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InstantNewsWestu Staff – InstantNewsWestU.com http://www.instantnewswestu.com Constantly Updated Neighborhood News for West University, TX Wed, 13 Jun 2018 01:20:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 West U to hold Mom’s Spa Day May 14 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/west-u-to-hold-moms-spa-day-may-14/ Fri, 06 May 2016 15:44:25 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50714 West University mothers, Colonial Park pool wants to celebrate you on Saturday May 14 for a Mom’s Spa Day. The event will be from 9-11 a.m. and is billed as a kid-free day by the pool.

The celebration includes breakfast, facials and mimosas. Mothers will also get an opportunity to win raffle prizes. All attending mothers will also receive their own Mother’s Day gift, courtesy of the West U Parks and Recreation Department.

The event is limited to the first 60 registrants. For more information about registering call 713-662-7420 or go to www.westutx.gov/events.

Zoning Board of Adjustment to meet Thursday http://www.instantnewswestu.com/zoning-board-of-adjustment-to-meet-thursday/ Wed, 27 Apr 2016 17:28:09 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50702 West U’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, or ZBA, is set to meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the city’s municipal building, located at 3800 University Boulevard.

The only agenda item on the docket deals with matters relating to the property at 6350 Buffalo Speedway. The property owner has requested an extension to complete the permitted work that was decided in Docket 2014-02, which authorized additional curb cuts.


West U Crime Report Roundup: Seven crimes reported in a week http://www.instantnewswestu.com/west-u-crime-report-roundup-seven-crimes-reported-in-a-week/ Tue, 26 Apr 2016 22:08:22 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50700 Only seven crimes were reported in West U from April 15th to the 22nd, according to the latest West University Place Police Department Weekly Crime Report. The report also revealed that on three days, April 17-18 and April 22, no crimes were reported.

Identity theft was the first crime. On April 15, at 7:17 p.m. an officer was dispatched to the 4200 block of Tennyson in response to a possible identity theft. The officer gathered the information and a report was generated.

Three hours later an officer was dispatched to the Harris County Jail to pick up a subject with outstanding warrants with West U and Pearland. The subject was taken into custody and transported to the West U jail.

On the morning of April 16, an officer saw a recently struck parked vehicle in the 2900 block of University Boulevard. The officer made contact with the vehicle owner and discovered that an unknown vehicle had struck the parked vehicle. An accident report was generated.

A suspicious person in the 5500 block of Kirby attempting to open doors to businesses prompted an officer to be dispatched. Upon arrival, the officer located a subject matching the description at a business in the 5300 block of Kirby. After interviewing the subject, the officer determined the subject to be intoxicated. He was subsequently arrested for public intoxication.

The next reported crime, on April 19, started when an officer saw a vehicle travelling westbound in the 3600 block of University Boulevard. The officer later observed the vehicle failing to stop at a designated stopping point at the 6200 block of Edloe. A traffic stop was conducted in the 3700 block of University and upon further investigation, the driver was found to be in possession of drug paraphernalia. The driver was issued a citation for the possession.

On April 20, an officer conducted a welfare check in the 3800 block of Rice Boulevard.

The last reported crime was on April 21, when an officer conducted a follow up to an investigation on a delayed report of an incident that happened on April 20. Facts were collected and a report was generated.

Website names West U top suburb in America http://www.instantnewswestu.com/website-names-west-u-top-suburb-in-america/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/website-names-west-u-top-suburb-in-america/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 20:06:26 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50698 The career-counseling and job website, Zippia.com, named the City of West University as the number one suburb in America. Its next door neighbor, Bellaire, came in sixth.

The website determined what the best suburbs were according to the stats from the following criteria:

  • Unemployment rate
  • Median household incomes
  • Population density
  • Home values
  • Percent of people with a college education.

According to the results, the site used the 2010-2014 American Community Survey to research each suburb.

“FYI:We defined a suburb based on the Census’s designation of being part of an ‘Urban Cluster,’ but not the main city of said urbanized area,” wrote Chris Kolmar, the author of the article. ” For example, the Census considers West University Place to be part of the ‘Houston, TX Urbanized Area.” 

After all the data, West U reign supreme. The website’s analysis revealed that 88 percent of West U residents have a college degree — the fourth highest in the nation. Residents also have a median income of $207,429.

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West U to host Drug Take Back program http://www.instantnewswestu.com/west-u-to-host-drug-take-back-program/ Mon, 25 Apr 2016 19:27:08 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50671 Unused or expired prescriptions pose public safety issues and West U wants to help its citizens avoid those issues.

