Monday, February 27, 2012

Councilman Bob Hoskins - Unified Land Development Code

Good Evening Bert, I hope this has been a great weekend for you and your family. My wife and I recently enjoyed visiting with our Daughter who is attending UT at Austin and then we ran over to San Antonio to visit with our Son and his family. So its been a busy week for us.

Unified Land Development Code

I wanted to send you some thoughts on the Unified Land Development Code that the Baytown City Council passed this past Thursday. The Council voted to approve the ordinance that will repeal the Chapter 130 "Zoning" of the Baytown Code of Ordinances and adopted the new Zoning Regulations to be included in the Unified Land Development Code (ULDC). This has been in the works for over two years by a comprehensive committee of Citizens and Community leaders. They had an overwhelming task put before them and the outcome with this ULDC will set a higher standard for the profile and aesthetics of our City. Not only does this ULDC address future buildings (commercial and/or residential) but it also designates what will be built in and around our neighborhoods.

I encourage all Citizens to go to the City of Baytown web site and read through the ULDC so everyone will know what has changed. The document is somewhat long but has many categories of reference for Citizens, builders and commercial/industry. This I feel will contribute overwhelmingly to improving our City. When I ran for City Council, there were a number of people that informed me that they wanted the City of Baytown to improve the way the City looks and this ULDC is a step in the right direction. It has built in protection for the Citizens and their homes by including buffer zones in areas where there is a close balance with commercial and residential. It also lays out certain rules that everyone will have to play by and will not play favoritism to some and ignore others. Everyone will be on the same playing field in future development in the City.

I commend the Planning & Zoning Committee for their work. This is one of those items that will start paying dividends in the future and will make our community look great.

City of Baytown Recycle Program

In recent City events, portions of District 5 had the opportunity to be the test cell for the City of Baytown Recycle Program. The goal of the program is to decrease the many tons of garbage that is going to our landfill. One way to curb that is to start a recycling program. This has been widely successfull and especially in District 5. In some areas, the City has provided residents with a 96 gallon container for our recycle material. My family and I have been utilizing the program and have found that we certainly have more recycle material than garbage. This was very surprising. When we only had the blue containers, we were limited with how much we could recycle. Now with this large container we have more than enough capacity for a weeks worth of recycle materials. The City also determined that with this recycle program, there no longer is a need for twice a week garbage pick up. I tend to agree. Our home seldom has a full garbage can for garbage pick up and that is in a 30 gallon container.

The important issue is the fact that there is less tons of garbage that is going to our landfill. That makes the program very rewarding and is better for the environment. I have heard from several people both pro and con to the program. But most of the issues are pro - for the program and once a week garbage pick up. There were some strong cons to the program such as the health conditions caused by leaving garbage in a container for 6.5 days. I recenly had my Son and his family visit during Thanksgiving and when I had to take a soiled diaper out to the garbage can, I realized what some of the Citizens concerns were and why they want to maintain the twice a week garbage pick up. Therefore I am still on the fence with this issue.

As you send out information to your "Baytown Bert" readers, I certainly would be interested to hear from them and how they feel about the recycle program and the once a week garbage pick up. Thank you, Councilman Robert C. Hoskins

Baytown Embraces Masonry Construction Trend

Texas Masonry Council: Baytown Embraces Masonry Construction Trend; New Requirements Aim to Boost Long-Term Value

The Baytown, TX City Council has approved this Houston-area city’s first-ever masonry requirements, as part of a strategy to enhance the refinery town’s tax base, image, and quality of life. Baytown joins a growing list of more than 150 Texas cities that have incorporated exterior masonry construction requirements into community planning, according to the Texas Masonry Council. 


Baytown, TX (PRWEB) February 27, 2012
The Baytown, TX City Council has approved this Houston-area city’s first-ever masonry requirements, as part of a strategy to enhance the refinery town’s tax base, image, and quality of life, notes the Texas Masonry Council, which advocates masonry planning as a strategy for sustainable development.

The masonry requirements for both new commercial and residential construction are included in the city’s new Unified Land Development Code (ULDC), which the City Council approved on Feb. 23, 2012, culminating a three-year review process.

In adopting the ULDC, Baytown, pop. 72,000, joins a growing list of more than 150 Texas cities that have incorporated exterior masonry construction requirements into community planning, according to the Texas Masonry Council.

The City Council appointed a six-member ULDC Citizen Task Force to prepare and recommend a unified land development code. The Task Force first met January 15, 2009 and has held over 70 public meetings to date. The city’s Planning & Zoning Commission also has held more than 25 meetings on the ULDC.

