“Progress: Essential for Bellevue’s future.” By Grant Saylor

“Too much action with too little intent makes for wasteful exertion of energy and the confusion between movement and progress.”
― Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free
Since I can’t respond directly to the blog in the Citizen regarding the bump outs, “Fumble Recovery” (published 7.19.2014), I would like to address the “bump out” issue in a venue that allows two way communication and discussion.  Unfortunately the aforementioned blog is a one way communication with no room for debate.  As a lifelong Bellevue resident and taxpayer I find it difficult to digest that there has been so much controversy around this issue.  I make it a point to get to as many council meetings as I am able to get to so that I can keep abreast of what is going on in my town.  For quite some time there has been discussion back and forth about whether or not we should have bump outs in our streetscape design.   Some on council stated that they did extensive research and that communities that have them did not like them.  In my business, I travel quite a bit and have seen many communities with very well manicured bump outs that tell a great tale of the pride that the community has in it’s downtown business district.  Have you been to any small towns like that?
 
I would challenge each and every one of you to take a quick read through this article in the Post Gazette.  There are quite a few truths to this article.  I have a few thoughts I will list below.
  • I do feel that the borough needs to do a better job of communicating to the business owners the scope of the project so that stores can anticipate any disruptions that may occur.  The construction does present some opportunities with traffic and access to some businesses.  These changes are temporary but should be communicated in advance.
  • Has the borough posted any type of communication (other than negative articles in the local paper) about the benefits of the storm water management and how we are on the forefront of what is happening state wide and around the country?  If so I haven’t seen it.
  • The borough needs to provide you, the members of the community, a vision of the final state of Lincoln Avenue.  There should be a drawing posted at many places throughout the community to show where we are going.  This, unfortunately was done and ready to go last year before the whole “bump out gate” started to unfold.  Wouldn’t you feel better about the project if you saw what the end vision was?
  • In the article it stated that “This has killed our business”.  Seriously?  It is a temporary inconvenience for a brand new sidewalk and new landscaping in front of the business at no cost to the business.  I would encourage the business owners to look at the positive and think about how improving the look and feel of downtown Bellevue will impact your business down the road.
  • I have heard many comments recently about the fact that the new bump outs are nothing but garbage collectors.  Guess what?  Bump-outs or no bump outs we need to start policing ourselves and taking some pride in our community.  I personally have watched people walk right past a trash can and throw litter right in the street!  Come on people – either way there is going to be litter if we, as a community don’t set an example and start citing some people for littering.  We have an ordinance against littering right?  Lets enforce it.
  • Safety – It is common sense folks.  If the distance that a pedestrian has to cross the street is less and the visibility to a motorist is higher the result is a safer experience for the pedestrian. 
  • Take a look a the pictures below.  There were taken by me at the North Boros 5k this past weekend.  It was quite a rainy day.  The street sewer was completely backed up and very little water was passing through it.  The new storm water drainage was flowing quite well.  Plus which would you rather look at?  As I did in last months council meeting I challenge any of you to walk to the corner of  North Jackson Avenue and look up the street towards Kuhns and then turn around and look down Lincoln Avenue towards the center of town and ask yourself…what would you rather see in your community?

IMG_0572IMG_0573

  • Parking, Parking, Parking…I have had many people tell me about how much parking we lost due to the bump outs.  I did a brief search and was unable to find out how many parking spaces are available in Bellevue but with the 3 municipal lots that I am aware of there never seems to be a difficulty finding a parking spot with a much shorter walk that trekking through the parking lot at any of our neighboring malls or super stores.  Can the borough tell us exactly how many parking spots were or will be lost?  There has to be a specific number.  Is it as high as the propaganda that everyone is buying?  Lets see.  Can the borough publish a detailed list of what spaces will be or have been lost?
  • Upset that you can’t pass that bus that is dropping people off?  Guess what folks – that is illegal as well as unsafe.  

Ok – I’ll stop my rant there.  I would love to see some open dialogue around this topic.  What do you want to see in Bellevue?  I have personally spoken to many young people in the last few weeks who have moved into Bellevue because of it’s great location.  Isn’t that what we want?  Do you think that if we had a more attractive central business district we could attract more businesses and generate more tax revenue for the community?  Wouldn’t that ultimately help with some of the other issues facing small towns across the region? 
 