West U, in partnership with the DEA, are hosting a Drug Take Back Program Saturday for anyone who needs to properly rid their home of expired or unused drugs. According to the city’s press release:

– Some discarded drugs may accidentally end up in the hands of children and cause overdoses.
– The non-medical use of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana use as the most common form of drug abuse in America.
– The majority of teenagers who abuse drugs get them from family or friends through home medicine cabinets.
– Unused prescriptions thrown in the trash may be retrieved and abused or sold illegally.
– Unused prescription drugs that are flushed down the drain may contaminate surface water sources.

The drop-off point will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Public Works facility at the intersection of College and Milton.

West U Crime Roundup: Warrants, narcotics and driving violations http://www.instantnewswestu.com/west-u-crime-roundup-warrants-narcotics-and-driving-violations/ Tue, 19 Apr 2016 17:09:49 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50658 The latest West University Police Department Crime Report reveals that the department had a busy week battling crime.

On April 8, officers were dispatched to the 5800 block of Kirby in response to a commercial burglary alarm. The officer made contact with the subject but the subject evaded the officer by running onto oncoming traffic. The subject dropped personal property which the officer was able to obtain. The subjects’ identification was among the personal property. A warrant has been filed against the subject for Felony Evading and Unlawfully Carrying of a Weapon.

The subject in the April 8 crime may have evaded West U officers but between April 8 and April 15 five subjects having arrest warrants in West U were captured.

On the morning of April 11 an officer stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation in the 3100 block of Holcombe. Upon investigation, the office discovered the subject had outstanding warrants in West U. She was placed in custody and transported to the West University Place Jail Facility.   

The second arrest for warrant came with some help from the Houston Police Department. An officer was dispatched to HPD, located at 61 Reisner, to pick up a subject with multiple outstanding warrants from West U. The subject was taken into custody and transported to West U without incident.

The Deer Park Police Department were to thank for the third arrest for warrant. On April 13, officers were dispatched to the 6800 block of Gulf Freeway to meet officers from Deer Park to pick up a subject with West U warrants. The officers took the subject into custody and transported him to the West University Police Department jail without incident.

The fourth and fifth arrest warrant came on April 14. Officers were dispatched to HPD’s Southeast jail to pick up two prisoners in custody with outstanding warrants in West U. Both subjects were transported to the West University Jail without incident.

Three traffic violations were reported starting on the morning of April 12. An officer noticed a vehicle with an expired registration. The officer conducted a traffic stop and upon further investigation found the driver in possession of a suspended license. The driver was subsequently arrested.

The next two traffic violations came on April 13. The first came after an officer observed a vehicle, with no front license plates, going southbound and run the stop sign at Mercer and Sunset. A traffic stop was conducted and it was discovered that the driver had an invalid license. He was subsequently arrested for the offense.

The second came when an officer was dispatched to the 3800 block of Ruskin regarding a vehicle driving with a front flat tire. It was discovered during the traffic stop, conducted in the 6300 block of Buffalo Speedway, that the driver was intoxicated. The driver was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Two reports of possession of narcotics were reported and the offenses came as a result of traffic violations.

On April 14, an officer noticed a vehicle in the 6500 block of Buffalo Speedway traveling south bound at high speed. During the traffic stop, it was discovered that the driver was in possession of narcotics. A day later, an officer observed a vehicle running a stop sign at the intersection of University and Auden. Upon further investigation during the traffic stop, the driver was found to be in possession of narcotics. Both subjects were placed into custody.

One burglary was reported occurring April 12. Officers were dispatched to the 5800 block of Annapolis in regards to a residential burglary alarm. During the investigation it was discovered that unknown subjects entered the residence’s detached garag

Countdown for Colonial Pool opening http://www.instantnewswestu.com/countdown-for-colonial-pool-opening/ Fri, 15 Apr 2016 15:10:00 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50625 The countdown for those sun-scorching days has started and with it comes Spring days in the pool. In West University that means taking advantage of the pools at Colonial Park Pool.

The park, located at 4130 Byron, will be open for the 2016 season on April 30 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For those looking for a venue to host a birthday party, family reunion, company gathering or end of school/back to school party, Colonial Park Pool is available to rent. The park will be debuting a new deck, a large shade structure and grilling area. Indoor rental space is also available.

For more information on Colonial Park Pool during its seasonal operations, call 713-662-7460 or call the Recreation Center at 713-662-7420.

West University Meeting Roundup http://www.instantnewswestu.com/west-university-meeting-roundup/ Mon, 11 Apr 2016 18:18:36 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50600 The West University City Council, the Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Board and the Zoning and Planning Commission all have meetings scheduled for this week.

