SidewalkChoice was founded by a group of Bellaire residents who feel the $55 million dollar 2016 Bonds for Better Bellaire bond issue left out important facts about how the funds would be used.
Initially there were to be four bond propositions on the ballot, but at the request of Council member Pollard the $4 million for Proposition 4, for sidewalks only, was rolled into Proposition 1, obscuring the true use of the funds.
In August, 2016, the motion passed 4 to 3, with Council members Pollard, Reed, McLaughlan, and Fife in favor. Against were Mayor Friedberg and Council members Pappas and Montague, who all felt the four propositions should be presented separately. Most Bellaire voters were unaware that they were now voting for stand-alone sidewalks as well as street and drainage upgrades.
Stand-alone sidewalks are sidewalks retrofitted into yards along one side of a street and not connected to any street or drainage reconstruction. They may join ‘orphan’ sidewalks (the sidewalks to nowhere) built in conjunction with new construction homes. They may be 4 feet wide or 5 feet wide.
The City has no comprehensive plan for sidewalks. Do we need more sidewalks? If so, why and where? What would be an acceptable width – 3 feet, or 4, or 5? On just one side of a street, or on both sides? What might cause a street to be excluded from any sidewalks? What concerns do residents have about a sidewalk retrofitted into their yards?
The list of sidewalks to be installed is based on the arbitrary decisions of the City staff and members of City Council, who insist they are needed for safety or for access to public spaces, while providing no traffic studies or evidence of any injuries to residents. In fact many residents walk in the street even though they have a sidewalk available just a few feet away.
Also in August 2016 six members of City Council, with only the Mayor voting against the motion, voted to increase the standard width of residential sidewalks from four feet to five – which will lead to loss of precious green-space and add more concrete to the City. Meanwhile a majority of members on City Council stated that they want to see sidewalks on both sides of every street in Bellaire.
Numerous residents have spoken at recent City Council meetings in protest of the sidewalks.
- Some had received no notification and were unaware of the sidewalk plans
- Residents had concerns about damage to, or removal of, trees and landscaping
- They are worried about flooding from the additional concrete and poor drainage
- In some instances they questioned why cul-de-sac streets with no through traffic would even need sidewalks
- Many residents felt there was no pressing reason for these sidewalks, no great danger to be alleviated on their quiet street
- Petitions signed by 80% or more of residents from a number of streets objecting to sidewalks were presented to City Council
- Residents questioned the wisdom of spending $4 million on sidewalk projects when so much of the City’s aging infrastructure is in need of repair or replacement.
In response to most of the petitions City Council removed some streets from the projects, but left others in place. They seemed uninterested to the citizen concerns. They did agree that the traditional four (4) foot sidewalk width would remain for those streets already in design, but all future projects, including for new streets and drainage, new construction sidewalks, and stand-alone sidewalks, would be 5 feet in width in residential areas. When just last December they voted for a standard width of 4 feet!
Finally the stand-alone sidewalk projects were cancelled after the contractor withdrew from the contract. But that does not mean they may not return in another form on another day. That’s why residents continued to circulate the petition to add the three amendments to the City Charter, and why we will have a special election on May 2, 2020.