We need to all put the claws away and come to the table and create the vision of what Bellevue can be.   We are making tremendous strides forward and need to keep the momentum going.  Have you considered coming to a Council meeting and telling the Council how you feel?  Have you looked into serving on a committee in Bellevue?  Come and use the opportunity to voice your opinion in a way that is constructive and able to be discussed.
Please don’t just sit on the sidelines and complain based on one way communication that you may read or the temporary inconvenience you may experience during this transformation.   Look forward to what our little “hidden gem” can be with a little progress.
Advertisements

18 Responses to ““Progress: Essential for Bellevue’s future.” By Grant Saylor”

  1. I think that Bellevue should start enforcing the littering laws. If you look in those bump outs there are cigarette butts and trash piling up. Also, the port authority bus drivers are stopping to let one bus at a time pass through the bump out. Is it because the bump outs do not fit 2 buses at the same time or are they being extra careful? Before more are installed perhaps that should be explored.

    • Hi Beth,
      From what I’ve seen, the bump outs are not much deeper than the average parking spot, so it’s no different than having a full street of parked cars. Perhaps the buses are just being cautious. After all is said and done, one of the goals of the bump outs is to slow traffic down so that the town is even more of a “walking community”. If a bus or two has to slow down a bit to let another pass, that is ok in my book.

    • Great feedback Beth. As you can clearly see the litter problem is not a function of the bumpouts. It is a function of people not taking the 3 extra steps to put their trash in a trash can. The difference now is that it isn’t being washed down the street sewer only to have to be cleaned out later. It washes down the street and is filtered out by the river rock before it gets into the storm water drain. We need to start fining peoe for littering and use theory collected to add new and more trash receptacles on the street.

      As for the busses, I do not know the answer to whether or not two could fit but I do know that there are min width standards for the lanes and I would assume that they are in compliance.

  2. I think that the thought behind the bump outs was well placed but I do not think that the execution of their construction is matching the initial design. They seem half filled and uncompleted (the ones that are completed that is). I understand the dip in the rocks for water run off, but the mulch and plants look like they were an after thought. It also looks like they are planting tress beneath the power lines. I say all of this knowing that they are all easily fixed, it comes down to it being followed through.

    • Joe I do know that the original design was changed many times. As for the plants and trees I can’t even get a tomato plant to grow right so I’ll leave that to the experts.

  3. Let us hope the Boro follows through in coming years to keep the plants alive, trim the trees, and dispose of debris in the bump outs. Our current trees in the business district, especially the ones overgrown and blocking the crosswalk signs, were finally trimmed back after several phone calls to the Boro. Maintenance will be an added cost. Bellevue is stretched financially; perhaps we can recruit volunteers to keep Bellevue beautiful! We all have to do our part (bend over and pick up that piece of trash), it is good for the figure!

    Our neighbors in Brighton Heights’ business district (California Ave.) have brightened their area at minimal cost with new attractive lighting fixtures and hanging baskets of flowers, which can be changed seasonally.

    • Great feedback. I think that if people start taking some pride in the way the community looks and we can get people to stop littering it will be beautiful. One thought I had was to have businesses “adopt a block” similar to the highway program. We could have some type of signage noting who or what business was keeping the block clean.
      I believe that there is new lighting in the plan that would allow for baskets like you are referring to. Great start!

  4. As a member of council and someone who has been intimately involved and a proponent of our streetscape, let me answer some questions that have been posed:
    1. The size of the bumpout is actually smaller than a parking space on Lincoln Ave.
    2. We have lost two parking spaces, however one of them was illegal, so in reality we have
    lost one parking space.
    3. The landscaping was chosen by professional landscape architects who have done
    streetscape in many towns. They selected plants that are low maintenance. We also have
    one year of free maintenance with the contractor
    4. The trees selected where chosen by Treevitalize. They chose trees that are
    flowering,would not get much bigger than they are now and need little pruning. As for
    them hitting the “wires,” because we have SO many wires (Which is a problem that we are
    addressing) it is almost impossible not to get close to them. When I talked with them, they
    said electrical wires are the concern and those are the very top wires in our wire
    food chain. The ones you see the trees nearest to cable wires and will not be a problem.
    5. Trash and cigarette butts are an issue not only in the bumpouts, but on the entire Lincoln
    Avenue. I have advocated for years we need to enforce the littering law-even for one
    month, and if people can’t pay the fine they should pick up trash and butts…if they did that
    one time, they would never throw another butt down. It is disgusting to pick up-
    Unfortunately, I have not had much support to enforce this. So I would ask citizens get
    active and start asking people not pick up their butts and trash if you see them throwing it
    down, ask your police, Mayor and local officials to do something to enforce the law. Why is
    it you don’t see trash and cigarette butts in other towns? Because people know it won’t be
    tolerated and there will be consequences. We need to show people we are serious and
    take pride in our community and not tolerate this behavior.
    6. Communication has been a problem in this first phase. There was
    suppose to be written communication to all the businesses. However, the ball was
    dropped. It will definitely not happen moving forward.
    7. I agree with Grant. We need a visual so people can see the vision, Also people need to
    get involved. It’s easy to be an arm chair quarterback. We are looking for members of a
    Streetscape committee to work with our engineers and architects. We have a Community
    Development Corporation ( Bellevue Initiative for Growth-BIGr) that has several other\
    committees. Please check them out and donate some time. A few people can’t do
    everything.