The West City Council will meet Monday to discuss, among other items, matter related to the Harris County District Attorney’s investigation of City Council members supposed violations of the Open Meetings Act surrounding the firing of then West U City Manager, Michael Ross.

Other agenda items include giving final approval to the proposed ordinance to increase water rates by 0.50 percent effective May 1.

The meeting is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. at 3800 University Blvd.

The Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Board will meet Tuesday, April 12, at 6104 Auden St., at 6 p.m. to discuss board member reports and action items. The reports and items include:

  • The Drug Take Event on April 30.
  • An update on tri-sports recycling
  • The West U Spring Festival and Arbor Day
  • The Shredding event on May 7th

On Thursday, April 14, the Zoning and Planning Commission will hold a meeting in the municipal building located at 3800 University Blvd. at 6:15 p.m. The meeting will be attended by members of the Building and Standards Commission and the West U City Council.

Among the topics to be discuss include matter regarding provisions to the town center with matter relating to but not limited to parking studies, parking, parking requirements, parking spaces, occupancy, driveways, and curb cuts.

Other agenda items include discussing matters regarding the allowed use and definition of ‘school’ (public and others) as they apply to educational uses such as tutorial centers and learning academies.

West U Crime Roundup: Criminal mischief, assault and burglaries http://www.instantnewswestu.com/west-u-crime-roundup-criminal-mischief-assault-and-burglaries/ Fri, 08 Apr 2016 21:41:19 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50597 The West University Police Department was busy this past week responding to calls of criminal mischief, assault and burglaries.

In the early morning of April 4, police officers noticed a vehicle on the 5400 block of Fairmont being driven without a license plate attached to the front. The officers stopped the vehicle at the 5300 block of Community and after further investigation it was identified that the driver has past traffic violations. The driver and passenger were arrested. The passenger was arrested due to the fact that they failed to identify the fugitive to law enforcement.

A day later, an officer observed another vehicle without license plates attached to the front. The vehicle was in the 6500 block of Buffalo Speedway. The officer initiated a traffic stop and upon further investigation discovered that the driver was driving with a suspended license. The driver was also in possession of marijuana and had warrants for past traffic violations for surrounding agencies. The driver was subsequently arrested and charged.

On April 5th, officers were dispatched to the 3400 block of Robinhood in regards to a subject who was discharging a paintball gun. Once the officers arrived, the subject admitted to shooting a paintball gun in the area. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the subject shot at property belonging to a resident in the 3400 block of Robinhood. The subject was issued a citation for criminal mischief.

Officers responded to a report of an assault that had already occurred on April 6 in the 6200 block of Edloe. Upon their arrival, it was discovered that the assault had occurred in the 3600 block of Rice Blvd. A report for the assault was generated.

At 1:46 a.m. on April 7th, officers saw a vehicle in the middle of the road in the 3100 block of Robinhood. Upon further investigation the occupants were arrested for having active warrants and traffic violations. Property not being owned by any of occupants was discovered while doing inventory on the vehicle. Both occupants were subsequently charged with theft.

Later in the day, officers were dispatched to the 3700 block of University Blvd. in regards to an assault in progress. A search was conducted when officers arrived but they were unable to locate the suspect. The officers were able to gather information to identify the suspect.

A house was burglarized on April 7th in the 6100 block of Charlotte. Officers gathered information and a report was generated.

Buildings and Standards Commission Meeting set for Thursday. http://www.instantnewswestu.com/buildings-and-standards-commission-meeting-set-for-thursday/ Tue, 05 Apr 2016 19:43:38 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50590 The Building and Standards Commission and members of the West U City Council will hold a meeting Thursday, April 7 at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building, located at 3800 University Blvd.

The meeting is to discuss a variance to Chapter 6, Section 25(b)(3) and (4) which allows a ground sign to be closer than 15 feet from any other building site. The Building and Standards Commission and the city council members in attendance will hear from the public before deliberating on the subject.


Happenings around West University http://www.instantnewswestu.com/happenings-around-west-university/ Tue, 05 Apr 2016 19:25:43 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50588 Child Passengers Safety Seat Checks

Parents with young children listen up.

West University Place Parks and Recreation Department and the Harris County Constable’s Office, Precinct One, have partnered up to give complimentary Child Passenger Safety Seat Checks on Friday April 8 from 8 a.m. to noon. The safety checks will be done in the back of the recreation center parking lot, located at 4210 Bellaire Blvd, by certified technicians.

