KEMAH — The city’s plan to abandon 1,600 square feet of waterfront property and sell it to the mayor isn’t sitting well with some.
Critics claim Mayor Bob Cummins is getting a sweetheart deal.
But the mayor and the city’s attorney said the complaints are much ado about nothing and that the mayor will pay fair market value for what amounts to 10 feet of waterfront property that’s already been used by the mayor for six years.
At issue is a 10-foot section in the city’s right of way next to Cummins’ house at 501 North Bay. The city actually has about 60 feet of right-of-way at the spot but uses 50 feet as a small pocket park that allows access to Galveston Bay from Fifth Street.
City council is scheduled to approve the deal tonight.
In 2007, before he was mayor, the city let Cummins fence in the 10-by-166-foot section. For six years, the property has not been accessible to the public, City Attorney Dick Gregg Jr. said.
Recently, the mayor offered to purchase the land. A city-hired appraiser estimated the property was worth $10 a square foot, Gregg said.
“We used the same appraiser who appraised similar property we abandoned several years ago and sold to several people,” Gregg said. “It’s a fair market value for that property.”
Cummins will pay the city about $16,000 to get the abandoned property.
The remaining 50-foot-wide section will remain as is, City Administrator Rick Beverlin said.
Still, Councilwoman Robin Collins isn’t comfortable with the deal.
“In the past, we have abandoned property that was landlocked and not worth a great deal,” Collins said. “Now we are offering up prime waterfront property for just $10 a square foot. You couldn’t buy waterfront property for that price anywhere on the bay.”
Collins said a property owner tried a similar move on a different piece of land several years ago and was rejected.
Collins also said he is concerned the deal is going down with Cummins sitting on the council. Even though the mayor has recused himself from any votes on the subject, Collins said it doesn’t look right.
Cummins was originally swept into office on a campaign against former Mayor Matt Wiggins, whom Cummins and others accused of using his office for personal gain.
“All the people on council supporting (Cummins) on this deal are people he helped get elected,” Collins said. “It looks like (political) payback. It looks like a sweetheart deal, even if it’s not.
“It also sets a precedent that we will sell anyone waterfront property on the cheap.”
Cummins scoffed at Collins’ assertion.
“I’m paying for (stuff) I already use, but now I will pay the city cash for it and will now pay property taxes on it,” Cummins said. “This is the same 12 minions who are always looking for the negative.
“I’m no power broker making a deal here.”
Gregg said he reviewed the deal and found no problems, legal or perceived.
At a glance
WHAT: Kemah City Council
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: Kemah City Hall, 1401 state Highway 146