    Bellevue is posed for great things and we want to work together to continue the positive momentum. As Ghandi said-Be the change you want to see in the world.
    Please contact me if you have any more questions or would like more information on how you can participate in Bellevue’s revitalization.

  5. More bumpouts will result in the loss of even more parking. Yes, it makes it more “walkable”, but as a resident with a job and a car, I don’t walk. I drive, like most people. If I can’t drive relatively near a business, and then go to that business, I won’t go there. There are municipal lots, 3 of them. All three are within the same quarter-mile stretch, leaving another half-mile with no parking.

    Unless Bellevue wants to spend even more money (where it’s coming from, I have no idea) to build more municipal lots, then this streetscape/walkability program is a horrible idea. Maybe we should consider real change, like lifting the archaic ban on alcohol sales, to make money.

    Protip – The police aren’t going to control littering. We have a busy police department here. If we want the police to be more receptive towards controlling litter, maybe we should stop buying them speed-control devices (so they can actually police, and not just do traffic stops all day), and maybe insist that these addiction programs not do business here (BIG crime cause). We also need to weed out the holding pens for the mentally deficient (another BIG crime cause), and insist that our police don’t do things like shoot people in the face with Tazers (2009), or beat up handcuffed skateboarders (2014).

  6. IMHO the bump outs are just an example of putting lipstick on a pig and a terrible waste of resources. Take care of infrastructure and neighborhoods first. Start by paving Orchard Avenue. It is terribly bumpy and uneven and there is a permanent glacier people have to deal with at Orchard and Sprague every winter. Orchard Avenue is the main access to the north end of Bellevue from Interstate 279 and is the first memorable thing people encounter when entering the boro. Means has been paved. North has been paved. Some of the streets going down to 65 are even more pathetic. Years ago the sidewalks were all marked that needed repairs and nothing was ever done. Repair the sidewalks! And cite property owners that do not cut grass and remove weeds. After more than five years the pig sty of a personal residence next to my house has been cleaned up. And no more trash on the curb except the NIGHT BEFORE trash pickup. And ban smoking on Lincoln Avenue from Balph to Starr Avenues. No smoking, less litter. Less litter, less temptation to litter.

    • Bill – I also live on Orchard and for 20 years I have considered the paving issue. Frankly, after much thought, I don’t want it. Paving Orchard will significantly increase maintenance costs on a virtually maintenance free (aside from snow plowing) street, substantially increase traffic because it will be a smooth bypass and encourage more speeding than already occurs. Keep it bumpy and uneven. Fix the water issue at the intersection which is actually caused by runoff from a scumbag business property located in Alley C. I also have a pig living next to me so I built a privacy wall to block the idiot from view. We have a grill ordinance, but nothing regarding basic maintenance and appearance. As for banning smoking in public, well, that just ain’t gonna happen, unfortunately.

      • Bellevue has the International Building Maintenance Code which was enacted in the 1990s. If you live next to blight, I recommend you call the Bellevue code enforcement department. There are a couple of bills in our state legislature to put more teeth into the borough’s ability to fight blight. I recommend you write your legislator to voice your support for this type of legislation. For your reference they are PA HB 2302 and HB 2120. I don’t know if they are the answer but with input our legislators can enact the needed legislation. Our code enforcement officer does cite negligent property owners only to have problems in the court system. We need to have well thought out legislation that assists municipalities with the enforcement of the maintenance codes.

  7. I am wondering how the bump outs will hold up in the winter? Will they become depositories for large snow banks since it is hard to in shovel rocks? That will kill the plants, damage the new trees and make them pointless for the purpose of increasing visibility of the pedestrians.

