June 19, 2018

“Kolter North” Permit Amendment Approved

When Hurricane Harvey struck only days before school was supposed to start last year, it left the Houston Independent School District scrambling to find temporary arrangements for several campuses that were too badly damaged to open.  Fortunately, the former Gordon Elementary/Mandarin Chinese school building had not yet been torn down to make way for the new Bellaire High School baseball and softball facility previously approved.  It provided a convenient option for the temporary relocation of Kolter Elementary from nearby Meyerland, and has since come to be known affectionately within that proud and grateful community as “Kolter North.”

Helping our neighbors, school children no less, was without question the right thing to do.  The City of Bellaire fast-tracked a certificate of occupancy for the building, insisting only on health and safety inspections and administratively deferring on a temporary basis the requirement for a formal zoning application, since HISD intended for Kolter to stay only one semester while its own campus was repaired.  However, when the school board decided instead to replace the old Kolter with a new building, and to continue operating Kolter North in the interim, the temporary administrative zoning approval would no longer suffice.

June 4, 2018

The Planning and Zoning Two-Step

I’ve written previously about the importance of public hearings in the planning and zoning process, including some of the reasons we have two, first at the Planning & Zoning Commission and then at City Council.  As Mayor, I feel compelled once again to raise this subject, to call your attention to a worrisome trend that has surfaced in recent years.  Increasingly, it seems many residents are bypassing P&Z’s public hearings and bringing their comments straight to Council, presumably thinking it’s the second hearing that really counts.  While it’s true that only Council decides the final outcomes, quite often it’s the public input at the P&Z stage that makes the biggest difference, as proposals are further refined in response to that input before even getting to Council.

May 29, 2018

Hurricane Preparedness 2018 - June 18, 5:30 pm at the Fire Station

Ready or not, it’s time to get ready.  With hurricane season upon us once again, the City of Bellaire will host a special preparedness presentation and all are encouraged to attend.  Beyond readiness tips and resources for homeowners and families, we’ll share with you what the City does to prepare and introduce the professionals dedicated to keeping us safe.

April 26, 2018

In Pursuit of Our Fair Share:  Those Disaster Funds You’ve Been Hearing About

As we have following past storms, since Hurricane Harvey the City of Bellaire has been applying for grant funding from every disaster recovery and mitigation program potentially available to us.  Historically we’ve not had much success with grant applications, because we’ve been deemed too wealthy a demographic to qualify.  Nevertheless we continue to apply, and especially considering the widespread and unprecedented magnitude of the losses we sustained in Harvey, with nearly 30% of our homes having flooded, we firmly believe we ought to get our fair share of the funds we’ve been paying into all these years with our federal tax dollars.

April 11, 2018

Achieving Excellence at Your Bellaire City Library

As we join with cities across America in observing National Library Week, April 8-14, we have yet another reason to celebrate.  Our very own Bellaire City Library has been recognized with the 2017 Achievement of Excellence in Libraries Award by the Texas Municipal Library Directors Association.  Ours is one of only 52 out of 548 public library systems in Texas to receive this prestigious award.

March 26, 2018

Post-Harvey Flood Hazard Mitigation Plan Adopted

Our citizen Task Force, in fulfilling its expanded charge following Hurricane Harvey, has gone well beyond the basic requirements for our continued participation in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System.  Its hefty final report is reflective of the broad citizen input received throughout the process, and incorporates a variety of ideas for further evaluation in our ongoing flood mitigation efforts.  At this stage there are still more questions than answers, but the Task Force’s recommendations provide the necessary roadmap for the work yet to come.  The City Council’s formal adoption last week of the updated Flood Hazard Mitigation Plan sets in motion the development of specific actions and projects, with timelines for their potential implementation.

March 9, 2018

Down on the Bayou:  A Closer Look at Project Brays

It’s by far the most significant flood control improvement for our area and has already brought us some measure of relief, with more to come.  It’s of central importance to our ongoing and future planning, because without adequate downstream capacity our other efforts aren’t going to make much of a difference.  Earlier this week members of the City Council, Flood Hazard Mitigation Task Force and city staff went down to take a closer look, in person, at Project Brays.  Gary Zika, Federal Projects Manager for the Harris County Flood Control District, was our gracious host and tour guide.

March 6, 2018

Branding Baby Steps

Though branding is about much more than just a logo, naturally that’s what pretty much everyone is focused on.  Some people like the proposed logo.  More people, it appears, don’t.  Most people haven’t commented on it at all.  But based on the public input we have received, it’s obvious the proposal wouldn’t be adopted in its current form and two weeks ago the City Council unanimously agreed not to pursue it any further.  Which is fine; as we've said all along, a new logo could be adopted at the same time as a typography but doesn't necessarily have to be.

Having set the logo aside, last night Council approved the proposed typography, including for signage in the new buildings.  We also formally adopted the verbal identity produced by the branding exercise, which has been very well received.  These are important steps, but baby steps, towards the development of a Bellaire “look and feel” to inform ongoing and future design decisions for a wide range of projects.  In fact, the branding exercise is already influencing potential streetscape improvements downtown, and capital projects that have been on hold for some time are now closer to moving forward.

February 6, 2018

New Look?  Same Great City!

I took the opportunity in my State of the City Address last night to unveil and encourage public input on the rebranding proposal currently under consideration by the City Council.  The primary driver of its development, and timing, is our municipal facilities project currently under construction.  We’ve got some design decisions to make in the very near future concerning signage and interior finishes for the new buildings, which is what prompted the inquiry.  So we’re not just talking about rebranding for the sake of rebranding.

That said, we’re now presented with an opportunity that has the potential to mean so much more.  While the search for our brand identity started long before Harvey, in the storm’s aftermath it has come to symbolize the recovery itself.  The exercise evoked a narrative about Bellaire, and by Bellaire in our own words, that it turns out could not be more timely.

The product is a visual representation of how we see ourselves, and how we want to see ourselves, what we aspire to be.  It’s a reflection of all that is good about Bellaire, in celebration of where we’ve been and where we’re going.  A fresh new look is something we can all rally around as we take pride and inspiration in the rebirth and renewal of our city.

January 31, 2018

Honoring Our Harvey Heroes and Helpers at This Year’s State of the City

Bellaire’s first responders and emergency operations personnel were truly heroic in getting us through the worst disaster we’ve ever experienced.  Given the enormity of the situation, and that we were temporarily cut off from external resources until the waters receded, they couldn’t have done it without a little help from the community.  Folks all over town pitched in where they could, in ways big and small, and working together got everyone to safety.  To say that their efforts literally saved lives is not an exaggeration.