Under the adopted ULDC, new construction in Baytown will be required to have the following percentages of masonry materials on exterior walls:
  •     Non-residential – up to 80 percent on the front and up to 70 percent on sides, with trade offs for increases in landscaping for a lower percentage of masonry;
  •     Single-family Residential – minimum 60 percent;
  •     Multi-family Residential – 60 percent of first floor walls, 30 percent of all walls above.
Baytown is best known as a center of petroleum refining. It is home to three major refineries, including one of the biggest in the world, owned by Exxon Mobil. The refinery operations support hundreds of spin-offs and smaller businesses in Baytown. There is also a growing health care industry and retail/restaurant sector in Baytown.

For much of its history, Baytown offered a diverse mix of housing for a broad demographic range of residents. In recent decades, however, the newer planned communities of Kingwood and Friendswood, both funded in part by major oil companies, attracted many folks who might otherwise have settled in Baytown. As a result, the quality of the housing mix in Baytown has declined, according to several studies.
The city began revising its land use regulations as part of its strategy to: level the playing field for developers; restore diversity and quality to the housing stock, and grow the tax base, said Kelly Carpenter, Baytown’s director of Planning and Development Services.

“One of the charges of the ULDC process,” Carpenter said, ”was to find ways to have higher standards for development in order to improve the quality of life and grow the tax base. We felt masonry requirements would help achieve those goals.”

A University of Michigan study of masonry ordinances in four Illinois towns concluded that such ordinances result in: 1) higher overall property values; 2) growth in the tax base, lessening the tax burden on residents; 3) continued population and housing growth, and 4) no significant impact on affordability for either renters or buyers of housing.

Research also has shown that masonry (brick, stone, concrete block) provides greater protection against fire, and windstorms, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, than non-masonry siding products.
Rudy Garza, executive vice president of the Texas Masonry Council, said, “Texas has a rich history of building with long-lasting masonry products. Masonry is part of the Texas heritage, and by embracing masonry planning, local officials and civic leaders, such as those in Baytown, are helping to build a strong legacy for their communities.“

The Texas Masonry Council represents the masonry manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors in Texas. The TMC assists communities seeking to enhance their appearance and long-term sustainability by incorporating masonry planning into their development plans. Visit

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Baytown, Texas Gator Ride Is A BP MS 150 Recommended Ride!

The 23rd year of the Baytown Family YMCA Gator Ride has changed for the better! The Gator Ride is scheduled for Saturday, March 3, 2012.

Our ride site is located across the street from Bicentennial Park located at 119 Lee Drive. We have the 62 and 43 mile rides that go over the Fred Hartman Bridge, and the 51 and 33 mile rides which do not go over the bridge. We also have the Lisa Guy Memorial Family Ride for all ages which is 6.2 miles.  Please click on the tabs above and receive more information plus pictures from last year's ride.

7:30 am - 62 mile ride starts
8:00 am - 51 and 33 mile rides start
8:30 am - 43 mile ride starts
9:00 am - 6.2 mile Lisa Guy Memorial Ride starts

After your ride, stay and enjoy activities at the Start/Finish line.
The Start/Finish Line is across from Bicentennial Park located at 119 Lee Drive, Baytown, TX 77520.

Download the registration form for the 2012 Gator Ride!
Questions? Call 281-427-1797
Gator Ride
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Benefiting the Baytown Family YMCA

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dying Trees Felled In WL Jenkins Park!

Big trees are down all along the Jenkins Park gravel well-traveled trail which connects WL Jenkins Park with JC Hollaway Park.  They were dead due to the drought and marked in the same hot pink color which for the last few years has brought folks together to fight breast cancer.  In the case of the trees, the bright color meant just the opposite.  Doomed to the earth.  I love this park and hate to see it defoliated.

They lay everywhere like fallen sentinels and the skyline and buildings outside the park - which were recently hidden from view, are now obscenely exposed.  At least that is the way I view it and I am sure others who daily use this refuge from concrete and asphalt are equally dismayed.
I understand only the trees, which could fall across the path, were aggressively chain-sawed down.  I know it and understand the reasons behind it and I applaud the Parks Department for being proactive.  We have very good parks and Scott Johnson should be applauded for keeping them up.  You can't go too one of our parks without seeing city workers doing maintenance.