  8. I walked from Balph to Starr on Lincoln Avenue during Monday morning. My estimate is that at least 75 percent of the litter is cigarette butts. Pass an ordinance prohibiting smoking on Lincoln Avenue. It’s as simple as that. And that will also keep the anti recreational fire Nazis happy that there is less smoke circulating through the borough.

  9. As a resident of Queens and commuter, I became accustomed to city life. When I moved to Pittsburgh I had options and chose Bellevue because it reminded me of my neighborhood in NYC. Having lived here for a few years I have to admit I am getting to know its good and bad points. I still see a lot of potential. The bump outs are something cities need to do in the 21st century. The old way of handling water run off doesn’t work.

    A bigger concern to me is the fatalism I feel bleeding off residents when I talk to them. This sense that Bellevue is down and out and it isn’t coming back. I write it off as nostalgia for the good old days (which were, evidently 20-30 years ago?) and I cannot help but wonder if the younger folks (20 somethings) are a key to bringing Bellevue up a notch. Myself and my family enjoy being 10 minutes from dowtown

    That said, one thing I saw in every little burg in NYC that was like ours … The same basic stores in each main drag.

    1. CVS
    2. Duane Reade (Rite Aid clone)
    3. Hardware store
    4. Hallmark/gift store
    5. Banks
    6. Pet food/supply store
    7. Radio Shack
    8. Payless Shoestore
    9. Buy, Sell, trade store for DVDs etc
    10. Diners

    There are others, but the point I am making is that we have about half of those. I think that the reason the formulaic store layout kept popping up is because it just worked…like survival of the fittest. People need shoes, they want cheap entertainment, etc. AND not everyone wants to drive 5-10 miles to shop. Personally, I hate it. I’d shop in town any day of the week. And if I have to walk up Lincoln to hit a few stores, well let’s just say I put on 30 pounds living in a “drive everywhere” city and I need to walk once in a while.

    Does the plan include getting more practical businesses in town? Last thing we need is another pizza shop…how about Mexican, Indian, Sushi, or international cuisine (before you tell me no, that’s what young professionals eat…if you feed them, they will come).

    As for the smoking ordinance..,yes! Frankly this town looks like a pool hall. People with walkers, moms with babies, you name it and they are smoking. Is lighting up a prerequisite to living here? Did I miss the memo? Bottom line, it can (and does) make potential immigrants to Bellevue question whether this is the town they would live in and raise kids in. If we want to attract higher wage earners then we need to clean up our image.

    • Stephen,
      Your comment is a breath of fresh air! Thanks for taking the time to give your opinion. LiB has been trying to get the point across about attracting younger people to Bellevue for years. Boutiques, ethnic restaurants, and all the other components that make up great small towns cannot succeed without younger people to keep them afloat. And with Bellevue continuing to be a dry town, attracting (quality) businesses is a massive struggle on its own. The young people that live in town, that have a little extra money to spend on dinner out, entertainment, or other things like shopping are basically forced to drive somewhere else or move to a town more equipped for their desires.

      This battle has been going on for years. The resistance from leadership to really jump in and re-market the borough has been hashed out time and time again with nothing concrete to show. A lot of the young people that are/were here have either lost hope and have just made it a habit to drive to other parts of the city for their entertainment. Or they’ve simply voted with their feet and are now getting what they need in their newly chosen neighborhood.

      I’m still holding tight, waiting to see if a real change is on its way. With Pittsburghs growing restaurant/cocktail scene, Bellevue will be left even further behind if a simple step to make it a “wet” town doesn’t happen soon. It’s a small piece of the puzzle. Not the only thing that needs to be fixed, but getting us out of the 1930’s is a good start. I know quite a few BYOB places, but they are mostly among other restaurants with liquor licenses.

      Thanks for your input and great points. Very much appreciated!
      -Danina DiBattista

  10. @Linda Woshner,
    I know that it’s been a while since you left the comment about the International Property Maintenance Code. I’ve done some research about that particular code and have found that while it has good intentions (like most codes, ordinances, etc), it’s not going to actually SOLVE the problem. Solving the problem would look more like making the borough attractive to QUALITY businesses, young professionals, and progress…and blight would slowly dissipate. Fines, door notices, etc are great and all…but that’s only going to work if the property owner actually cares in the first place.

    I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face… Government CANNOT be the problem AND the solution. It just can’t.

    -Danina DiBattista

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: