A Master Plan For Wasteful Spending – While Harming Local Businesses

The Bellaire City Manager is determined to narrow two 60 foot wide commercial streets to 25 feet wide – for 2 lanes of traffic!  Traveled every day by 18-wheelers!  With 2016 Bond money passed for streets, drainage, and sidewalks.

Purple outlines new public parking, blocking existing parking lots.

This plan includes an irrigation system, landscaping, fancy lamp posts and trees, moving the utilities, etc., which will cost a fortune!  In commercial service areas along and behind a large grocery store! 

It’s another bait and switch project.  Vote for streets and drainage and get a streetscape.  To be clear, H-E-B is not at fault here.  They designed the new store based on access to a 60 foot wide Spruce Street for their vehicles!

You won’t find a thing in the bond issue or the $7.6 million project (see the document below) about angled public parking that will narrow two 30 foot wide traffic lanes to 25 feet in total, block private parking lots, obstruct the view of drivers exiting H-E-B onto Fifth, and force drivers to back out into the lanes of traffic. 

$7.6 million project – click to view.

The project budget is $7.6 million. Mr. Hofmann proposed Costello Engineering for a $500,000 contact to design street and drainage construction and sidewalks for 5100 and 5200 Spruce, 700 block of Fifth, the 4500 block of Maple and the 500 block of Bolivar. 

Also possible flap gates on Cypress Ditch, the railroad ditch, South Rice Outfall, and 610 ditch.  There are proponents and opponents of flap gates.  If you’re curious here are some examples:  https://www.plasti-fab.com/products/flap-gate/    http://www.hcwatercontrol.com/Flap-Valves

City Council is well aware of the elaborate and expensive plan for Spruce and Fifth, since the basis for it was presented to them at a Council meeting this past March.  At that time one council member asked a City staff member about the estimated cost for this project and was told it would be about $4 million.  

Council members had a tour of the streets this past July.  They’ve had opportunities to halt this plan and to direct the City Manager to stick to streets and drainage, not to squander more taxpayer money and City debt on unnecessary projects.

The plans are about 90% complete.  No traffic study has been produced.  Every business and property owner opposes this plan.  The owners agreed long ago on the need for street and drainage reconstruction.  Sidewalks can be incorporated  into existing driveways – take a look at the driveway for our new Fire Station.

City Council can redirect the City Manager at any time, they can instruct him to remove the plans for angled parking and the fancy amenities, just reconstruct the street and add the required drainage.   What’s this all about?

Both Spruce and Fifth are in terrible shape due to lack of any maintenance by the City.  And H-E-B chose not to build the planned sidewalks for their store because they knew they would be demolished for the new streets and drainage.  They wonder why the City didn’t do this work before the construction of the store.

Here’s My Take On How This Will Work

Public Works will put on their PowerPoint presentation showing fancy drawings and pretty pictures. Mention will be made of the Comprehensive Plan and probably the Terrain Visioning Bellaire study. That’s where they get their pretty pictures.

To be clear – this is not the actual layout for Spruce or Fifth or anywhere else in Bellaire. It is a generic rendition from the Terrain Studio presentation. The actual design is for two lanes with a total width of 25 feet!

Members of council will act surprised, then ask questions about the design – how can 18-wheelers turn onto a 25 foot wide street to access the H-E-B loading dock – against oncoming traffic?  What if there’s more than one truck waiting for access?  What about access for emergency vehicles?  What about cars pulling out of or into the parking lot of H-E-B?  Backing out into traffic?  How does this affect the local businesses?  How will they get their deliveries?  What about blocking the private parking lots?  Whatever…

The Public Works person, aided by the City Manager, will assure them that everything will be fine, all problems will be addressed.  This is what they wanted, remember last March when the initial plans were presented? No one objected.

Someone on Council will ask “What if we don’t approve this plan?”

Either the City Manager or the Public Works person will explain that the City will have to delay or start over and it will cost more money.  Perhaps they will mention that Council could have re-directed the plans at any time.  At which point, after much discussion and hand wringing, rather than insist on revised plans members of City Council will agree to the plans.  And this disastrous plan will be approved.

Will anyone ask “Why was the streetscape included?  How much would the project cost if just the street and drainage work were completed as initially proposed?”

No, because the plans and the bid will only be for the entire project, and the enormous cost for this fluff will be buried somewhere in the fine print.  Only one set of plans has been developed to date and that’s for the streetscape designs.  Council knows that.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong There’s still time for City Council to do the right thing, to protect our local businesses and our residents, and to be fiscally responsible.

Angled public parking on the north side of Spruce – vehicles back directly into lanes of traffic.  18-wheelers turning from Fifth St. must swing wide to make the turn.  H-E-B exits are on the left, as is the access for H-E-B loading dock.  Click for full size.

The design for Spruce Street, H-E-B is on the left.  The yellow highlights show the 25 foot wide streets, 7 foot wide sidewalks, and 20 foot deep parking spaces.

To reiterate, on a commercial street that runs behind a large grocery store, in an area that borders small service businesses, not shops or boutiques.  Jax, on the corner of Spruce and South Rice, will lose parking spaces and so lose business.

One train of thought says that this is a plan to drive out the businesses so that a developer can build multi-story apartments and condos along the north side of Spruce.

That area was rezoned in 2013.  Until then under our zoning ordinances no apartments or condos were allowed.  One existing complex is grandfathered.

This Plan Will Cost A Fortune

The design below clearly shows Fifth Street will be 25 feet wide along the west side of H-E-B.   Angled parking between entrances to H-E-B underground parking will mean vehicles will have to pull onto Fifth from H-E-B unable to see oncoming traffic.

Fifth St. Angled parking along the west side of H-E-B. Vehicles backing into traffic, other vehicles exiting the H-E-B underground parking lot, blind to traffic, views blocked.  H-E-B is on the left

  • It will narrow commercial thoroughfares traveled every day by 18-wheelers, including all the H-E-B deliveries.
  • No room to maneuver large trucks or emergency vehicles.
  • Pedestrians walking across streets to get to businesses will be endangered.
  • Private business parking spaces will be blocked or lost.
  • Deliveries to businesses will be difficult or impossible
  • Drivers backing out would be unable to see oncoming traffic.
  • Driver’s sight line when exiting the underground parking lot to Fifth would be blocked by vehicles parked in the angled spaces. A dangerous mix.

What about maintaining all this?  We still have flooded homes, numerous streets in need of repair or replacement, serious problems with drainage and our aging infrastructure.  Plus serious concerns with our budget and our tax base.  Take a look at the mess in the 5200 block of Cedar.  It looks like some industrial parking lot along the Ship Channel.

If this is tied to redevelopment plans for the commercial areas around H-E-B no plan or developer has been mentioned.  What will this cost in dollars and good will?

The plan for Fifth Street. Click to enlarge. Purple outlines new public parking.

Is this what you thought you were voting for if you voted Yes for the $55 million dollar 2016 Bonds for Better Bellaire?   Give this some thought, because the City Manager and City Council are discussing  another $47 million bond issue for 2019!

City Council is responsible for Mr. Hofmann’s actions and Council members have the power to put a stop to this.  Does the City Council believe this sort of treatment of our business community, our longtime businesses,  is appropriate?

Find more information at: https://www.bellairecivicclub.com/spruce-and-fifth-street-neighborhood-meeting-what-will-happen-to-local-businesses/

The  City of Bellaire Debt as of 9-30-2018 is $124.8 Million

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.

About Jane McNeel

Bellaire resident since 1956. Email: bellairebcc@gmail.com. Find more information on 'About This Site' in the main menu.
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