June 9, 2023

Revised Dumpster Ordinance Now in Effect

Anyone who’s ever heard a dumpster being serviced knows how loud and disruptive it can be.  Now, imagine being jarred awake in the dead of night by a dumpster being banged against the ground just beyond the fence outside your bedroom window.  For an unlucky few, whose homes back up to commercial or institutional properties, this has been happening more often of late, and presents a serious quality-of-life issue.  And it has highlighted the need to revisit our dumpster ordinance, which hasn’t been updated in over 30 years.

May 19, 2023

Upcoming Public Input and Engagement Opportunities

Lots going on in Bellaire over the next couple of months, including a number of public input and engagement opportunities.  Your participation in these meetings will help shape the future of our city and we want to hear from you!  Please make plans to attend as many as you can, and be on the lookout for further announcements later in the year.

Comprehensive Plan Review

Tuesday and Wednesday, May 23 and 24, the Comprehensive Plan Review kicks off with the first of several listening sessions.  While open to all stakeholders, next week’s are scheduled in the morning with the goal of reaching local businesses and community partners early in the process; there will be future sessions in the evening.  Sign up to attend here (business stakeholders) or here (community partners and residents).

May 16, 2023

FY 2024-26 Strategic Plan

Though often overlooked and underappreciated, strategic planning is a big part of what we do.  Indeed, it’s at the very heart of our role under the council-manager form of government.  Council sets the big-picture policy direction, which the City Manager and staff then execute in their daily work.

Council’s adoption of a fiscal year 2024-26 Strategic Plan represents a next-level enhancement to our existing strategic planning model.  It adds a new layer of granularity, with goal statements to further articulate Council’s Strategic Focus Areas and strategies for an organized approach to their implementation.  Most significant, it lays out a list of specific tasks that staff came up with, and Council approved, as a menu of sorts to choose from over a rolling three-year period.

It is not a guarantee that each of these tasks will actually be realized—funding must still be allocated in annual budgets and future spending decisions made by Council.  Nor is the list necessarily exclusive.  It can and will change over time as needs and circumstances arise.

April 3, 2023

Regional Drainage Improvement Program Website, Task Force Meeting Apr. 11

Through the first quarter of the year, the several tasks laid out in Work Order #1 of our Regional Drainage Improvement Program are all progressing right on schedule.  In their latest monthly update the engineering team presented the current status of each, emphasizing much of their recent focus has been on building partnerships and pursuing external funding sources.  They’re also putting the finishing touches on recommended refinements to our Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance, which will soon be ready to go to the Building and Standards Commission.

On the public engagement front, the project website is now live at bellairedrainageimprovementprogram.org, and will be updated periodically with new information and developments.

The consultants have also scheduled their first meeting with our Flood Hazard Mitigation Task Force for next Tuesday, April 11, at 6:00 p.m. in the Civic Center.  Expect some technical discussion and opportunities for Task Force members and the public to provide feedback on progress to date and next steps.

Questions and comments on the Regional Drainage Improvement Program are always welcome, by e-mail to drainage@bellairetx.gov.

March 9, 2023

Putting Policy Into Action

Strategic planning is an ongoing process, as city staff constantly look to Council’s policy direction to guide their day-to-day activities.  It also benefits Council’s own decision making by providing structure and promoting consistency, serving as the essential link between individual decisions and our identified, broader objectives.

This year, the City Manager moved up on the schedule the professionally facilitated planning sessions typically associated with the start of budget season.  Her purpose:  for Council to build upon and flesh out the Strategic Focus Areas we adopted last year, and to develop specific goals, strategies and tasks that will help staff put Council’s policy direction into action.

February 7, 2023

Forward Progress

This year’s State of the City celebrates the team of dedicated professionals who day in and day out provide the high-quality services and amenities we depend upon, and which are at the very core of why we choose to call Bellaire home.  In reviewing their recent accomplishments, what really stands out is how city staff have managed to overcome persistent staffing shortages and leadership changes in maintaining our “Forward Progress.”  That’s the theme of my presentation, and it represents both their significant achievements and the promise of even more good things to come.  It’s my pleasure to share with you the highlights of the past year for each of our city departments, and a preview of what we can expect for 2023.

