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Survey Sent to 25% of West U Households

February 17, 2015 By:West U News Staff

Local News

Approximately 1300 West U households, about one in four, will receive a short questionnaire in the mail from the Hobby Center at the University of Houston asking residents’ opinion about a proposal for long-range master planning for future city facilities .

The proposal is a general land-use plan to allow for the possible site of some city facilities, to occur over the next half-century as the existing facilities become obsolete. The proposal is a non-binding outline, much like the parks master plan, that can be changed at any time by a majority vote of any future city council.

Part of this plan would be to acquire four residential properties located west of City Hall over the next several decades as the land enters the marketplace for sale. The proposal does NOT include the use of eminent domain, a legal technique that lets a government forcibly take private property.

One common criticism of governments is they do an inadequate job of long-range planning. The result is often hodgepodge and inefficient results. The mayor and city council believe this plan gives future city councils an array of options that include replacement of facilities or converting the land mass to park land.

“Your city council feels strongly that we are creating a plan that will allow future city councils and residents many more options when it comes time to rebuild the city facilities as they reach the end of their useful life, as well as being in the best interests of affected property owners,” said West University Place Mayor Bob Fry. “We believe that history will judge these decisions as sound and forward thinking and we hope that all of you will share our vision of the future. This council respects each and every citizen’s opinion and we look forward to hearing from survey participants.”

This long-term outline has become political target practice for the upcoming West U municipal elections on May 9. A slate of city council candidates (Former Mayor Bob Kelly, Former Mayor Burt Ballanfant, volunteer Mardi Turner and local activist Brennan Reilly) oppose this planning exercise.

“Unfortunately a few self-serving individuals continue to spread inaccurate information in an attempt to shape your opinion,” said Mayor Fry, “All we ask is that you read the informational brochure with an open mind.”

22 Responses to “Survey Sent to 25% of West U Households”

  1. proreligionwestu Says:

    There is no question that a traffic study should be done and it looks like that is happening right now based on the rubber tubes on the roads. Does anyone truly think that the 16 through 18-year-olds that drive are going to be driving to the youth center on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings? It is my understanding that the youth center serves six graders through 12th graders and I don’t think too many sixth through 10th graders will be driving themselves. They will be attending with their parents like they already do. It is clear that those that want to be against this will continue to throw up whatever barriers they can to paint it in a bad light. How much daily traffic is generated from that vehicle repair and garbage truck storage site now. People seem to want to ignore the current traffic for that site that will go away if it is moved. Not to mention the smell and the noise.

    When we bought our home next to this area I actually checked property ownership and saw that the church owned residential lots in what is now the proposed superblock. Apparently no one else ever thought anything would change even though they bought next to church and city uses. Guess what, that’s why you paid less for your own when you bought it.

    • Mike Brem Says:

      You can keep repeating that all you want, but it does not change the fact that the Amherst lots are zoned single family and were when WUBC purchased them.

      But we also checked how the surrounding properties were zoned before we purchased our home. And we relied on the fact that they were zoned single family before purchasing it.

      If a citizen can’t count on something so basic, why have a government at all?

      And I don’t think any serious person disputes that a change to the zoning classification from single family will adversely affect surrounding property values.

      Finally, we’re also “pro-religion”; members of a West U church, sending our kids to a parochial school, and generally viewing churches as a force for good. So you might consider stepping back from your implication that anyone who has a different view on this issue is “anti-religion.”

  2. Lucille Gallman Says:

    Since the “long-range master plan for future city facilities” has generated so much interest, why not send the Survey to 100% of West U Households instead of just 25%?

    • who are you people? Says:

      As a long time resident of West U I can only imagine what a first time reader of these inane comments must think about our wonderful city. If this were your only source of information you would never come here because

      Our elected (volunteer) officials do all things in secret
      Some of our citizens object to moving a dump truck garage out of city center
      A church is somehow evil for wanting to serve children
      Two former mayors disavow a master plan they started

      Who are you people? This site is toxic.

      We live in the best community in Houston. Get a grip.

      • David Says:

        Who am I? I am the guy across the street from the proposed youth center. Come see me my door is always open and I am happy to discuss my concerns with the whole project. In the meantime why not have the courage to print your name?

        • who are you people? Says:

          Dave

          What does courage have to do with this? I can read your odious comments, why would I want to listen to them in person. I would rather take a stroll through the bark park to see how many dog deposits I could step on.

          • David Says:

            Thanks. Now I understand who you are.

