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Council doesn’t go for budget do-over but will address tax exemptions, zoning for churches, sports groups

October 13, 2015 By:Charlotte Aguilar

Local News

By Sarah Tucker

West University City Council held two public hearings on the proposed 2015 tax rate and 2016 city budget.

No residents spoke at either hearing, but council had plenty to say.

During the public hearing on the tax rate, Councilmember Brennan Reilly proposed city staff prepare an alternate budget at the effective tax rate in order to justify the revenue increase for residents.

The proposed tax rate for 2015 is $0.33179. While lower than the 2014 tax rate, the 2015 rate will bring in 3.97 percent more revenue than the previous year because of the increase in property values across West U. This revenue increase requires council to hold two public hearings.

Reilly’s motion failed for lack of a second, with Councilmembers Burt Ballanfant saying it was a little late in the process to ask for an alternative budget and Mardi Turner saying West U was triple-A rated not because it’s a “nice little town” but because it’s properly managed.

At the public hearing for the 2016 budget, Finance Director Rhonda Daugherty presented the proposed budget and addressed increases and adjustments from the previous year. Daugherty and City Manager Chris Peifer also discussed the timeline staff follows and the different components that go into the budget and why the budget can’t be presented to council earlier in the year.

Of interest for upcoming council meetings will be Reilly’s proposal to discuss the memoranda of understanding with Tri-Sports, West U Aquatics and the West University Baptist Church. Reilly wants to review the property tax exemption for commercial property and review institutional zoning.

Mayor Susan Sample took issue with Reilly’s agenda item saying that it was his attempt to curb churches in West University Place.

The item was placed on the Oct. 26 agenda after Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kelly said there was no reason to prohibit discussion.

Reilly said he found it inappropriate for institutional buildings to be in a residential zone. City Attorney Alan Petrov said churches can be built in residential areas and requested to meet with Reilly prior to the Oct. 26 council meeting to discuss the particular rules of zoning and houses of worship.

Council also changed the November and December council meetings to Nov. 9 and 16 and Dec. 7 and 14.

tax bill

17 Responses to “Council doesn’t go for budget do-over but will address tax exemptions, zoning for churches, sports groups”

  1. Jim Shields Says:

    hey folks

    We are entering bizzaro world.

    Bob Kelly asked the West U police to put me under watch because I threatened him on this site.

    A half century ago I spent 3 years living in a college fraternity house, then I spent four years in the Army, then I had a career with a very large engineering and construction company.

    I say all this because this background has exposed me to tons of men – not women- who drink too much. Kelly has known me for over 30 years and there is absolutely nothing in my background which would suggest that I am violent.

    But alcohol distorts clear thinking and I can only explain this bizarre behavior of Bob’s by too much booze. I had never seen this side of him.

    This all started when a bunch of very rich people started fussing over a church youth center. Then they got themselves elected and started bullying people.

    In the later years of my life I was the executive director of an organization that save abused children – Justice for Children. Bullies strike a raw nerve. Kelly and Reilly are bullies. Hence my reaction.

    • Anonymous Says:

      I agree that this city’s management is bullying their citizens. I am refused city services! I am not allowed in the Senior Center, Rec. center, or Pool. Why? Who knows? Not me. Some say I am not civil. The city council meetings are not civil! I also had a career for 36 years working with the public. I am a disabled veteran. My daughter is disabled. She can’t go to the pool, gym, etc. since she won’t go without me. Are the city officials happy they punish their citizens this way? I don’t doubt they threatened you. I witness a Senior threatened by the police chief when she raised her hand to ask a question. Is this necessary? Bullying actually started with the previous council & mayor. They have their own agenda. Reilly’s wants to recycle (citizens pay the bill), Kelly wanted the city manager fired (then they say how well managed the city is), Burt wants a new park (no transparency), & the woman city council member (who cares)! The mayor states how she wants to do what is best for the city. Is bullying doing your best? Refusing services to citizens best for the city? Not addressing the library’s dangerous lack of emergency fire alarm or sprinklers best for the children in the library? Jim, you are not alone. The bullying attitude is extended to other WUP citizens by this group of “leaders”.