Two weeks ago I wanted to follow the chain-saw gang around, but didn't want to pass the "Keep Out!  Men at Work!" barricades.  They were felling trees and with each crashing sound, I envisioned an Ent soul ascending toward the heavens.  Maybe Fangorn was in there somewhere - who will ever know?   I had to wait until today to see the damage, as I worked a long string of 12-hour days at the Plant where I live most of the time.

As of today, the plan is:  "Those that can be moved easily near the trail will be removed.  Those deep in the woods will be left in place to let nature do its thing."  Personally, I would like to see some seedlings going in as soon as possible, but there is no plan at this time to replace the fallen majestic pines of Jenkins Park..

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Michael Sievers Refinishing Guitars in Baytown, Texas!

My son in law is quite the guitarist and he decided to refinish 3 of his electric guitars.  I thought I would watch and learn.  His name is Michael Sievers and his email address is:  Msievers09 AT  Substitute the AT with an @ and that's it.
Michael Sievers refinishing 3 guitars in Baytown, Texas.

I am always amazed when I can see what some people can do.  I pretty much repair computers and shun manual labor as much as possible.  The white one hanging in the background is a Fender Stratocaster.
All sanded down and ready for the next step!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Troy Houston - Chris Robinson - Where Are You Now?

My Bride received this one dollar bill in change and I wonder what the story is on it?
Troy Houston - Chris Robinson - Where Are You Now?

Uptown Dining for Valentines Day - The Red Fox!

I am a fan on Facebook of the Red Fox and friends with the owner, Linda Stewart, so when I received an online notification that her restaurant - The Red Fox on Texas Avenue was sending out reservation invites for a romantic dinner on Valentines Day, I jumped at the chance to do something, well... right.

I'm a romantic at heart, but somewhere out there, I just have trouble implementing my feelings.  All week long I kept telling myself I would stop and buy a card on my way home from work and since I was working six-12's, I kept putting it off, thinking I would do it the next day.

My bride and I have been married non-stop going on 35 years and she still sends me - to work real often and I love her more than I probably realize, so I want her to know this, but alas, the card slipped out of my mind and I clean forgot about it until I awoke Valentines Day and there in front of the coffee pot is her card and a box of chocolates for me (that's a long sentence but it's 3am).  I stood there in my Nomex® uniform, the doggies jumping up and down at my feet, in utter horror.  "Drat!"  I exclaimed and my Papillon doggie began to growl, thinking I said "cat".  My ShihTzu looked at me with knowing eyes - yes, I had messed up royally - again.

I poured me a cup of delicious French Market chicory coffee which was as black as my current mood and looking to the heavens, I thanked the man upstairs for saving me - and The Red Fox!  She will forgive me for my blunder because of my awesomely romantic pre-planning I somehow had pulled off.   Grinning like a used car salesman, I sauntered back to the Orbiting Command Ship Central, known by my friends as the OCSC and my computer room, and I deftly grabbed a sheet of printer paper and wrote her a note as I sipped the hot black morning tonic. 

"Yea.  That may just do it."   I said and standing up, I stepped on a squeaky toy, causing my jumpy Papillon to growl and look out the window for the kitty cat she was sure was there.

About 8:30am I called my bride and we exchanged endearing words and she assured me I was in the clear, the restaurant holding me "up there" with guys like Brad Pitt and George Clooney, or Andy Rooney, I can't seem to remember which is which.

Our reservation was for 5:30pm and this gave me just enough time to come in, shower, spray some masculine pheromone-laced foo-foo on, don the clothes my bride had meticulously put together from my extensive collection of "Sunday go to meeting" clothes and sit and wait.  I looked pretty snazzy and she looked gorgeous, as always. 
We arrived fashionable early and took our seat to the back and right off the bat we met up with our friends Elizabeth Caldwell and Gary Erwin and had a nice chat.  Elizabeth let us in on The Red Fox's biggest secret and her favorite place in the whole world - the back patio!  I know its her favorite place because she said it was four times.
Elizabeth Caldwell in her favorite place.
The Red Fox reservations offered each patron a choice of predetermined meal selections for this meal and we chose Menu one, which consisted of lobster crab cakes, a wonderful salad with blue cheese, filet mignon & scallops, fresh green beans, and finger potatoes.  Desert was a fantastic Crème Brulee!  We had a choice of wine, which we substituted sweet tea instead.  I heard Martin Cooper was to be there, but as we left, I scanned the crowd and might have missed him.
The Red Fox was playing Etta James-type jazz and then live music with wonderful vocals by a lady who sounded like she could win American Idol, The Voice, and The View possibly - once again I get them mixed up.  From my vantage point, I couldn't see who exactly was singing and I do not know her name, but she was wonderful and her song selection simply added to our experience.  I took her photo and she emailed me.  Her name is Alektra.
At one point, Linda Stewart let me slip back into the kitchen to meet Chef Leslie and it was organized pandemonium, as all kitchens are in the middle of feeding 100 plus people, waitstaff hurrying to and fro, and Chef Leslie was caught chopping something up with a ceramic knife - like a food ninja, so I took my quick photo (with Elizabeth Caldwell watching the chef) and got out of dodge - or dodged - I can't remember.
Chef Leslie  preparing our food.
Leaving the restaurant, "full as a tick" as my old Air Force Louisiana buddy Mark LaCroix was fond of saying, we both marveled at how amazing Texas Avenue in old Goose Creek is looking.  It's beautiful in fact and something I would not have said ten years ago.