The technicians will check for recall/expiration, proper working parts and will teach parents the correct usage of their child’s seat and installation techniques. Checkups will take approximately 30 minutes. Drive-ins are welcome but those with appointment will have priority.

For more information contact the Parks and Recreation department at 713-662-7420. To set up an appointment contact Tracie Matthews-Segura at 713-755-7677 or tracie.matthews-segura@cn1.hctx.net

Classical Concert Series

For those seeking a Friday night activity, look no further than the Classical Concert Series at the Pavilion at Colonial Park starting at 7 p.m. The concert is an informal even designed for newcomers and symphony enthusiasts. This Friday the Texas Brass will provide the music.

West U Crime Roundup: Burglaries, forgeries and warrants http://www.instantnewswestu.com/west-u-crime-roundup-burglaries-forgeries-and-warrants/ Fri, 01 Apr 2016 21:26:59 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50584 Bicycles in West U were a popular item for thieves to take this past week.

On March 27 two bicycles were stolen from a West U citizen’s garage in the 2900 block of Georgetown which prompted the West U police department. Upon arriving at the scene, the victim shared with the police officers that the bicycles were taken without his consent. Upon further discussion, the victim revealed that the garage was unsecured during the time of the incident.

On March 29 a third bicycle was stolen from the 2700 block of Pemberton. The victim suspects the bicycle was stolen overnight. The bicycle was taken from the enclosed porch area of the yard. The victim shared with officers that the theft was captured from his video surveillance camera system.

Later in the day, the West U Police Department was called to the 4100 block of Bellaire in response to an individual attempting to cash a fraudulent check. When the officers arrived they noticed a subject matching the description walking away from the bank and entering a vehicle.

The officers stopped the vehicle and questioned the men inside. After a brief investigation evidence was discovered that led to the arrest of two individuals involved in the forgery. Both subjects were taken into custody.

March 29 proved to be a busy day for the West U Police Department.

At about 3:15 p.m. an officer in an unmarked vehicle noticed a car exiting a private driveway in the 3900 block of Marlowe traveling at a high speed. He radioed for a marked police unit to follow the car.

When the car pulled over to a Chevron, the West U officer made contact and identified that the driver was operating the vehicle while having an invalid license. The driver also had three open warrants for his arrest. Two traffic warrants issued in Bellaire, TX and one Probation Revocation for Non-Payment of Child Support in Chamber County. The subject was taken into custody.

In the morning of March 31 a West U Police officer was dispatched to the 6300 block of Mercer in regards to a suspicious vehicle. An officer noticed a stopped vehicle matching the description in the 6300 block of Buffalo Speedway.

After investigating the vehicle, the driver was taken into custody for possession of marijuana and unlawful carrying of a weapon. The two passengers in the car were taken into custody for possession of marijuana.

Parks and Recreation Board to meet Wednesday http://www.instantnewswestu.com/parks-and-recreation-board-to-meet-wednesday/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/parks-and-recreation-board-to-meet-wednesday/#comments Fri, 01 Apr 2016 20:35:01 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50580 The City of West University Place Park and Recreation Board will meet Wednesday April 6 at 6:30 p.m. for their regularly scheduled meeting.

The board will hear an update on the following:

  • Park acquisition
  • Colonial Park redevelopment
    • Redevelopment of the west end of Colonial Park.
  • Parks master planning
  • Fitness stations a the WUP Recreation Center trail
  • Children sink step-ups at the WUP Recreation Center and Colonial Park pool
  • West-side parking upgrades on the WUP Recreation Center campus.

The meeting will take place at the WUP Recreation Center at 4210 Bellaire.



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Car burglaries, including city vehicle, other crimes http://www.instantnewswestu.com/car-burglaries-including-city-vehicle-other-crimes/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/car-burglaries-including-city-vehicle-other-crimes/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2016 17:52:59 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=50572
In a span of five days, three vehicles in West University Place were broken into and burglarized — including a city vehicle.

All three burglaries happened overnight or in the early hours of the morning. In all three cases, items from inside the vehicle were stolen.

The first two burglaries took place on March 20.

The aforementioned city vehicle was discovered by a city employee who quickly alerted authorities. The second burglary took place near the 4100 block of Coleridge. The last car was burglarized in the 3100 block of Carnegie.

In all instances, information was gathered and processed.

Vehicle burglaries wasn’t the only theft that occurred in West U.

On March 23, an officer responded to a report of theft, fraud, and incident of trespass at the 3500 block of University. Further investigation yielded the news that a known subject entered the victim’s property, took the victim’s dog and possibly used the victim’s credit card without permission.

