In his latest blog post Mayor Friedberg points out the many problems with the resident created charter amendment petition that has resulted in a Special Election on sidewalks.
The election, to be held May 2, will have Bellaire residents deciding whether the City of Bellaire will expand its sidewalk network in the future. The election was brought about by a group of citizens who opposed building stand alone sidewalks in Bellaire. While there was quite the debate between those for and against sidewalks, the City Council shelved most sidewalk projects that were petitioned to be halted. However some residents were not happy with that and wanted individual households to decide whether a sidewalk would appear on their block. Those residents gained enough signatures to call for a Special Election for ammendments to the City Charter.
The Mayor explains that “the obvious effect of the proposed charter amendments, if approved, is to virtually guarantee that no future sidewalks would be built on residential streets, at least not as standalone projects. Not because it’s a foregone conclusion that the written approval of at least 50% of the property owners on a given block could not be obtained (Prop B), but because all the engineering and design work would have to have already been completed before their approval could be sought (Prop A). No City Council could rationally incur the cost of engineering and designing projects so uncertain to actually be built, save perhaps for situations in which the residents themselves might have initiated the request. For sidewalks coupled with new streets and drainage the incremental cost would be slight, but at a minimum such projects would be delayed by at least six months.
Mayor Friedberg says that “equally obvious are the potential ramifications for our legislative process generally. The question being put to our voters isn’t just about sidewalks, but about what the City Charter—our “constitution”—should say, or not say, about sidewalks. Back in 2018 Bellaire residents came out in droves and demonstrated the power of speaking up and letting their voices be heard, and through the public process achieved the outcome they desired. Amending the Charter to take the issue away from that same public process would prevent it from working again in the future. And that’s true regardless which side you’re on. This special election won’t resolve our deep-seated split over sidewalks, but amending the Charter as proposed would effectively end the debate.”
Early voting will begin on April 20 and continue every day through April 28. April 20 is also the deadline for eligible voters to submit, to the City Clerk, an application for ballot by mail. Election day is May 2.
See the Mayors full blog post HERE.
The full text of the three propositions as they will appear on the ballot is as follows:
SHALL THE CHARTER BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE THAT THE CITY OF BELLAIRE MUST, PRIOR TO THE CONSIDERATION OF ANY ORDINANCE BY THE CITY COUNCIL FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF ANY SIDEWALK ON ANY BLOCK ZONED BY THE CITY FOR RESIDENTIAL USE, DELIVER BY CERTIFIED MAIL TO EACH OF THE OWNERS OF REAL PROPERTY LOCATED ON SUCH BLOCK, DETAILED WRITTEN INFORMATION CONSISTING OF THE EXACT LOCATION OF SUCH SIDEWALK IN RELATIONSHIP TO ALL TREES, LANDSCAPING, FENCING, SPRINKLER SYSTEMS, AND DRAINAGE LINES, AND A HYDROLOGICAL STUDY PERFORMED BY AN INDEPENDENT ENGINEER NOT OTHERWISE AFFILIATED WITH THE CITY OR THE PROJECT, SUCH WRITTEN INFORMATION TO BE PROVIDED TO EACH SUCH OWNER ON OR BEFORE THE DATE THAT IS SIX (6) MONTHS PRIOR TO THE CITY COUNCIL’S CONSIDERATION OF THE ORDINANCE FOR CONSTRUCTION OF SUCH SIDEWALK.
SHALL THE CHARTER BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE THAT NO SIDEWALKS SHALL BE CONSTRUCTED BY THE CITY OF BELLAIRE ON ANY BLOCK ZONED BY THE CITY FOR RESIDENTIAL USE WITHOUT THE WRITTEN APPROVAL OF AT LEAST FIFTY PERCENT (50%) OF THE OWNERS OF REAL PROPERTY LOCATED ON SUCH BLOCK, SUCH APPROVAL TO BE OBTAINED NO MORE THAN THREE (3) MONTHS PRIOR TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF SUCH CONSTRUCTION.
SHALL THE CHARTER BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE THAT THE CITY OF BELLAIRE SHALL NOT CONSTRUCT ANY SIDEWALK ON ANY BLOCK ZONED BY THE CITY FOR RESIDENTIAL USE, UNLESS THE CITY CONCURRENTLY ELIMINATES THE IMPACT OF SUCH ADDITIONAL IMPERVIOUS MATERIAL USED IN THE SIDEWALK CONSTRUCTION ON SURFACE WATER DISCHARGE/RUNOFF WITHIN THE CITY.