    • Anonymous Says:

      At the recent Friends meeting, the Parks director instructed the Board members Not to share any information with WUP citizens! Not transparent at all! He said some would “questions” the numbers. This is a prime example of lack of transparency! A city council member, Turner, was there, but did not object to this total lack of transparency. Meetings are held in private, the city attorney wants to meet with Reilly to inform him of policy in private. When Bob Kelly announces that there was an example of transparency, is it because it is so rare that it is noteworthy?

  2. Jim Shields Says:

    Oh boy!! This is going to be fun.

    Brennan – I know you know that every word you say in the council meetings is recorded.

    You are on record and you have poked a hornets’ nest.

    How you can be so oblivious to the seething anger that you and Kelly have generated is stunning. People who don’t know me tell me that they will do anything to see you two gone.

    There will be much more to read from others very shortly. Including the recording of the meeting where you will be caught with your pants down.

    In the meantime, please feel free to respond to my delirium. As Ronald Reagan said, when someone is making a fool of himself, don’t interrupt. As president Obama said…please continue governor!!

  3. Brennan Reilly Says:

    I hesitate to dignify Jim Shield’s delirious rant with a response, but his false statements are so egregious that they demand one.

    First and foremost, my request to review potential property tax liability for the City does NOT affect our agreements with Tri-Sports and West U Aquatics, and I did not question those agreements in our meeting. Tri-Sports leases land from HISD, not the City. West U Aquatics also does not lease land from the City. Neither group pays the City for the use of City facilities. To the contrary, the City pays these groups for running valuable programs on behalf of our Parks and Recreation Department. The contribution the City made to Tri-Sports for 2014 had a value of approximately $136,500. So reviewing property tax liability issues relating to our real property leases will not affect the City’s agreements with Tri-Sports and West U Aquatics.

    Second, my request to have our Zoning and Planning Commission (ZPC) review whether institutional zoning would be a good idea for West U is not an attack on our local churches. To the contrary, such zoning would only make sense if it provided both residents and local institutions, including not only churches but also schools and the City, with more certainty regarding the use and development of their land. After observing firsthand the ridiculous Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) process that West U Baptist Church had to go through in trying to develop its land, it became apparent that we do have institutional zoning in West U. We just haven’t written down the rules. Instead, we make them up as we go through an adversarial process that is the opposite of the deliberate and consistent process that the ZPC can apply when studying zoning rules. This is not the fault of the ZBA. It does the best it can within the adversarial, case-by-case system that state law requires. The ZPC can do better in a way that balances and protects the interests of churches and other institutions and neighboring residents and provides all parties with more certainty regarding property use and development.

    Does this mean that institutional zoning is right for West U? We don’t know yet because we haven’t studied the issue. It may be that there are legal or other impediments to institutional zoning that make it unworkable in our City. It may be that the differing interests of our institutions makes compromise too difficult. But don’t forget that the design of the current systems does not “protect” churches and schools. Instead, it makes them subject to arbitrary limitations and conditions on the use of their property that are not necessarily applied consistently from institution to institution. We should study whether institutional zoning provides a more balanced and better solution to that problem.

    • Dick Yehle Says:

      I submit that Councilmember Reilly’s effort to set the record straight is less than forthright because he fails to incorporate several related points he made at the same City Council meeting, among them are:
      • He demanded that the MOUs (Memos of Understanding) with Tri-Sports, West U Aquatics and the parking MOU with West U Baptist Church be closely reviewed because he did not think they were in the best interest of the City. Those agreements are sound having been confirmed by successive City Councils, so Reilly’s request is a thinly veiled threat to alter the agreements in way that is likely to be more favorable to the City and therefore less favorable to those organizations, some of which have an adversarial history with him.
      • He wrongly asserted that the City has “ad hoc” zoning. It now appears that he was carelessly expressing dissatisfaction with the ZBA process. His unsuccessful advocacy against WUBC during the Youth Center Special Exception hearings makes his motivation for this effort to install Institutional Zoning suspect. On the surface he suggests it might improve the system, but his statements at the meeting and his past record on issues regarding WUBC suggest that he really wants to change the zoning landscape to constrain West U churches, especially West U Baptist Church, despite State and Federal laws that offer protection to churches from having undue restrictions imposed on them.
      In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with Reilly’s request to consider Institutional Zoning or to reevaluate the terms of various MOUs, but his written perspective differs significantly from the totality of what he said at the meeting. As we move ahead, it is important to demand a clear view of Reilly’s goals. Does he intend to improve the status quo for the City and the affected institutions or does he want to impose his sense of aggressive propriety on a system that is working?