          • David Says:

            odious = hatred or strong dislike. My concern about my property value and the potential traffic this could create results in this response from you? And another thing, don’t call me Dave…

    • proreligionwestu Says:

      The overwhelming majority of residents are ambivalent to these issues in the city. If the survey was not randomized the anti-religion slate of candidates could try to sway the survey results like they have tried to do by writing all of their lies in the village news newspaper each week

      • anticommercialstructuresinresidentialzonedareas Says:

        Religion has nothing to do with it. Why should any organization have the power to ignore zoning laws and place a commercial scale structure and associated parking lot in a single family residential zoned area? We live in West U and not Houston for a reason. I think the best outcome here would be:
        1) City swaps land with WUBC as per plan and relocates public works to Dincans
        2) City sells land in the so called superblock back into the public market to be developed as houses, thus returning that land to the tax rolls as well

        The whole preserving ‘future flexibility’ rationale for taking the land to make it city property in the future just isn’t justified to me as they haven’t made the case for any particular purpose for it.

        The problem with all this is that nothing stops WUBC from just buying up the lots again, or this time buying lots on the south side of Rice Blvd, or across College street or wherever to build the next structure / parking lot for a future expansion

  3. WestUInvestor Says:

    Its time for everyone to move off of the lack of transparency argument and bring up new real issues.

    I for one vote to get the Maintenance facility out of the city. Just as others have pointed out – its smelly noisy and does not help our land values for those that live near by. The street parking on college is full of old cars and trucks that never move.

    As for cost like EPA studies Frank – I don’t know of any other mechanic shop being sold in town that is getting EPA studies. We can over engineer everything and drive up cost – but some of the suspected cost you talk about are going to be relative reasonable (Demo is cheap and can be done well- look around the city).

    • FJV Says:

      EPA studies are not optional. They are required for certain activities such as gas stations, certain car repair sites, etc. It all has to do with what kind of materials and chemicals were used on the site, whether there are underground storage tanks, etc. The EPA normally surface during the permit process and it catches owners by surprise. If this site doesn’t meet the criteria to require a clean-up then it will save those involved a lot of money.

      I have no problem with seeing the maintenance facility out of the city, but anything the church will do there will only increase traffic in an area frequented all day by children and young families and I am not in favor of it. The past history shows that any expansion by the church or any other institution of its type increases traffic. Without going any further, that is exactly what happened with the gymnasium facilities they built on Amherst.

      As far as moving ahead beyond the transparency issue, it is my, and others right, to continue to question this whole thing if we think it is not right. Not only is it necessary for public officials to avoid impropriety, it is also imperative that they behave to “avoid” the perception of impropriety; on the latter, this City Council has failed.

      That notwithstanding, I am aware of the realities of the situation and I am convinced that no matter how much the citizens of West U complain, this whole scheme will move ahead and WUBC will build what it wants and where it wants it.

      All these presentations to the public, meetings, mailings, polls, etc, are just pro-forma to someday show that they did the “right” thing. This whole matter has already been decided behind closed doors and will proceed as planned.

      Excuse my cynicism, but I’ve been around long enough to know that this is how it is done. I’ve seen it before. The citizens of West U need to wake up to that idea. I will be extremely surprised if this scheme or some other massaged for of it does not move forward.

  4. advocatefortransparency Says:

    Vargas, please explain your rationale on how Council and/or staff are making money on this deal. That is insane. It is obvious they are trying to give future city councils and residents options that would not otherwise exist if nothing was done and the youth center was built on Amherst instead of Milton. Your ignorance of the law may lead you to believe that the city can just arbitrarily deny the churches ability to build their building but that is simply untrue.

    It appears that the church and the city (we) will both derive the most benefit out of this whole affair. Anyone in their right mind would agree that changing the checkerboard ownership of properties on the three blocks and the church and city being able to consolidate their properties is certainly most efficient and best for the long term for the residents. Does anyone truly prefer the existing 70 year old maintenance facility to the new youth center? Does anyone truly think that the daily traffic will net increase when the youth center is substituted for the existing maintenance facility? Does anyone actually know the amount of daily traffic associated with the existing maintenance facility? I do know since I live near it and see the traffic every day.

    Who doesn’t think that a future campus option for the City Hall municipal block is a good idea? If not, why not? To say that the majority of people that live here do not expect nice buildings in West U is disingenuous at the least. We live in West U for a reason and the old buildings in the town center do not reflect what most want.

    • David Says:

      Why the hurry before traffic study is undertaken? I live adjacent to the youth center and it concerns me. You sure are smug you know that?

    • FJV Says:

      I did not say there were making money. I used that term to lead into the concept of “who” is benefiting the most out of this deal. That said, I am sure that WBUC will probably make money out the proposed facility in the long run.

  5. advocatefortransparency Says:

    No kidding. This group just loves to throw around the lack of transparency cloak. Anything they disagree with must be bad due to a lack of transparency. I’m not sure where this anti-religion group came from. Now we have people saying that five months on this issue is too fast since they don’t like the church or just want to use this to create a campaign issue where there is none.

