The second article in our Q&A series deals with Bellaire’s proposed comprehensive plan. In this series, candidates receive questions twice per week and have 24 hours to respond with an answer that is less than 300 words long. The answers publish with no editing.
Do you have a question for candidates about Bellaire issues? Please email it to agrant [at] instantnewsbellaire [dot] com.
InstantnewsBellaire asked the candidates this question:
On Monday, the city held a public hearing on Bellaire’s proposed Comprehensive Plan. The plan proposes a “vision” and specific guidelines to shape Bellaire’s future look and feel. Within the plan, what do you think is the most important guideline, and why? If elected, how will you work to ensure that this guideline is implemented?
Here are the answers from candidates for Place 6 on the Bellaire City Council.
Note -In the comprehensive plan I read the word “guideline” is not used.
The part of the comprehensive plan that made the most sense to me was for the city to review its zoning and regulations to entice the type of commercial development in the downtown area and the RDD that we desire. As a long term resident I have seen the downtown area improve dramatically. There are areas that are under-developed and will, in time, be on the market for developers to consider purchasing and developing. The city needs to have the zoning laws in place that will allow the developer to create a development that can be profitable and at the same time maintain the character of the city.
Bellaire, through its infra-structure maintenance, maintaining an excellent police and fire department, and a low property tax will attract developers. The City just needs to be ready when that moment comes.
The Comprehensive Plan proposes both a vision and more specific associated strategies and goals for the future development, redevelopment, and enhancement of Bellaire. Ideally the Plan will facilitate development and redevelopment in an orderly, well-planned manner consistent with the desires and expectations of Bellaire residents.
The Plan offers policy guidance and implementation proposals relating to land use and community character, mobility, and commercial area development and enhancement. While consideration of each of these Plan components is critical to directing and managing Bellaire’s future growth, I believe that Goal 5.2, “A Revitalized City Center Area Geared Toward the Shopping, Service, and Entertainment Needs of Bellaire Residents,” and its associated Guiding Principles, Considerations, and Action Types are the most important features of the Plan.
I believe that a revitalized downtown area would ideally incorporate more shops, restaurants and other businesses that the Bellaire community would want to patronize, along with more greenspace and landscaping, innovative parking solutions, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly features, and lofts and/or other smaller “lifecycle housing” residences. This type of mixed-use redevelopment would benefit residents both by creating a more attractive and functional City Center area, and by increasing the tax revenues generated by our commercial sector.
In order to advance the goal of facilitating economic redevelopment in the downtown area, I would work to develop consensus on optimal alternatives among Council, residents, landowners, and developers; promote the idea of having a City staff or contract person charged with responsibility for leading the effort to bring about desired redevelopment; work proactively with the Planning and Zoning Commission on implementing zoning modifications that would encourage desired redevelopment; and encourage the establishment of non-financial incentives for potential developers, including options for accelerated reviews of plans and possibly making rights of way available for sale in conjunction with the development of adjacent properties.
Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinions about the proposed Comprehensive Plan, the “vision” and the related guidelines. I have always believed we must redevelop downtown Bellaire in order to ensure future prosperity. Furthermore, we must look for opportunities to employ green technology in a cost-effective manner in order to open new capital markets to Bellaire. This includes available stimulus money and private sector investments.
However, I am concerned about some guidelines included in the plan that, I fear, may change the character of our city. Specifically, and as reported by InstantNewsBellaire.com, there seems to be a push for expanding the types of residential arrangements allowed in Bellaire. While there are many housing options available in Houston, we have attempted, historically, to preserve the single-home, residential character of Bellaire.
Let me digress and explain how Galveston became economically depressed. Many believe that the hurricane of 1900 permanently depressed Galveston. In fact, it made a remarkable recovery. However, after World War II the city elders decided that the way to ensure future growth was to apply for the greatest number of public housing units they could. Soon, Galveston had more Section 8 housing (as it became known much later) per capita than any other city in America.
I am not suggesting that the Comprehensive Plan will similarly destroy our economic vitality. What I am suggesting is that we do not need to follow a guideline that will lead to new modes of housing within our fair city. This can potentially cause overcrowding in our already overcrowded public schools. I say, let the residents in Bellaire decide who our neighbors will be, and do not let bureaucrats decide that this or that parcel of land must be pulled off of the market in order to satisfy some higher good.