  4. Jim Shields Says:

    This is my final post. I wrote this on my word processor and have cut and pasted because it is way too long for a single post. If you are interested in the way Reilly and Kelly are subverting our city government, start this at the bottom. If you are not interested, please accept my apology for cluttering up this site.

    The mayor mentioned that she was adding an item related to base elevation for new residential construction to the next agenda for ZPC consideration, since West U is behind Houston and Bellaire who require some height buffer for new construction to prevent flooding (both require at least 18” above base flood, while West U does not require any elevation). Reilly got mad and asked why this was not on the “future agenda items” list. Mayor Sample reminded him that it does not have to be and that she don’t need a second to add things to the agenda.

    Reilly has really gotten out of hand, and Bob Kelly has enabled this by seconding every agenda item Brennan proposes. I know he does this on purpose to cause chaos with the meetings, but it really prevents things from getting done, other than arguing, which he likes to do.

  5. Jim Shields Says:

    Please read from the bottom post up. I am cutting and pasting from my notes.

    Herte is the part where Kelly gets tangled up in his lies.

    Bob Kelly rudely interrupted and said to the mayor “were you at the same meetings I was, because he never said anything like that.” Bob and the mayor had words where they went back and forth about what was said and then Kelly started to go into a long diatribe about Town Center Zoning. Kelly used to be adamantly against the Town Center, but I digress. The mayor interrupted him at that point and said that we were talking about Institutional Zoning, not Town Center.

    Bob then dug his heels in further and said “Institutional Zoning was never discussed at the boards and commissions interviews” as if the mayor was totally crazy. Reilly apparently was not paying attention because he stuck his foot right in his mouth and said “I sure did bring it up, I brought it up to everyone. I think we need to limit church expansion.” Reilly then went off onto a long discussion about how we needed to do that, that churches, as it stands now, can build in residential areas.

    The mayor pointed out that churches can do that anyway under the overlaying state and federal law. the city attorney spoke to it as well. reilly would not back down and stated that it is ad hoc zoning now for churches in residential areas and that somehow residential zoning will fix that (I’m not sure how, but I really think he truly believes that institutional zoning will prevent churches from expanding from their current footprints). The city attorney did say to him in open meeting “Brennan, I need to talk to you one on one about this because there are some things I think you may not understand”.

    Kelly was still confused because he swore he had never heard a discussion about institutional zoning before tonight. He seconded Brennan’s motion to add it as an agenda item though because he said there wasn’t any harm in discussing it.

    These guys have to go!!

  6. Jim Shields Says:

    Please read from the bottom post.

    Next came agenda item 5 – “Future Agenda Items”. Reilly started by attacking the mayor for not giving the ZPC enough to do, so he was going to fill their plate by reopening “Town Center Zoning” and asking them to study “Institutional Zoning”.

    The mayor explained that in and of itself, Institutional Zoning isn’t a bad idea. She gave an example of colleges, which might not fit into a standard commercial parking ordinance (requiring x number of spots per building) when there are buildings that serve the same people at the same time (class buildings and dorms for instance). I mentioned churches may have that same problem, BUT NOT IN WEST U.

    The mayor pointed out the obvious that if there isn’t a visible problem, we shouldn’t dive into that exercise – which would probably cause us nothing but heartache. Then the mayor said that what she didn’t want was a hidden agenda – one in which we were trying just another way to limit church expansion – which Reilly was trying to do.

    At first Reilly evaded the answer, so then the mayor doubled down and said – “Brennan, you brought up in posted meetings – boards and commissions interviews – to anyone interviewing for a ZPC position, the topic of Institutional Zoning. First you asked what the interviewee thought of it, then you gave your philosophy that you thought it was a really good way to limit church expansion.”

    This guy Reilly has no shame. He thinks we aren’t watching.

    We are!!

  7. Jim Shields Says:

    Note: I composed this piece on my word processor and am cutting and pasting to chop my long verbiage into readable chunks.I see now that all of this should be read from the bottom up. Sorry for that.

    He then said that he felt we needed to dig deep into the shared parking agreement with WUBC because he personally thinks the City is getting the short end of the stick and that we won’t need it anymore after they build their Youth Center.

