November 17, 2020

A Matter of Due Process

The erroneously permitted parking lot at 4300 Bellaire Boulevard, in the CenterPoint utility easement by the railroad tracks, will soon be removed.  The City Council, after public hearing and on the unanimous recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, has itself unanimously rejected proposed zoning code amendments that would have retroactively allowed the parking lot to remain.  It took several months to get to this point, but that’s as it should be—the applicant, like any property owner, was legally entitled to due process, which included a stay of enforcement while its applications were pending.

November 10, 2020

Specific Use Permit Amendment for BHS Ballfields a Balancing Act

Of the 40 schools being replaced or repaired across the Houston Independent School District as part of its $1.89 billion 2012 bond program, Bellaire High School will be the last one completed.  That’s because the typical campus flip—building a new school on the adjacent athletic fields and then replacing them after the old school is torn down—which HISD has done often throughout unzoned Houston, was simply not an option.  The project stalled for several years, until finally in 2017 HISD presented a plan to relocate the baseball field to the site of the former Gordon Elementary/Mandarin Chinese school to make more room on the crowded BHS campus.  Following the public process, including a great deal of input from the surrounding neighbors and other stakeholders, the City Council granted a specific use permit to HISD to construct and operate a baseball facility at that location.

For the girls’ softball team, while a potential shared-use arrangement with the City at Feld Park was contemplated back at that time (but ultimately did not come to pass due to programming conflicts), HISD’s plans called for, and the specific use permit included, an overlapping softball diamond out in right field.  Since then, however, concerns have been raised whether this combined, single-field solution truly provided equal opportunity for the softball team as required by Title IX (and as the right thing to do).  HISD thus filed a new application last year, for its specific use permit to be amended to allow for the construction and operation of a separate softball facility in addition to the baseball facility previously approved.

November 4, 2020

Healing Our Divided Community

The sidewalks charter election was never really about sidewalks per se, but about the process by which sidewalk decisions are made.  More fundamentally, it was about the relationship between a self-governing people and its duly elected City Council (the 2018 City Council, to be precise), and, by implication, among the people themselves.  Whether you voted For or Against (or as some have reported you found it so confusing you’re not actually sure which way you voted), did anyone really win?  At what cost?

October 28, 2020

Have Fun This Halloween, and Be Safe

The City of Bellaire encourages you to have fun this Halloween!  While also keeping your family safe and doing your part to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community.  As cases are again on the rise in Harris County and across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published guidelines for safe trick-or-treating and other Halloween activities.

If you do decide to pass out candy this year, consider placing a pumpkin at the end of your driveway and turn your lights on to welcome trick-or-treaters.  Please observe all the usual precautions including social distancing, masks, frequent handwashing and avoiding direct contact with others.  Those choosing not to participate might want to post a sign to that effect.  The Governor has ordered that all outdoor gatherings in excess of 10 people must be approved in advance (submit a request through the City Manager’s Office) and comply with applicable public health guidelines.

Bellaire’s annual Great Pumpkin Hunt is traditionally held in The Great Lawn at Bellaire Town Square, with hundreds of kids dashing and scrambling for candy and toys in a fun and safe environment.  Sadly we won’t be able to do that this year, but instead we’re proud to host the Boo Drive-Thru, tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 in the Rec Center parking lot, featuring decorative themed stations and goodie bags while supplies last, all from the comfort of your own back seat!  So put on your costumes and come join us for this family- and COVID-friendly special event.

Happy Halloween!

October 13, 2020

Estimating the Anticipated Fiscal Impacts of the Sidewalks Charter Propositions

Pursuant to state law, today the City has published the official Notice of Election on three resident-petitioned sidewalks charter propositions, including estimates of the anticipated fiscal impacts of each of the proposed amendments if approved by the voters.  Because it’s really not that simple—“standalone” sidewalks must be distinguished from those coupled with new street and drainage infrastructure, and there are a number of possible scenarios to consider for individual projects and locations—the Notice gives a range of anticipated fiscal impacts.  The City has therefore additionally published an accompanying Fiscal Impacts supplement discussing them in greater detail and attempting to address some of the unknowns.

October 5, 2020

Fact Check:  The Role of the City Engineer

With the Great Bellaire Sidewalks Debate raging once again ahead of the upcoming resident-petitioned charter election, a popular misconception previously put to bed has now resurfaced.  I’ve been hearing from a handful of residents expressing concern at what they’ve read on social media, about the role of the City Engineer.  Specifically, that his findings and advice cannot be trusted because of a supposed conflict of interest.  The problem with that claim is that it’s grounded on falsehood.  So let’s clear this up once and for all:

The City Engineer and his firm are not allowed to bid on, and do not provide engineering or other associated services to the City—other than as City Engineer.

September 22, 2020

Weathering Tropical Storm Beta

The Bellaire Emergency Operations Center is currently activated at Level I—Maximum Readiness, and is fully staffed with some personnel on-site and others working remotely due to COVID-19.  This activation will continue for at least the rest of today and into tonight, and for as long as Tropical Storm Beta poses a threat to our area.  The system is expected to clear out by this time tomorrow.

September 17, 2020

Automated License Plate Reader Pilot Project

Criminals beware.  The City of Bellaire will soon be installing automated license plate readers (ALPRs) along major thoroughfares to assist police in apprehending suspects and solving crimes.  Funded by the Bellaire Police and Fire Foundation as a pilot project, the system will be evaluated over an initial one-year period to determine whether it will be continued in future police department budgets.

August 31, 2020

Hurricane Laura Response Debriefing

To say we really dodged a bullet last week is a colossal understatement.  With 150 mph winds at landfall, Laura is tied for the fifth most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. since 1900, and is the strongest storm on record along its particular track in the Gulf of Mexico.  Our relief at having been spared from great devastation and destruction this time around is matched only by our compassion and support for our neighbors to the east, which was on display this past weekend with several local supply drives and other assistance efforts.

Though it ended up being a nonevent for us, the run-up to Laura was hardly much ado about nothing.  It was a very, very close call.  It was also an opportunity to demonstrate and evaluate our overall disaster preparedness.  The Bellaire emergency management team’s post-incident review gives us at least some idea of what’s involved in a response like this, and shows that we were indeed ready for any potential impacts.

August 24, 2020

Preparing for Tropical Storm Laura

Over the past several days the forecast models for Tropical Storm Laura have seemingly been all over the place, made even more unpredictable by the influence of Hurricane Marco (now downgraded back to a tropical storm).  Today the picture is a bit clearer, and while neither Laura’s path nor intensity are yet certain, experts are telling us we need to be prepared.  Based on what we know now we should anticipate at least moderate impacts, and potentially severe should the storm shift more in our direction and strengthen into a major hurricane, both very much still possibilities.