Bellaire unveils financial impact of sidewalk propositions

Bellaire unveils financial impact of sidewalk propositions

The start of early voting today means that Bellaire residents can decide on proposed amendments to the city’s charter that would fundamentally change the process of constructing sidewalks in residential areas.

Bellaire residents will vote on propositions A-C, which would require the city to complete a hydrological study and gain approval of 50 percent of property owners in the proposed area at least six months before the construction of the sidewalks begins.


Although the charter amendments do not explicitly state that there would be no new sidewalks in the city, Safe Bellaire, and some members of the city council, said the cost of the propositions and logistical hurdles would deter the city from adopting any new sidewalks.

On Tuesday, Bellaire provided an estimated fiscal impact of the sidewalk amendments, which are “are rather modest in terms of dollars and cents,” Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg said in a recent blog post. However, he said the amendment makes the process more complicated and the city could be required to repeat certain steps, complicating cost estimates.

“In attempting to estimate the anticipated fiscal impacts, it’s impossible to know how much money might be spent on plan revisions, or how many times the process under Prop A, and then Prop B, would have to be restarted with final consideration pushed six months further out each time,” he said.

The estimated fiscal impact found that for Proposition A would cost between $1,975-$5,025 per block. The proposition would amend the charter so that city council would have to pay for an independent engineer not affiliated with the city or the project to conduct a hydrological study six months before the city council could consider the construction of a sidewalk.

The estimates are for sidewalks that are coupled with street and drainage improvements, not for “standalone sidewalks,” which are sidewalks without improvement. Bellaire city council canceled all plans for standalone sidewalks in 2018.

At the ballot:

Prop A:

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.

Prop B:

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.

Prop C:

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.


The city reported that out of 714 residential blocks, 547 would possibly be affected by the proposition, totaling between $1 million-$2.7 million if the city were to implement continuous sidewalks on both sides of every residential block in the city. For continuous sidewalks on one-side of each residential block, the cost could reach between $537,200 and $952,000.

Proposition A’s fiscal impact includes the cost of additional sidewalk designs, if the city doesn’t already have them, mail to communicate with residents on the block, and the hydrological study performed by an independent engineer.

Proposition B, which requires at least 50 percent of a block’s approval three months before construction of a new sidewalk, would cost Bellaire at least $500 per block, or $273,500 citywide.

And Proposition C, prohibiting the city from constructing any sidewalk unless the city eliminates the impact of additional impervious material, is estimated to have zero fiscal impact.

The city also notes that all of the propositions could incur additional costs.

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