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Dick Yehle: My View http://www.instantnewswestu.com/dick-yehle-my-view/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/dick-yehle-my-view/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:17:46 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=49988 (Former city council member Dick Yehle sent this letter to the Village News for publication. Yehle was elected to the West University City Council three times and served as a council member for a total of six years. The Village News is a Bellaire-based, free distribution newspaper delivered to West University Place.)

Dear Village News Editor:

I find the Village News’s coverage of the West U City Manager removal effort totally bankrupt of objectivity. The latest example of your slanted articles begins in the headline of the July 28, 2015 article, i.e. “West U. City Manager Changes His Mind” and derisively characterizes Michael Ross as having “flip flop(ped)” on his desire to stay in West U. Nowhere in the article does it indicate that City Councilmembers advocating the change (the Slate) materially altered their position on awarding the contractually required severance pay from “pay the full amount” to “try to avoid paying anything”. The pretense of responsible reporting by the Village News is only slightly less hypocritical than the Slate’s failure to adhere to their campaign mantra of “transparency”.

A more accurate chronicle of events would be:

1. On June 3, 2015, three days after taking office and prior to any Council meeting to consider the matter, Councilmembers Reilly and Ballanfant met with Michael Ross to tell him he was doing a good job but that they (the Slate) were moving in a different direction and intended to replace him as City Manager subject to the terms of his severance agreement and on a negotiated timing of his choosing.

2. Ross understood that the overture that would allow him to formally retire and indicated that he would be receptive to a quick, quiet transition to minimize the adverse publicity to West U of having its City Manager summarily dismissed without legal “cause” and to minimize the damage to his professional credentials of being a victim of such action. All parties understood that meeting the terms of Ross’s severance contract would cost the City $220,000 plus Ross’s accrued vacation and sick time, and the cost of an executive search for a replacement.

3. Although it is not entirely clear why the City Attorney was not asked to draft a simple exit agreement based on the proposed terms, the Slate proposed and eventually hired Richard Rothfelder to represent the City in settlement negotiations with Ross. The unusual step of engaging Rothfelder as Special Counsel created an adversarial rather than an amicable negotiation and has far reaching implications for other rumored changes in City staffing that presumably would follow the replacement of Ross.

4. Coincident with the above circumstances and in anticipation that by a 4-1 vote the new Council would be hostile to him, Ross applied for the open City Manager position in Missouri City and eventually became a finalist. It is only logical that someone facing unemployment would seek an available alternative but throughout the process Ross made it clear that he would rather remain in West University Place.

5. Negotiation of the severance agreement did not go as smoothly as anticipated for a variety of reasons ranging from:

Public outrage over dismissing Michael Ross without cause; to

Public outrage with the Slate paying Michael Ross to retire; to

Public outrage with procedural steps of Slate members during Council meetings limiting public discussion of the matter; to the taint of hiring a Special Counsel and the associated legal fees; to

Rumors of subsequent steps planned by the Slate to hire the underqualified Southside Place City Manager as a replacement; to plans for hiring a new City Manager at a dramatically lower cost, the concern being that “you get what you pay for” and a cheaper alternative would not be as good as Ross; to

The prospect of losing key senior staff during the period of uncertainty following Ross’s prospective departure; to Rothfelder proposing an excessively restrictive new severance agreement on behalf of the Slate which was quickly rejected by Ross, to

Positioning by the Slate to handcuff Ross from recruiting West U staff for any new position he might take, something that is often proposed but is practically unenforceable and was not part of Ross’s contract.

6. Once negotiations over a severance package became difficult, the idea of a quick, amicable departure became unattainable and things began to change. Members of the Slate started to suggest they would not fully honor the contract and Ross began to pushback against any material modification to his contract. Some on council have even suggested that “cause” might be manufactured as a justification for firing Ross in order to avoid paying severance under the terms of his contract.

7. Councilmember Reilly became verbally aggressive at Council meetings and Ross retaliated by exercising his right to have all discussions of his situation be a matter of public record.

8. To clarify his position with regard to his desire to remain at West University Place and to remove an awkward negotiating issue, Ross formally withdrew from being considered for the Missouri City job.

9. Since mid-July the Slate has virtually stopped their action thereby leaving Michael Ross and the City in limbo. Presumably the hiatus is a plan to force Ross’s position on the Missouri City opportunity to avoid honoring his severance package. That door has been closed, yet the City Manager issue was not even discussed at the most recent Council meeting.

The bad faith displayed by the Slate has not been mentioned in any Village News article and all actions by Ross are typically cast in a dark light. Terms such as “flip flop” have a bad connotation, while actions by the Slate to “comply” with Ross’s request are overstated by failing to report that while the Slate agreed to conduct discussions of Ross’s employment in public it has virtually stopped all discussion rather than having an honest public debate. (Only Bob Kelly and Burt Ballanfant have spoken at any length on the matter and their comments were either without substance or unbelievable.) The Village News has totally ignored the very newsworthy uncivil actions of Slate members Reilly and Kelly from the Council bench during the last two months, something that has negatively contributed to the entire issue.

It is acceptable for newspapers to voice their opinions through editorials, but the public deserves more objective reporting in the main pages of their publications. Regardless of one’s view of what should happen to Michael Ross, all major factors affecting stories should be reported so that the public can form accurate impressions of what has transpired and what might be next. It is time for the Village News to back away from doing the bidding of the Slate and become a real newspaper.

Dick Yehle

Former West U Councilmember

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Church Considers Options http://www.instantnewswestu.com/church-considers-options-2/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/church-considers-options-2/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 23:43:56 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=49712 West University Baptist Church may have decided to end the controversy over a real estate swap with the city of West University Place by filing a preliminary application for a zoning variance to build a new youth center on its own property in the 3800 block of Amherst.

The church and the city have been involved in real estate negotiations for several months over a possible “land swap.”

The deal would have allowed the city to proceed with a long-range master plan for city facilities for a future “Municipal Block” that includes property on Amherst now owned by the church, and the church to build a new youth ministry building on Milton now owned by the city.

Two candidates for city council that are among the most vocal opponents of the church youth facility are Bob Kelly and Brennan Reilly.

A petition signed by 946 people, to force a public vote on $3 million bond proposal to finance the relocation of the city’s Public Works maintenance facility and the acquisition of additional real estate and other construction, apparently killed the real estate negotiations.

The proposed land deal was first made public in October, 2014, and ignited a political firestorm in usually quiet West U. Four opponents of the municipal block — including two former mayors — are running for election to the City Council against four other independent candidates.

The city’s long-range Master Plan also included a future plan to purchase four residential lots now owned by West U residents.

The controversy over the church’s proposed new youth center included complaints about potential traffic congestion and noise, as well as some anti-religious sentiment over the rights of churches to expand their facilities.

Opposition forced the city of West U to reconsider its plan, to hold two community meetings, to hire a public opinion pollster and to seek an expensive legal opinion from one of the nation’s leading attorneys on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

That federal law, which protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations, was passed unanimously by Congress in 2000.

The city hired San Antonio Attorney Lowell F. Denton, to write a legal brief explaining state and federal laws relating to the authority of cities to regulate the expansion of religious institutions. Denton has vast experience representing municipal governments, and he served as the lead attorney for the City of Boerne in the landmark case City of Boerne v. P.F. Flores, Archbishop of San Antonio, and United States, 117 S.Ct. 2157 (1997).

West U’s Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the church’s request to build the new youth center at 3826 Milton, after two lengthy meetings. That property is currently owned by the city of West U, and houses the Department of Public Works’ maintenance facilities.

The city council earlier this week tabled a proposal to issue $3,050,000 in certificates of obligation to finance that move, and other costs associated with the real estate transaction with the church.

The council took that action, after receiving the petition, with 946 signatures, that could force a bond vote on the $3 million in debt financing. Those petitions, which were reported to be collected by city council candidate Reilly and 27 other West U citizens, have not yet been certified.

If the signatures are valid, (and the signers are registered voters) the city could not go into debt without a bond referendum. That vote could not be scheduled until November, at the earliest.

The other opponents of the city’s long-range Master plan are Kelly, Burt Ballanfant and Mardi Turner. With Reilly, they are running as a “slate” in the city’s municipal election, which will be Saturday.

An independent group of candidates also running for council are Bruce Beneke, Sonny Brandtner, Philip Snyder and former West U councilman and (former) Mayor Pro Tem Steven Segal.

West U Mayor Pro Tem Susan Sample is unopposed in her campaign to become the next mayor.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. All voting will take place at West U’s Municipal Building, located at 3800 University Blvd. Registered voters are now required to bring proof of identification to participate in elections held in Texas.

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Candidate Kelly Leads in Campaign Contributions, Majority From Real Estate, Business Interests http://www.instantnewswestu.com/candidate-kelly-leads-in-campaign-contributions-majority-from-real-estate-business-interests/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/candidate-kelly-leads-in-campaign-contributions-majority-from-real-estate-business-interests/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 22:01:07 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=49690 Five of the eight candidates running for election to the West U City Council have raised more than $12,000 in campaign  contributions and spent  more than $8,500, in their bids for a two-year term based on the April 9 Campaign Finance Reports.

Three of the candidates Steven Segal, Sonny Brandtner and Phil Snyder, were not required to file campaign finance reports since they opted, in advance, not to accept total contributions of more than $500 or spend more than $500.

Susan Sample, who is running unopposed in her campaign for Mayor, also was not required to file a report.

In campaign finance reports filed 30 days before the election, the leading money-raiser so far has been council candidate and former West U Mayor Bob Kelly. Kelly’s campaign finance report shows that he has raised $6,980 from 13 contributors, including two contributions totalling $2,000 from West U real estate investor Jim Reid, and two contributions totalling $1,900 from an entity called “Goode Company Management.” InstantNewsWestU.com could not determine whether Goode Company Management is a legal entity registered anywhere in the state of Texas.

Kelly said: “I no longer have the check. The name on the stub is Goode Company Management.”

State law prohibits corporations and labor unions from making campaign contributions.

According to the Texas Ethics Commission: “As a general rule, a political committee may not accept political contributions from corporations or labor organizations.”

Goode Cook, Inc., which operates three restaurants that are adjacent to West University Place, has had a long-standing, $6,000 per month, lease with the city for a parking lot on a part of the city-owned property on Dincans St., which was formerly the city’s RecyclExpress. The recycling center was closed last year, and the city has been considering relocating the Public Works maintenance facility to that property. The city council renewed the lease with the company about a year ago, on May 12, 2014, but can be terminated by the city in 2016.

Kelly also has a $500 contribution from Robert Duncan, a Houston resident, who is chairman of Transwestern, a real estate organization primarily involved in real estate investment and development.

Another former West U Mayor, Burt Ballanfant, who is also running for council, followed Kelly, with a total of $2,980 in contributions from 13 total contributors.

Ballanfant’s two biggest contributors, Ralph Hull and Sue Jean White, both gave him $500 campaign donations.

Candidate Brennan Reilly reported total contributions of $550, with a $500 contribution from  West U resident David Kuykendall.

Mardi Turner reported no contributions to her campaign, but listed an outstanding loan of $1,500.

Candidate Bruce Beneke raised a total of $600 in contributions, as well as an outstanding loan of $1,300. Beneke, a retired engineer who is a deacon at West University Baptist Church, received a $500 campaign contribution from outgoing councilman Ed Heathcott, another church deacon. Heathcott appears to be the only member of the council to make a contribution to a candidate in the May 9 municipal election.

Beneke also received $100 from West U resident Judy Faulkner.

Most of the candidates’ expenses were related to printing costs for yard signs, door hangers, or campaign brochures. Advertising was another big expense for some candidates; Kelly spent $1,895 on ads in two area magazines; while Beneke spent $375 on one magazine advertisement.

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West U City Council Race Draws Crowded Field of Candidates http://www.instantnewswestu.com/49424/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/49424/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:22:01 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=49424 The field is set for the West University Place City Council elections. It’s a crowded one.

Two former mayors and one former Mayor Pro-Tem are among the eight candidates battling for four seats that have filed as candidates in the May 9 municipal election. The filing deadline for candidates was Friday.

Former Mayors Burt Ballanfant and Bob Kelly, and former council-member and Mayor Pro-Tem Steven Segal have returned to the political stage. Mardi Turner is the only woman in city council race.

The other candidates are Bruce Beneke, Sonny Brandtner, Brennan Reilly and Philip J. Snyder.

Likely issues in the election include the possible relocation of West U’s Public Works Maintenance Facility outside the city limits, the proposed construction and location of a church youth center, and the possible acquisition of the Ownby tract for parkland, 38,553 square feet of real estate where Pittsburg terminates at Poor Farm Ditch. The two lots, 3615 Pittsburg and 3619 Pittsburg, are located along Poor Farm Ditch. The properties have been for sale for $3.6 million.

Here is some background on the eight City Council candidates for the May 9 West University Place municipal election:

Burt Ballanfant

Ballanfant served as mayor of West U 2003 to 2007. Prior to that he served as Mayor Pro-Tem from 1999-2001. He also is a current member of the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. Ballanfant has been a vocal proponent of the acquisition of additional parkland, specifically the Ownby tract.

Here is his statement from 5/30/2014:  Statement From Former Mayor Burt Ballanfant on Future Parkland Acquisition.

Bruce Beneke

Beneke is a member of the city’s Building and Standards Commission. Beneke was one of the first “graduates” of the West U Citizens’ Academy last year.

“I simply want to give back to the community. And I have had several people encourage me to do this,” Beneke said. “I am very interested in West U and its future.”

Beneke is a member and deacon at West University Baptist Church. “I really hope the whole issue is resolved” before the new council takes office, Beneke said.

Sonny Brandtner

Brandtner ran for city council, unsuccessfully, in 2013. A former member of the Friends of West U Parks Board of Directors, Brandtner is a vice president at Robert Half International. He is a CPA.

Brandtner said council candidates “need to talk more about some of the important issues, like our school, and traffic density.”

“We need to get past the issue that people are talking about right now, which is the land swap between the city of West University Place and West University Baptist Church,” Brandtner said.

A more important issue could be a proposal by the Houston Independent School District to limit enrollment at West U Elementary School, Brandtner said.

“We may have to go head to head against HISD,” Brandtner said.

Bob Kelly

Kelly, who served as mayor from 2007 to 2011, is an attorney who has lived in West U for about 38 years.

He has been an outspoken opponent of the West University Baptist Church’s proposed construction of a new youth center and opposes the relocation of West U’s Public Works Maintenance Facility outside the city limits.

Prior to his service as mayor, Kelly served as Mayor Pro Tem.

He also was a member of the Charter Review Committee, the Parks and Recreation Board,  and a past President of the West U Elementary School PTA (now PTO).

Brennan Reilly

Reilly is an attorney who specializes in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

He is a vocal opponent of West University Baptist Church’s proposed construction of a new youth center and opposes the relocation of West U’s Public Works Maintenance Facility outside the city limits.

Reilly has spoken against the construction of the new youth facility at several city council meetings, as well as hearings before the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Steven Segal

Segal, who is now retired, is a CPA and attorney who was a partner in Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, now Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.

He served on the council from 2003 through 2007, and again from 2009 to 2011. He ran unsuccessfully in 2011 for mayor against current West U Mayor Bob Fry.

“I am running because I believe I can have a positive influence on the next council,” Segal said. Segal said he is returning to a political strategy he used in his previous council campaigns.“I will not accept contributions, and I will not spend more than $500,” Segal said. “I won’t have any yard signs.”

Philip J. Snyder

Snyder is a current member of the city’s Zoning and Planning Commission.

Snyder said he actually enjoyed working on the ZPC’s year-long effort to draft a new zoning ordinance for commercial properties in West U.

“I found that to be refreshingly different,” Snyder said. He took on the volunteer position after retiring last year after 38 years with Shell Oil Co.

Snyder holds a law degree from South Texas College of Law and a masters’ degree in Public Health, specializing in occupational and environmental health, from the University of Michigan.

Snyder has been a resident of West U since 1998. He and his wife are members of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.

Mardi Turner

Turner is a West U resident who served on the Parks and Recreation Board for six years.

Prior to that, Turner served on the Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Board and is a proponent for recycling our yard waste instead of dumping the green waste in the landfill. Turner is also a proponent of purchasing the Ownby tract for additional parkland.

Friday was the last day for candidates to file in the May 9 municipal election.

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Susan Sample To Be Next West U Mayor Without Opposition http://www.instantnewswestu.com/susan-sample-to-be-next-west-u-mayor-without-opposition/ Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:15:02 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=49437 Mayor Pro-Tem Susan Sample will be running unopposed in her bid to become mayor of West U. Sample, an attorney, has served two terms on the city council. She is a native Houstonian and has been a West U resident since 2005.

A product of HISD schools, Sample received her bachelor’s degree from Rice University and obtained a law degree and a master’s in accounting from University of Texas at Austin.

Prior to being elected to city council, Sample served on the board of directors of Friends of West U Parks. She currently serves on the boards of SPARK Park as treasurer, Career and Recovery Resources, a United Way Agency, and Crisis Intervention of Houston as the Junior League of Houston outside board representative. Sample is married to Michael Larsson, who actively serves as a member of West U Rotary.

Rice men’s basketball rocks School House Mania with win http://www.instantnewswestu.com/rice-mens-basketball-rocks-school-house-mania-with-win/ Thu, 18 Dec 2014 22:14:00 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?guid=74606aff22b4dc6be53e423aa7fa7355 Rice University men’s basketball put together a team effort in its returns from final exams for a 72-61 victory over St. Thomas on Thursday at Tudor Fieldhouse. A raucous crowd of 4,502 packed the are