    I also hear that the Kelly, Reilly, Ballanfant, Turner slate want to outsource the city public works services. If that happens say goodbye to the high level of services we are all used to getting once contractors are answering the calls. I guess they think there is money to be saved with the reduction in service so they can then use it to go buy the Pittsburgh property for a park.

    • FJV Says:

      Dear Tangly Resident,

      There are a lot of services that cities large or small outsource on a regular basis, but they do it under the watchful eye of the city’s administrative staff. All cities, large and small, constantly issue RFQs for design and building services, personnel accounting, solid waste collection, etc.

      The benefit of living in a self-governing small city like West U is that the residents have direct access to the city staff that oversees those contracts.
      I don’t know if there are others, but I know that the personnel you see driving the solid waste trucks and the folks picking up your garbage and recyclables are not West U employees. They are employees of a hired contractor. Our city issues the requirements necessary for those folks to work here and establishes all the security backgrounds required.

      In spite of my opposition to the current proposed WUBC Youth Center and the super block, I am the first to recognize that we are lucky to live in West University. We have a body of city employees and administrators who do a great job day in and day out, and who’s offices are always open and that are always willing to assist and address the issues of concern to our residents.

      In addition, our city provides services to the community and its residents that go far beyond what is required by Law, such as the Recreation Center, Colonial Park Pool, the many parks around the city, and the whole array of senior services that are provided to our senior’s free of charge.

      I have enjoyed each and every one of the twelve years I have lived here and I wouldn’t think of living anywhere else in the Greater Houston area.

  6. beverlyl@aol.com Says:

    The lack of transparency of this City Manager, Mayor and Council seems to also include the ZBA. Exceptions to zoning ordinances are made without all of the facts, studies and information relative to the impact on the residents and community. It is clearly evident that the Church, the developers, consultants and builders play a heavy hand down at City Hall. To refer to opposition or a request to time-out and slow down as “political opposition” is unfair and untrue, as the reference to Mr. Reilly as an “activist”. The slck, glossy brochure recently sent to all residents describing the Super Block plan did not address the traffic issue or the cost to the taxpayers for the next 10 years or so and was a clear public relations ad job for the project. Wonder how much the brochures cost us taxpayers to prepare, print and mail? Enough is enough.

    • Frank J. Vargas, Jr. AIA Says:

      It is not a matter of “conspiracy nuts”. It is a matter of “transparency” and who foots the bill for this whole affair.

      The church cannot proceed with the Youth center now in the land they own and in the time they said they have per the requirements of the donation because there is an existing owner occupied residence in the middle of the land they need.

      The only way for the church can proceed with their youth center in the time they say they have is to do the land swap.

      Bringing the City on board with the idea of a super block is a “very” convenient way to market the whole thing. City Council knows this very well; why would they spend so much money and effort so quickly and in such a short period of time on a matter that would normally require careful consideration and serious analysis given that it involves future generations of West U residents and they tax money?

      Who will pay for the heavy demolition required in those lots?
      Who will pay for the EPA studies and possible subsequent EPA site clean up most likely required on the sites currently being used for servicing trucks and other vehicles where oil and chemicals are used?

      Did you know that the motion to proceed with the land swap was made by Councilman Ed Heathcott who is a Decon at WUBC? Is that not a conflict of interests? So it is not a conspiracy…how about collusion? Name it what you wish.

      Remember the saying? “Follow the money” Who derives the most benefit out of this whole affair”
      Remember Shakespeare? “Something is rotten in the State of Denmark”

      This is not a matter of “conspiracy nuts”

      • miltonwatchdog@comcast.net Says:

        Thank you, Frank, for the most intelligent and logical post here. I agree with you that some of the proponents of this project will benefit either financially or politically. Those who stoop to sling mud and degrade the character of residents opposed to the rush to proceed with this plan is merely a desperate attempt to rally those who may be less informed.

  7. Bob Kelly. Former Mayor Says:

    Contrary to Fry’s statements, those opposed to his Council’s llpllack of transparency and citizen input are not a few self serving individuals spreading inaccurate information. Instead they are hundreds of his citizens who elected him to office to represent the citizens of WU and not just City Council and City Staff. Fry seems to have a real problem with those who do not agree with him. It has taken much time and effort by many to get City Council to take the Senior Citizen, Library, and Community Center buildings off the sales block to WUBC…and to get them to get a legal opinion and to finally sent out a survey. It’s very unkind of Fry to speak down to those who elected him.

    • Frank J. Vargas, Jr. AIA Says:

      This is also the city administration that backpedaled and tried to charge senior citizens for the use of the recreation center and that proposed what was termed as the West U Galleria.
      This council seems to do a good job representing the interest of the “good old boy” local developers network and the West University Church cabal.
      Dissent and the questioning of motives is not looked at very kindly by our Mayor or our city manager. Having discussed other issues in the past with some of the members of city council, who I found generally to be very reasonable, I wonder if they are all so freely on board on this matter or if they have been bullied into submission.

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