The city will seek to appraise several public easements on and around Porretto Beach after Galveston City Council agreed to abandon the rights of way to several beach front property owners.
The city council on Thursday voted 5-2 to abandon the easements after months of ardent debate. Opponents flocked to the city council and expressed their aversion to a proposed boardwalk development that could rise on Porretto Beach, between Sixth and 10th streets, as a result of the abandonment.
The applicants for abandonment, including a bankruptcy trustee seeking to sell the beach to settle an estate, will enter negotiations with the city over payment for the easements, City Manager Brian Maxwell said.
The city has a list of certified land appraisers, but because the rights of way are on a beach, someone with specific experience in beach front easements will likely be required, Maxwell said.
“We’re going to try to find someone who has expertise in this area because the city wants to be able to get what we feel is the fair market value of that property,” Maxwell said.
Once the appraisal is complete, the property owners will file official documentation with the county and will pay the city what it is owed, said Michael Gaertner, an architect working with the developer.
“At that point, that clears the property up,” Gaertner said.
The developer, WRCB L.P., has offered to buy the beach for a reported $6 million, with the easements included. Renderings show a multiuse boardwalk with residences, retail space and access to the beach.
The boardwalk would be part of a larger complex, with a high-rise hotel to the east, Gaertner said.
There are still some hurdles the developers need to clear before the boardwalk can be built, however, Gaertner said.
While the developers have already received approval from the Texas General Land Office and the city for a permit to build on the beach, federal and county approvals still are needed, Gaertner said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to look for wetlands on the beach, he said. The county and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also will need to verify that anything touching the seawall won’t threaten the structure’s integrity, Gaertner said.
At that point, Randy Williams, the bankruptcy trustee seeking to sell the beach, would be able to close the deal and sell the land to the developer, Williams said.
The developer would only need a building permit from the city after that, Gaertner said.
Mayor Jim Yarbrough at a Thursday city council meeting questioned whether the deal would ever close and said the city might call the developer’s bluff.
Gaertner said he is certain the development will be built.
“I think Jim was being a little bit facetious,” Gaertner said. “It’s going to happen.”