    He has no ground to stand on with this as far as the city is concerned, but I think he is trying to find a way to attack the church for not meeting parking requirements (including ones he will try to establish with an Institutional Zoning ordinance). This is a big heads up to anyone who understands our parking arrangement with the Church.

    Because of how our land ownership is speckled with the church’s, and how we utilize facilities at opposite times, it is essential we work together on parking. I don’t think he understands how trying to pinch the church out of compliance will actually have a more detrimental effect on the City. Again, he doesn’t care. He’s all about throwing out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to settling scores with his enemies.

    I attend Christ the King Lutheran at the corner of Rice and Greenbriar. We are neighbors with Hungry’s Restaurant and Rice University. Fortunately we behave as good neighbors in a crowded area. The way Reilly is treating our good neighbors is despicable. What good can possibly come of this obnoxious behavior?

  8. Jim Shields Says:

    First Reilly stated that he wanted staff to provide an analysis of how leasing properties to other entities potentially jeopardizes our tax exempt status. He first stated that he thought we were jeopardizing our exempt status on the Dincans property by leasing a piece of it to Goode Company and he wanted an analysis because he thought it was no longer tax exempt. He then said he “needed” a study of our leases to WUBC (for parking? I don’t know) and Tri-Sports for playing fields, because he thought that was no longer governmental use and that we could lose our tax exemption on that as well.

    Basically, Reilly threw West U and its taxpayers under the bus for political gain by publicly questioning our tax exempt status. In addition, I’m not sure how West U recreation property situated in West U“leased” for $1 (or nothing, from what I understand) for use by West U residents jeopardizes that land’s tax exemption. I believe this is just a move to limit Tri-Sports’s operations in West University. I believe his attack on the Goode Company lease is to take away that revenue stream, and set up a case for selling the land. Anything to do with WUBC is to even up some personal score with them.

    How did this guy get elected and why is Kelly putting up with him? Kelly is no one’s fool but he is fooling me now.

  9. Jim Shields Says:

    The action last night started at Agenda Item 4 – Change of Meeting Dates due to Holidays.

    Chris proposed the routine change in November and December schedules (Having November 9 and 16th meetings to avoid meetings around Thanksgiving and Having the December meetings on the 7th and the week after, avoiding Christmas holidays). This immediately caused a ruckus.

    I will not go into the fights over the dates due to potential conflicts Judge Elizondo’s retirement and the boards and commissions orientation dinner on the 9th, because they were bordering on ridiculous and don’t have any real impact. What came out of this argument was this:

    Scheduled for the November 9 meeting are the MOUs with Tri-Sports and WUBC for shared parking. Reilly said that the meeting on the 9th would run long because of these MOUs. Turner challenged him saying these items were routine, and had been in place for years. Reilly took issue with that and said that because something has been in place for years does not mean it is good. He used that as a starting point to take on all these organizations as well as expose West U itself to tax problem.

    More to come….

  10. Jim Shields Says:

    The personal agenda items of Reilly moved fast and furiously at the meeting last night. Reilly outdid himself on aggressive behavior, inappropriate statements jeopardizing city positions and vendetta-based proposed agenda items. He really did not leave any group out of his scorched earth approach. He attacked the churches, the WUBC in specific, then he went after Tri-Sports and Goode Company. The awful thing is that Bob Kelly seconds him on every proposed agenda item, so it gets thrown onto future meeting agendas. This may sound sensational, but it actually happened.

    This has to stop.

  11. Jim Shields Says:

    West U has 5 great churches.

    West U Baptist
    West U Methodist
    West U Church of Christ
    St George Orthodox
    St Andrew’s Presbyterian

    All enhance our community and all provide community services. The slate attacked our baptist Church because they wanted to build a youth center.

    What are Reilly and Kelly thinking?

    The recall can’t happen soon enough.

  12. Steven Segal Says:

    Let’s hope that Reilly will listen to City Attorney Alan Petrov and discontinue his unwarranted attacks on churches. And is he really going after our City’s participation with Tri-Sports and West U Aquatics? Is Bob Kelly seconding every motion made my Reilly?
    Interested citizens need to take note and be heard. 85% Apathy is NOT the answer for this Council.
    Stay informed by checking regularly: instantnewswestu.com

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