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Mont Belvieu State of the City: Exciting future

October 15, 2020

Giving the State of the City for Mont Belvieu, City Manager Nathan Watkins said many exciting things are happening within the city, and there is more to come. 

Speaking at the West Chambers County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday, Watkins said 2020 started out shaky with the city having to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“During the pandemic, we quickly found out how essential the services the City of Mont Belvieu provides are. We saw an uptick across the board in every service we provide our citizens. We saw more water going to our wells and treated more sewers at our plants. We compared our busiest trash days and solid waste pickup, and the busiest time in the year is between Christmas and January. We were doing that every day during the first two months of the COVID-19.”

Watkins said one of the proudest things about how the city handled the pandemic was its MB Link system, the city’s gigabit fiber network.

“We were averaging about six gigs of usage citywide,” he said. “As soon as everyone went home to work and homeschool, we went over 10 gigs of total usage for the city and had to buy more Internet to provide the service we promised our residents and our businesses. It really provides reliable high-speed internet, which is considered critical infrastructure just like water.” 

Watkins said COVID-19 nor the threat of storms this year had stopped growth from happening in Mont Belvieu. 

“We saw a tremendous amount of growth happen during the shutdown,” Watkins said. “One thing that is important to cities, counties, and school districts is local control because that is where growth is managed. In Mont Belvieu, we’ve seen a 42% increase in new housing starts year over last. And for the first time, we will have over 700 lots available for development for new homes just in the city as we move forward this year.”

Watkins said 35,000 square feet of new leasable space would be available by the end of this year. In addition, Watkins said the city built and leased almost 45,000-square-feet of retail in the city during 2020. 

The city has prepared for growth by having infrastructure in place for support, according to Watkins. To accomplish this, Watkins said the city is spending $47 million on new capital projects, including a new city hall, a fire station and expansion of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Road construction is something everyone in Mont Belvieu knows, but Watkins said residents would soon see the benefits. 

“We are proud to announce there are over 11 miles of new roadways being built in, through Mont Belvieu,” he said.

One project is along Perry Avenue, where road crews are extending the road east all the way to FM 565. 

“We are widening it to four lanes all the way to FM 1409 in front of Elementary School North,” Watkins said. “That will support the growth there.”

Another road project is Langston Drive, which is being built out east.

“This is the main thoroughfare that sees HEB Grocery and the future Hackberry Regional Park, that will connect to Highway 99, which is under construction now,” Watkins said. “And the long-awaited, much-anticipated FM 1409 project is under construction and making nice progress. We look forward to getting that open. That will be the north/south route through the city. 

“And the new Grand Parkway is on schedule to open in 2022. That will put us within a 40- to 45-minute-drive time to The Woodlands and finish the loop around Houston. We anticipate more growth with Highway 99 once it is complete.”

Thanks to council, Watkins said plans for a future downtown area and livable center with the new city hall serving as the anchor are coming to fruition. 

“We are going for the traditional downtown, with small-town modern feel,” Watkins said. “Most notably, you see these in towns where the county courthouse is the anchor of the downtown square. We are going to recreate that. A fire station will have space allocated. You can walk by it and see fire apparatuses visible to the community and have similar buildings involved. Plans also include a festival street in front of the city hall. Think of it as an area where you can close the streets and have events such as Christmas in the city, farmers markets, and other events with people.”

Watkins said construction on the new city hall and station will begin within the next 90 to 120 days. 

“We had some work to do and iron out, but this will be part of a larger master-planned community, which will be the first for the east side of Houston with the quality of development it will have,” he said. 

The master-planned communities coming to Mont Belvieu will have over 700 lots and 34 subdivisions are in development right now, Watkins said. 

“This is why local control is important,” he said. “When you have this amount of growth to your jurisdiction, it is important that the people that are elected locally be able to make a decision to make these types of developments great for our community. You cannot depend on someone in Austin to make the decisions that are going to make the right choices for development in the city.  This is what sets us apart. We don’t let growth manage us. We manage growth. When we have a master-planned community, we were fortunate to work with the landowners and their vision and development and also were able to voice our opinion on what is important and our values locally and make those decisions. I can guarantee it is something everyone can be proud of.”

Helping small businesses is another way Mont Belvieu is promoting growth, according to Watkins. 

“For existing businesses, council authorized a matching grant economic development program this year,” he said. “We set aside funds for any business that is looking to upgrade their façade, landscaping, signages or add in sidewalks or future traffic safety improvements. We have matching grant funds, so that you can make the application for those funds this year. We look forward to supporting local businesses that way.”

Dr. Greg Poole, BHISD superintendent, commented on how his district has a strong relationship with the city.

“And all the taxpayers benefit,” Poole said. “When you talk about local control, that means our taxpayers have a say. We are proud of that.”

By Matt Hollis, Baytown Sun