The Galveston City Council next week will decide on an ordinance that would temporarily ban new development along most of Broadway.
Approval of the ordinance would mean that for 90 days, the city would not accept new development applications for areas along Broadway from Sixth Street to the causeway. The ordinance exempts areas along Broadway that overlap with the East End Historic District, because extensive development and construction already is restricted in that zone.
Galveston officials have spoken for years about beautifying Broadway, the city’s entryway and main thoroughfare, and enacting more uniform building restrictions.
Halting construction would allow officials time to complete a detailed study for the street, called a streetscape and redevelopment plan, planning and development Director Tim Tietjens said at a Thursday special meeting of the city council.
“Because the features of the streetscape and redevelopment plan are unknown at this time, the moratorium is sort of a necessary step to assess the conditions of that circumstance,” Tietjens said.
City council will vote on the moratorium May 25.
Four of the seven council members at the Thursday meeting said that they would vote for the ordinance. District 5 Councilwoman Terrilyn Tarlton-Shannon will abstain from the vote because she owns a business on Broadway, which was determined to be a conflict of interest.
Tarlton-Shannon still made her opinion known at the meeting, where she spoke as a citizen and not a council member. A full moratorium would be “anti-development” and “business unfriendly,” she said.
“We are effectively shutting down every business on Broadway to be able to do things that would improve their businesses and to be able to have customers come into their stores,” Tarlton-Shannon said.
New development applications include development permits, plat applications, site plans, demolition permits and building permits. That means that any construction or demolition of properties adjacent to Broadway would not be allowed. General maintenance, interior improvements and temporary sign permits would still be accepted, Tietjens said.
The ordinance would also allow businesses to construct on Broadway if they apply and qualify for under an “economic hardship” exception.
A passage of the ordinance would also come with the understanding that the moratorium would likely need to be extended another three months, past the original 90-day ban. The Broadway study and planning process is expected to take six months, so extra time would be necessary, Tietjens said.
“We probably will get to a point where we have to come back to extend this moratorium, but we’ll see how the planning effort goes,” he said.
The city has tried and failed for decades to complete a Broadway beautification project, District 2 Councilman Craig Brown said. The moratorium will give the city “the ability to take a breather now and not have anything pop up on Broadway that may be not keeping with the guidelines that we ultimately want there,” he said.
More Broadway standards need to be put in place to improve beautification and look out for people that live and work on the street, said Councilwoman Amy Bly, of District 1.
“On 37th Street, there’s a gas station that is up to somebody’s driveway,” Bly said. “We need to do something to try to protect our citizens. I’m pro-business, but we have to be pro-citizens.”
Tarlton-Shannon originally asked the council to look at conducting a study and enacting a moratorium at separate times, she said. She also took issue that city officials didn’t personally inform each business on Broadway about the proposed changes.
“You’re treating business owners as if they’re not taking care of their properties, that every single one of them is doing that,” Tarlton-Shannon said. “This is not the way you should do it. I think you’re sending a bad, bad vibe to the business owners on Broadway.”