GALVESTON — The city council’s discussion about approving two mixed-income housing units went late into the night as council members argued over guarantees being made about the long-term future of the project and about the state’s treatment of the city during the development of the project.
After more than an hour of discussion, which itself began eight hours into the council’s regular meeting, the council decided to support the two housing projects, known as Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes, but on the condition that the General Land Office guarantee the delivery of federal disaster recovery money for the city’s infrastructure project.
Four council members — mayor Lewis Rosen, mayor pro tem Rusty Legg and councilwomen Cornelia Harris-Banks and Marie Robb — voted for the recommendation.
Robb, who proposed the added condition, said she was tired of outside parties changing conditions in order to force the city’s hand in regards to the projects and then blaming the city for slowing down the process.
“I think it’s time to take the city out of the middle,” Robb said.
Council members Norman Pappous and Elizabeth Beeton voted against it. Pappous made multiple statements about the conditions not being strong enough, while Beeton questioned the wisdom of the entire mixed housing project.
Councilwoman Terrilyn Tarlton abstained.
Is it achievable?
The GLO announced last week that the city had released some of the city’s Round 2.2 CDBG money, but most of it is still in the state’s hands.
What is unclear is whether what the council passed is achievable. Generally, disaster recovery funds are made as reimbursements as projects are being completed, not as lump sums at the beginning.
Last September, the city agreed to an affordable housing plan with the land office that would install 141 affordable housing units in mixed income communities. The deal was only reached after the Department of Housing and Urban Development threatened to take away all of the city’s $586 million in disaster recovery money if the units were not rebuilt
‘A bad deal’
City manager Michael Kovacs said the land office was watching last night’s meeting closely and expressed concern about how the state would react to another attempt by the council to put conditions on the mixed-income units.
“It is a bad deal, but it is the only deal we got,” Kovacs said. “And I think we run a huge risk with these developments that we’ll have no CDBG funds.”
The conversation began with site plan presentations made by the project’s developers, McCormack Baron Salazar. Meg Manley, a senior vice president at MBS, said once the project gets final approval from all parties, construction of the buildings could begin in about six months.