussed:  1) street and drainage facility improvements for $20 million); the construction of new municipal buildings for $5.9 million (City Hall/Civic Center and Police/Courts Building), 3) water line improvements, for $20.38 million and 4) sidewalk improvements for $4 million. 

However Council member Pollard proposed that Prop 4 for sidewalks be included in Prop 1, and that proposition be changed to 1) streets, drainage, and sidewalk improvements for $24 million, effectively removing the opportunity for Bellaire residents to approve funding for stand-alone sidewalks.  Mayor Friedberg objected to this change and moved to retain Prop 4.  His motion was voted down 4 to 3, with Council members Pollard, Reed, McLaughlan, and Fife in favor of rolling the sidewalks into Prop 1.  In addition, the $12.8 million Siemens no-bid contract was included in Prop 3, not listed as a separate proposition.  


Two years later, August 20, 2018:  Item for Individual Consideration:  Council discussion on sidewalk program implementation and possible action to provide direction to the city manager as appropriate – Submitted by Paul A. Hofmann, City Manager. 

Was this item, posted at the end of the August 20th City Council agenda, sufficient to warn residents that a big change in sidewalk width might occur?  Does this description provide any reason to think we will end up with 5-foot sidewalks?

Protests and Petitions

Group D Phase 2 Layouts – Orange Trees to be Removed

One week earlier, at a City Council Special Session on August 13, 2018,  the stand-alone 4-foot sidewalk program (sidewalks installed only, not part of street reconstruction) was put on hold by Council.  Numerous objections and petitions had been submitted by Bellaire residents who objected to sidewalks planned for their streets.

They objected to sidewalks along both sides of cul-de-sacs, wrapping  Continue reading

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Chapter 10 of Bellaire’s History – The Sixties – Momentous World Changes

When Time Magazine, Inc. published its, “Time 1968 40th Anniversary Special” (© 2008 Time, Inc.) in which it describes that year and the 1960s era as, “War abroad, Riots at Home, Fallen Leaders and Loner Dreams: The Year that Challenged the World.”

The 1960s saw a wave of activism in the country, and Bellaire residents became activists as well.  Catch up with local, national, and world history in Lynn’s latest installment here.

All installments are are available on this page.

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Open Letter to City Council: Debt

Dear Mayor and Members of City Council,

As you work towards the 2019 City budget and the possibility of another $45 or 50 million dollar bond issue I’d like to suggest the following.  First, check out the Comptroller’s Continue reading

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Stand-Alone Sidewalks On Hold For Now

Preface: On August 15, 2016, City Council approved a motion to call a bond election for November 8, 2016, for $53,980,000.  Four propositions were initially discussed:  1) street and drainage facility improvements for $20 million); the construction of new municipal buildings for $5.9 million (City Hall/Civic Center and Police/Courts Building), 3) water line improvements, for $20.38 million and 4) sidewalk improvements for $4 million. 

However Council member Pollard proposed that Prop 4 for sidewalks be included in Prop 1, and that proposition be changed to 1) streets, drainage, and sidewalk improvements for $24 million, effectively removing the opportunity for Bellaire residents to approve funding for stand-alone sidewalks.  Mayor Friedberg objected to this change and moved to retain Prop 4.  His motion was voted down 4 to 3, with Council members Pollard, Reed, McLaughlan, and Fife in favor of rolling the sidewalks into Prop 1.


It appears that at least some members of City Council were listening to Bellaire residents who attended last week’s Council meeting.  Discussion during the Special Session on August 13, 2018, focused on financial concerns and about flood mitigation rather than adding more concrete to the City.  Continue reading

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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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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

Update: Due to oversights in the Development Services Department, as of October 1, 2021, Bellaire residents lost the 15% rate discount on flood insurance.  Now FEMA is moving to a new methodology, Risk Rating 2.  Check with your insurance agent.

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?
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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: Pathways Plan was ‘shelved’ by Ctiy Council on August 6, 2018.  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 is eight to twelve million dollars.  You’ll find more information at Pathways Study under City Studies in the main Menu.

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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.

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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.
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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 15, 2018, 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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