Getting connected to Bellaire: Your Essential(s) guide to the best community websites
By Charlotte Aguilar
Bellaire has that quaint “small town in the big city” feel, but it’s indisputably a wired community in 2017.
Click on and bookmark these italicized links, which we’ve compiled to keep critical information at your fingertips.
It still has a way to go, but oh, how far, BellaireTX.gov has come in a few years. It’s the go-to site for everything about city government, calendars, solid waste pickup, public safety, parks and recreation — you name it. Not only are City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission agendas and minutes available, but you can watch an indexed video of the meetings. Click on an agenda item of interest, and you’ll be taken right to the discussion and action.
You can sign up for a series of “alerts” about crime, meetings, weather alerts and more, pay your water/trash bill or tickets online, register for recreation classes, and sign up for vacation patrols when you’re away from your home. There’s too much to list here, so you should take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with what you can do these days with a few clicks.
Mayor’s Blog on current city affairs
For a 21st century take on neighborliness, joining NextDoor.com is a must. Want to see if everyone’s mail service is as bad as yours? Ask here. Looking for someone to unclog your drains, custom bake Bellaire HS Cardinals cookies, or install a home theater? Post the request, and you’ll likely be inundated with suggestions of reliable local businesses. There’s also a way to search previous recommendations.
The Bellaire Police even tout NextDoor on their website, and the chief and his crew pop up from time to time to issue an alert, ask for public assistance, or explain a knotty public safety issue (like the ongoing nuisance of mass motorcycle cruising at night on the West Loop).
NextDoor is also a compelling forum for discussion of community issues, and it’s generally well monitored to assure some degree of civility. Anything to do with dogs brings out some of the — pardon the pun — most rabid discussion.
…and a few organizations to follow
Neighborhood Watch (with the Bellaire PD)
Houston ISD offers a number of information portals and online registration at HoustonISD.org. You can do everything from applying for the magnet school lottery (HoustonISD.org/schoolchoice) to following the progress (or lack thereof) of the bond projects (HoustonISD.org/bond for general information, and click here for specific information about Bellaire HS), to keeping yourself and your youngsters current on the Internet and social media (HoustonISD.org/cybersafety). The district now requires each school to maintain a current, engaging website, so bookmark yours.
Having the Houston Area TranStar site bookmarked (and the mobile version loaded to your phone) is a must if you regularly navigate the area’s freeways. You can learn about everything from accidents and other short-term issues to long-term construction schedules, road closures, suggested detours and high water. On Twitter, you can load accounts for individual freeways, such as Hwy. 290 and the West Loop, to provide specific information on your Twitter feed.
Our go-to site for hyperlocal Bellaire weather forecasts — hour-by-hour and up to 10 days out — is WeatherBug, which is available on your computer and on your mobile devices for free. With weather reporting stations at Condit ES and Challenge Early College HS on the HCC West Loop campus, you can pinpoint temperatures and conditions close to your neighborhood, plus it has radar, lightning strike info and other essential bells and whistles. We also recommend the TV stations (ABC-13, KHOU-11, Click2Houston) and Eric Berger’s Space City Weather — “hype-free” weather blogging by the former science writer for the Houston Chronicle. The Harris County Flood Warning System provides updated rainfall figures in neighborhoods throughout the area, with particular emphasis on bayou conditions (including nearby Brays Bayou). If you like your weather direct from the source, bookmark the National Weather Service Houston-Galveston website.
The Houston Association of Realtors lists single-family residences and townhouse for sale and rent and gives you a good idea of what’s available in Bellaire and prices.
Everything related to property tax is available at the Harris County Appraisal District website. You can track the value of a home or commercial property, find out valuable information about details of a home such as square footage, lot size and condition, compare prices, and see an annual breakdown of your property tax bill by jurisdiction (county, school, city of Bellaire, community college taxes and more). During the designated period each year, you may file a protest of your tax assessment online through the website, including uploading documents that you think proves your argument.
HarrisVotes.com, operated by the Harris County Clerk’s Office, is your go-to site for generic information about how to register, which precinct you’re in and voter I.D. requirements, plus specific information for each election, including polling places and sample ballots.
The League of Women Voters of the Houston Area provides educational materials and discussions of important races and issues.
OpenTable.com books reservations for a number of Bellaire restaurants, including Costa Brava, Saltillo Kitchen, Genesis Steakhouse and Enoteca Rossa.
You can get delivery of every type of cuisine (including fast food and desserts) from dozens of restaurants in Bellaire and nearby by signing up for GrubHub.com, DoorDash.com and Amazon Prime’s restaurant delivery service, accessible through your account.
Long ago, adults hijacked Facebook from teens, and you’ll find it’s a practical place to connect with Bellaire. The parks department, police, Patrons for Bellaire Parks, Nature Discovery Center, Little League, Evelyn’s Park and many restaurants and other businesses all maintain pages, and they are an easy way to find current information about events, holiday closings, personnel changes and more. Join and start “liking” those in your community to get their postings into your “timeline.”
We hope you’ll click on and “like” our InstantNewsBellaire Facebook page for starters.