Some Council Members Question Pursuing ‘Scenic City Certification’
The City of West U is applying for “Scenic City Certification” despite questions from some city council members about whether or not West U is “scenic.”
Council met during a special workshop on Monday night to discuss applying to become a “Scenic City.” City Manager Michael Ross told the council that the item is “low hanging fruit” and staff would normally go ahead and apply for it without bringing it to council. Mayor Pro Tem Susan Sample suggested the idea to the city and Ross said he wanted her to get credit for it.
The Scenic City Certification Program is a project of Scenic Texas, which supports and recognizes municipalities that implement high-quality scenic standards for public roadways and public spaces. In addition to a $500 application fee, cities must have a strictly regulated and enforced sign code, a ban on new billboards and a landscaping and tree planting program. Cities are also scored on park and open space, implementation of multi-use trails and recreation areas, strong litter enforcement laws, street lighting standards, parking lot landscaping, utility line management and a budget that supports these programs and their maintenance, amongst other things.
Houston-area cities that have been named “Scenic Cities” include Missouri City, Sugar Land and Pearland.
The item spurred opposition from Councilman Dick Yehle who said he felt West U didn’t meet some of the standards to apply.
“I’m looking for a reason we want to do it,” he said Monday night. “I feel that we fall short of their standards.”
Yehle cited some examples including sidewalks that are 4 feet, not the required 5 feet, and thinks the city is short of the required parkland. He also said the certification seemed to favor commercial areas and tourism, things that are not happening in West U.
“I just don’t see the value in it,” Yehle said.
Sample told Yehle that she knows he doesn’t think West U is “scenic” but “it’s relative,” she said.
“I personally believe this certification could be a wonderful recognition of what we already do on the appearance of our public spaces and the measures we as a city do to maintain these standards,” she said.
Sample said West U has nice treescapes, boulevards, a quaint Town Center and West University Elementary School.
“We’re not a tourist destination but we’re a primary place of residence for people who work in the Houston area and to me we’re one of the nicest incorporated cities in the region,” she said. “I think that makes us scenic.”
West U has achieved other recognitions including being named as a Tree City USA, a Top Houston Workplace and the city was recognized for financial transparency by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts’ Economic Development and Analysis Division, amongst others.
Sample said if the “Scenic City” designation was voted down, she would like to see the other city designations brought back for review.
Councilwoman Joan Johnson said she was “on the fence” and had concerns about whether or not the city’s application would pass. She said the over-head power lines throughout the city do not make it look “scenic.”
Ross said other cities that have been named “Scenic Cities” have the same “handicap.” His staff wouldn’t apply for the designation if they didn’t think they could get it, he said.
“For $500 I think it’s worth doing,” Mayor Bob Fry said. “If we don’t get it, so what.”
Fry said either way it would show the city where they have room to improve.