Correction: This guest column incorrectly states Galveston City Councilwoman Carolyn Sunseri works for Stewart Title Co. Sunseri works for South Land Title Co. and has never been affiliated with Stewart Title Co.
Here are my Top 10 reasons for city council to not abandon Porretto Beach rights of way. The future of this beach is so important to Galvestonians, and the factors are so numerous and complicated, the council should defer this decision while choices are analyzed and explored.
1. Does the buyer of Porretto Beach have the proper and final building permit from the state of Texas to build on the beach?
2. Permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build in front of the seawall and to penetrate the seawall to bring utilities to any development proposed on the beach can take one to three years, and probably will not be granted because of major regional improvements to flood protection are necessary.
3. If the city gives these rights of way to the bankruptcy trustee, and if the city later decides to reacquire the beach, it will have to buy back its rights of way at a premium. This beach area will be worth millions to the city in the future. To sell it to the buyers for an arbitrary small amount now will prove to be the dumbest decision made by the city this century.
4. It doesn’t make sense that the city is asking for federal dollars to construct additional hurricane and floodwater protection for Galveston, but will allow construction in front of the seawall. Why would the federal government give money to Galveston to construct stormwater protection when the city allows construction in front of existing stormwater protection, the seawall?
5. If the city abandons the rights of way, it will have to provide infrastructure improvements to the new development south of the seawall at the cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayers.
6. My understanding from other lawyers is there is no legal reason under state law that the city must give up its rights of way for any reason.
7. Carolyn Sunseri should recuse herself since her Stewart Title company has done work for the Porretto Beach bankruptcy and may expect compensation out of the current sale.
8. Two years ago, the city council voted unanimously to acquire Porretto Beach. If the city does not abandon the rights of way, it can purchase Porretto Beach now with its industrial development sales tax funds that are currently available and in the bank. Other sources of funds are lining up now, or could be available with application to the State, for example, the BP disaster funds.
9. If the city acquires the beach, property immediately adjacent and north of the seawall will increase substantially in value and be desirable for quality development, yielding increased property taxes and sales tax revenue. These first-class improvements will add to our growing tourism industry. Infrastructure already exists for further development north of the seawall, that does not damage the Seawall.
10. And most of all, the city can create a major world-class beach area for the residents and visitors to Galveston Island. Good planning by the city will enhance this underdeveloped area of Galveston and front door of the multibillion dollar University of Texas Medical Branch campus.