As we headed west in the direction of the old Sears store (toward the college), we noticed Dauber's Gallery of Heroes was still open and dropped in to see Ken "The Dauber" Pridgeon.  My Bride and I met Arlington native, Jerry Smith and his Baytonian brother.  Jerry lost his heavily decorated Marine Corps son in Afghanistan 10 months ago on his 4th tour and Ken and him met after Ken was asked by Jerry's ex-wife to immortalize the Staff Sergeant for Ken's Gallery of Heroes.  I told Jerry he now belonged to the Club no one wants to join and thanked him for his wonderful son's service.  Unfortunately my wife and I also belong to this club.
Jerry Smith & Ken Pridgeon
Ken Pridgeon has a giant vision to help guys like my son and announced the Brunson Theater may become part of his vision to help war veterans.  Texas Avenue is not the rundown slum it was when they shot parts of Robocop here years ago and The Red Fox, The Baytown Art League, and Linda Stewart's - The Red Fox are proof in the most positive way.

Gee whiz.  I wonder where I can take my Bride next year for Valentines Day?

The Red Fox is located at 214 W. Texas Avenue, Baytown, Texas 77520  281-838-8408

Ken Pridgeon "the Dauber" is located at Portrait of a Warrior Memorial Art Gallery 308 West Texas Avenue, Baytown, Texas 77520  832-514-1452
Ken Pridgeon's Facebook

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Day Trip to Brazos Bend State Park

I don't even know where to begin. My Bride and I have decided we are going to start spending a lot more time together doing things we should have never stopped doing. Make sense? This does not include watching American idol while holding hands and singing kum-by-uh, or whatever that song was called.

I have a Jeep, kayak, and mountain bikes. We have a 9X17 foot tent and camp stove. I have 3 GPSr units. Heckfire, we can go and see and do. All we have to do…is do. This past Thursday, I took my newly acquired $70 Texas Park pass to Brazos Bend State Park with my bride and a protein-lovers picnic lunch and rode the trails. Well, we tried to ride the trails. More on that in a minute.
I loaded the geocaches in the park into my Garmin Oregon 450 and with my Bride's blessing, found 16 and all 16 were off the trail in the woods. To put it bluntly, I earned each one of them. She even came with me a few times and made the profound observation of: "I just don't see the fascination." I answered with, "Hey! There's another one 489 feet that way!"
You can tell by the photographs that I enjoyed each and every cache I found. The last 5 years I've been going to this park it's been so dry, it looked almost like the park was dying, but not this past Thursday. the trails I've hiked on foot were muddy and we rode, or tried to ride up the Big Creek Loop Trail only to have the brake calipers get clogged with mud, small rocks, and leaves.

We had to stop many times while I cleaned them off enough to ride. It was cloudy and a bit rainy, but we wouldn't let this stop us from enjoying the day. We saw many alligators and coots, egrets, herons, and some whistling ducks, but nothing like what will be in the park in 2 months. Brazos Bend State Park has more wildlife in it than you will see the rest of the year any place else.

We chatted with a retired school teacher from Canada then ate cheese, apples, and peanuts to refresh ourselves. Then my bride led me on a 3 mile hike on the White Oak Trail! I grabbed as many geocaches along the way as was acceptable to her. Noting her patience was nearing an end; I finally gave in and just hiked.  What a great start for the years adventures. We have a 3 day camping reservation in April for Pedernales Falls State park, one of my favorite parks and I am anticipating a great time there as well.

See more of the PARK HERE! 

The real poop on the Ukraine

Mitt Romney’s top adviser, Joseph Cofer Black, joined the board of the Ukraine energy firm, Burisma, while Hunter Biden was also serving on ...