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Save Galveston’s beaches for everyone - The Galveston County Daily News: Guest Columns

May 3, 2016

Save Galveston’s beaches for everyone

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Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 12:00 am

Galveston City Council has recently approved spot zoning beachside of the seawall between 12th Street and Stewart Beach. This makes no sense if you consider the neighborhoods and commercial areas immediately to the north of this beach area.

By setting the stage for high-rise construction on the beach, any new quality construction north of the seawall is precluded. Local neighborhoods and commercial areas will be devalued. Spot zoning for a select few takes from all of us.

In addition, infrastructure costs will be so expensive on the sand, beachside of the seawall, that the land speculators will again beg the city for property tax and other subsidies. Galveston City Council promised to lower our property taxes. Rather, those funds are being awarded to land speculators.

What about taxpayers damaged by spot zoning? City Council did not even acknowledge their existence. The Emerald condo owners paid a premium for the gulf view. Beachside low rise zoning was in place, so their investment was secure. But, in just a few minutes Jan. 23, five council members callously destroyed homeowners’ equity without a second thought.

The resulting dramatic drop in property value will translate into lower property taxes to the city, thus higher taxes for you.

The spot zoning, which benefits land speculators, pre-empted the Galveston Park Board’s master planning for the beach area of the seawall from 12th Street eastward.

Here’s a radical thought. Why not involve the people of Galveston again? So far, the participants in the planning process only include the land speculators, the Park Board and city staff.

Further, I question the Park Board’s authority usurping the city’s responsibility for urban planning. The city’s planning department should take the lead in developing a master plan for this area. The city should also invite participation from the residents and businesses north of the seawall, plus the council members from the districts.

Only by consensus building can we develop a comprehensive plan for the next great destination to live, work and play — for everyone.

A better plan: This beach area from 12th Street to Stewart Beach is unique to Galveston and should be master-planned. It is the only accreting beach adjacent to the historical and developed city. Properly planned and developed, it will become the premier recreational, residential and commercial beach area on the island.

The city should acquire all the beach property to preserve it as a public beach and natural park. Mid-rise and transitional development north of the seawall could turn the whole East End area of the city around, providing a beautiful, planned eastern anchor to the established Galveston residential and commercial areas.

Multiuse residential and tourist development will result in a world-class development enjoyed by all — residents, tourists, new and existing businesses. Further, this would also provide substantially more to the city’s tax base, since there would be no need to subsidize new development north of the seawall with our tax dollars.