GALVESTON — The city will take a first step down a road that could lead to an expanded version of Stewart Beach.

On Thursday, the City Council asked the planning department to develop an outline of what studies the city would need to conduct before moving forward on the idea.

“The next step is to define the scope of what we want to do,” District 2 Councilman Ralph McMorris said. “You define it, and then everybody will say if it sounds good.”

McMorris has been the most public pitchman for the “South Beach, Galveston” plan, a role he assumed again Thursday as he made a presentation to the City Council. The plan consists of an idea to purchase private property that surrounds the publicly owned Stewart Beach, 201 Seawall Blvd., and develop the area into a “world-class beach” — similar in style to the Florida beaches from which the plan takes it name.

McMorris said he thought such a plan would be more profitable for the city through the generation of tourist dollars than if the private developers who owned some of the properties tried to build hotels there.

But he acknowledged the city would need to take a comprehensive look at his hypothesis.

“I did this on the back of an envelope, I’ll admit this,” McMorris said.

McMorris asked the council to consider funding a study to determine whether his hypothesis is correct. Before getting to that point, however, the council asked the city staff to analyze what kind of studies would be needed to determine the plan’s viability.

Council members sounded supportive of McMorris’ idea but agreed that more information would need to be gathered before the city could give any definitive support to the proposal.

“We need to be careful about expectations,” Mayor Jim Yarbrough said. “We have to be careful we don’t fall into the Galveston Trap. Every time we get ready to do something, we take it, and we look bigger, and we never do something.”

The plan originated after the previous City Council approved a series of zoning changes to some private properties immediately west of the Stewart Beach, seaward of the seawall. The zoning changes would allow buildings to be constructed to a height of five stories, or 70 feet, normally, or to greater heights with the granting of a specific-use permit.

Officials said Thursday there were no construction plans pending at City Hall for the properties.

No date was given for when a proposal or an economic or feasibility study would come before the council. McMorris said he hoped the study could be included in the city’s budget for the next year.

Contact report John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

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