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 the Planning and Zoning Commission voted not to approve the Pathways Plan. Lack of communication, lack of transparency, vague and illegible plans and vague cost estimates and fear of more crime were just a few of the concerns of Bellaire residents who turned out en masse at the Planning and Zoning Meeting last Thursday evening. The Council chamber was full to overflow with many more residents watching from the atrium. A list of streets shown on the current maps can be found at the end of this article.
Resident after resident, many residing on the streets that would carry the pathways, were unaware of the plan until they were notified by neighbors just one day earlier. Some are still not back in their homes. I counted 37 speakers, with 35 opposed to the plan and 2 in favor.
There were 40+ emails received which will be included in the minutes of the meeting. The video can be viewed here: http://bellairecitytx.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=1894&Format=Agenda. The minutes are not yet available.
Comments ranged from questioning the reasons for promoting this project in the wake of the flood damage and the need for flood mitigation, to the dangers to pedestrians and cyclists from vehicles backing out of their driveways and the dangers of mixing pedestrians and cyclists on a shared path.
Crime was an issue – why open neighborhoods to strangers walking or riding along the paths that could lead to more home break-ins or robberies. The environment – damage to mature shade trees, more concrete leading to more flooding. Another concern is the harm to property values. What happens to the value of a property with a 6 or 8 foot public path running through a front yard?
Speakers asked who was behind this project, since many streets already have sidewalks and more are planned. And the fact that this plan could be approved with no idea of the real cost. How would the City pay for it? More debt for an unnecessary project when we need funding for so many basic improvements?
Residents were shocked by the lack of communication from the City, to discover that no notice or public hearing by the City is required prior to P&Z or City Council approving this type of Public Works project.
Instead residents might not be aware of the Plan until they receive a notice in the mail advising them of a neighborhood pre-construction meeting. NOTE: The ongoing Sidewalks project is not a part of the Pathways Plan.
There were calls for City wide surveys to be distributed to every address and others for public hearings for projects of this scope and expense that would affect so many homeowners.
At this time, rather than submission to City Council for review and approval on July 16th as originally planned, the project is now slated for review by City Council on August 6th. There will not be an up or down vote for the project, which would let residents know where the members of Council stand on this project.
Instead City Council may just choose not to take action at this time. That’s how the unpopular City logo proposal was handled. Put it on the shelf and bring it out when no one is looking. Judging by the response to last week’s P&Z meeting most residents would like to see an end to this Plan, period.
Mark your calendars! According to the Pending Agenda Items in the City Manager’s Weekly Memo for 7-13-18 the Pathways Project is scheduled for ‘review’at the City Council meeting on August 6th.
If you cannot attend the meeting you can email Council at firstname.lastname@example.org and request that your email be forwarded to the Mayor and City Council and included in the meeting minutes.
Community Pathways Plan Appendices – June 2018
Draft Plan with Appendices – (View PDF) – February 2018
View: City of Bellaire – Current Debt Report as of September 30, 2017 – right at $140 million when all bonds currently approved are issued; per the proposed FY2019 budget, by September 30, 2018 the projected amount of bonds outstanding will be $129.8 million. Another bond issue is in the planning stage for 2019.