February 3, 2023

Verification Report for Restoration of CRS Rating, Flood Insurance Discount

More good news!  Following the recent cycle visit that FEMA required for our application for a two-class modification, the Insurance Services Office has tallied the results and determined we’ve met all prerequisites to be restored to our prior Community Rating System classification of 7.  Once ISO’s verification report is accepted by FEMA, we’ll be getting back our flood insurance discount—15% across the board—and we’re told it should go into effect this October 1.

That we were able to gain reentry into the CRS program within just one cycle (Class 9, last April), and then to qualify for this reclass (to a 7) so soon thereafter, is truly unprecedented.  It is the direct result of untold hours of hard work put in by our Building Official and Interim Assistant Director, Christian Somers, and his team including our consultants at Tetra Tech.  We’re talking about a very detailed and time-intensive process, and the significance of their accomplishment cannot be overstated.

As noted above the flood insurance discount associated with Class 7 is 15% for all policyholders.  Previously that’s what it was in Zone AE, covering the vast majority of Bellaire, but it was only 5% in Zone X, outside the special flood hazard area.  Under Risk Rating 2.0, which is completely independent of our (or any community’s) CRS classification, there’s no longer that distinction.  However, each property is now priced based on its own unique risk, and so individual results, even within the same flood zone, may vary.

The swift restoration of our CRS status brings to a close what has been an unfortunate chapter for our city.  Of course it doesn’t excuse the mistakes of the past, but at least they’ve been rectified at the earliest possible opportunity.  Christian and his team are to be commended for taking ownership of this problem they’d inherited, and for their tireless efforts in getting it resolved.

January 13, 2023

Another $3.3 Million in Grant Funding Coming Our Way

A great way to start the new year, we’ve recently been informed that several of our federal and state grant applications have been approved.

With sincere appreciation to Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher for once again going to bat for us, Bellaire secured $3 million in the latest round of federal appropriations:

Accessible and Inclusive Playground

$600,000 of that funding is to build an accessible and inclusive playground at Evergreen Park.  It will offer a range of play experiences for children of varying abilities and diverse needs, such as by utilizing wider, ramped platforms and structures designed to accommodate wheelchairs.  It will also incorporate sensory play elements involving touch and music, as well as interactive educational features.  Our non-profit partner Patrons for Bellaire Parks believes so much in the importance of this project it has pledged another $160,000 toward any local match (bringing to more than $2.1 million Patrons’ total contributions to date in support of Bellaire parks).

January 10, 2023

Regulatory Reporting Oversight Triggers Mandatory Public Notice

At last night’s City Council meeting, the City Manager informed Council and the public of the disappointing news that the City has been issued a pro forma Notice of Violation by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), for Failure to Submit a Disinfectant Level Quarterly Operating Report.  This was solely a paperwork violation, which the City corrected immediately upon receiving the Notice.  Be assured there was never any threat to the safety of our water supply, a point that’s easily lost in the mandatory language (which I’ve cut-and-pasted below) of the written public notice TCEQ now requires be sent out to Bellaire water customers.  I offer the following, to let you know that it’s coming and to help put it in perspective.

December 30, 2022

Righting the Ship in 2022

One of the main storylines of 2022 is that we’ve finally got our permanent City Manager, and she, in turn, has been busy filling other key positions.  The challenge of persistent personnel vacancies, which is by no means unique to Bellaire, is concerning because it directly impacts the City’s ability to provide the level and quality of services our residents expect.  It’s also not fair to keep stretching our overworked staff, though they’ve admirably risen to the occasion, and it’s not sustainable in the long run.

For the chief executive role to have remained open two years was far from ideal, but it was more important Council took the time necessary to find just the right person we could all unite around.  We’re thrilled to have welcomed our new City Manager, and in her first four months she’s already proven to have been worth the wait.  It’s a big job even under ordinary circumstances, and all the more so now as she’s tasked with rebuilding the team and righting the ship generally.