Porretto Beach

Aaron Castillo bikes past Porretto Beach on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.

GALVESTON

The planned retirement this year of the judge overseeing the Porretto Beach bankruptcy could lead to more delays in the potential sale of a rare private beach that has dragged on for years, those involved with the case say.

It’s been almost a year since the city council voted to sell its easements at Porretto Beach, which would pave the way for the sale, but the company that aims to buy the property still has several steps before it’s ready to close on the reported $6 million deal.

The council unanimously agreed to a $1.28 million sale price, but voted earlier in the year to abandon the easements in split decision.

Those involved in the process hope the buyer will have secured all the necessary regulatory approvals and permits to bring the case back before Judge Jeff Bohm this summer, before he retires later this year, said Stephen Schulz, a Galveston attorney representing the bankruptcy trustee.

Approval from the judge is necessary to move to closing, Schulz said.

Bohm declined to comment about the Porretto Beach case but confirmed he plans to retire this year.

When Bohm retires, all his cases will be reassigned, said Randy Williams, the trustee representing property owner Sonya Porretto’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate. Because Bohm knows the history of the case and has been working on it since 2009, Williams would rather Bohm saw the case to its end, he said.

“That’s going to make things more difficult because you’ll have to be explaining now 10 years of history of this case,” Williams said.

Selling the 9.75 acres of beach between Sixth and 10th streets — dubbed Porretto Beach Classic — has been a hot topic of discussion since 2009 when the bankruptcy case began, opening up potential development of the beach.

Porretto Beach had long been an unusual piece of property and subject of two decades of disputes between owners and Texas General Land Office, which oversees public beaches.

In July 2015, the Texas Supreme Court ruled the land office didn’t own the property, making it more attractive to potential buyers. Most of Galveston’s beaches are owned by the state and managed by the Park Board of Trustees.

The potential buyer, 4M Investments LLC, has proposed a retail and restaurant boardwalk concept.

The process to sell the property has been slow, Williams said.

“We’re still waiting for the buyer to get some approvals that they need,” Williams said.

The prospective buyer was able to move ahead with plans after the city council in July last year unanimously voted to sell its rights of way running through the property for $1.28 million. Abandoning those rights of way would be necessary for major development, but met with criticism from some residents who hoped to thwart a boardwalk development and from those who opposed the sale of the easements and the manner in which the value was assigned.

That transaction has a deadline of next summer, District 2 Councilman Craig Brown said.

Ted Miller, president of the 4M Investments, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Brown doesn’t know when the company might close the deal but thinks there’s progress being made, he said.

“It is moving along,” Brown said.

But the company will need to get approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and Texas General Land Office, among other entities, Schulz said.

“They say that they are progressing as rapidly as they can, given the fact that you have multiple jurisdictions with some kind of say in the process,” Schulz said.

But Williams isn’t sure how much longer it will take the buyer to collect all the necessary approvals, he said.

“I’m fairly jaded,” Williams said. “I’ve been being told progress was being made, and we were close to getting some place literally for years. We’re still not there.”

It’s not very often buyers have a chance to purchase a private beach — at least not in Texas, where public access for the most part is protected by law.

The Porretto family has owned the beach since the 1950s. Sonya Porretto in 2009 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows companies to reorganize. Two years later, a judge ordered her case be changed to Chapter 7, so that her assets, including the beach land, could be liquidated and the proceeds used to pay creditors.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

(4) comments

David Collins

Just to set the record straight, Porretto Beach is in District 3, not District 2.

Robert Waggoner

After 10 years of litigations and nothing yet. Looks like the lawyers will eventually own the property or at least the money received from the sale.

Alex Nelson

Dear Galveston Island Residents, My name is Alexander Nelson and some of y’all know me and know my family and some of y’all don’t know me or my family. My grandfather was Henry Peter Porretto Jr. and my mother is Sonya Porretto. I read this article today as a 25 year old college graduate and as a concerned citizen. It seems that all these attorneys, trustees, “buyersâ€, city council, and city officials can say whatever they please when it comes to someone’s life, property, and good name and drag it through the muck, mud, and sand of Galveston with absolutely no repercussions or validity but we are the few refusing to walk away despite the losses suffered will allow these individuals who customarily practice cheating the system and others without be held accountable. So, I would like to shed some light on our side of the beach that is not reported on. If you have kept up with any of this in the news over the past 26 years it’s always reported as “complicated†or “complex†but really it’s very simple. The attorneys at Greer Hertz and Adams like Stephen Schulz have used subversive means like fraud to facilitate this sale and bankruptcy process, but we will get to them in a minute. The last time this property was reported on was regarding the sale of the rights of way on Porretto Beach. I spoke at this public hearing and was outraged to know the city actually passed this in council when as clear as day the “buyers†and trustee’s application for abandonment had my grandfather’s name on it as an applicant, Henry Peter Porretto Jr. What is important to note is my grandfather has been dead since 2007, yet your city council in 2017 passed it and knowingly helped facilitate property fraud. I thank God that this is printed in the paper although we may never get justice it is finally documented in print. The trustee, Randy Williams and attorney Stephen Schulz have represented, on record, to Judge Bohm over the bankruptcy case that Steve Schulz “DOES NOT REPRESENT†the trustee in any way shape or form, yet as clear as day we see it in the paper right in front of us today he represents him. He also represents the potential buyer Ted Miller and Corey Miner and once he represented us in our case which went to the Texas Supreme Court. It’s fairly clear that this attorney group of Greer Hertz and Adams have used the courts to steal a property from one client (Porretto) to benefit another client (Miller/Miner/4M investment/TSB/WRCB). This is a blatant conflict of interest and extremely unethical and illegal but the paper still reports it as just another day in the life. We have retained council to report the fraud transpired but the trustee has told each of them to walk away from the case which is makes him derelict in his duty as a trustee!!!!!! They have reassured us even if things get sold they will make sure we receive nothing in return. This is how the city and its “players†treat people when they want something you have, something that goes back 4 generations in a family, the American dream of private property is no longer safe in America especially in Galveston. Frank Maceo a City Council member at the time helped broker a back door deal with the trustee Randy Williams that would give the city property that isn’t even supposed to be in the bankruptcy case in exchange for abandonments of the rights of way! THE CITY COUNCIL CONDUCTS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, OUTSIDE OF THE LAW, DETERMINING PEOPLES LIVES AND SOME OF YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS For those of us that know the truth Keri’s article appears intended to cover up and prevent the public from having the egregious truth about this case and sale. The judges retirement isn’t the delay in the sale it’s the fact fraud was committed against the Porretto’s in this case and false representations made to Judge Bohm by the trustee and attorneys would be discovered by another judge that replaces Judge Bohm that would delay a sale. Attorneys forged documents and electronically filed declarations without Sonya Porretto’s knowledge or ink signature. These attorneys controlled the entire case and made deals, signed settlements and made agreements without Sonya or the judges knowledge. Schulz neglected to disclose he also represented TSB, a Ted Miller/Cory Miner property project adjacent Porretto Beach and an intent to wear down Sonya Porretto and the estate value and take the property with an “assumed†decline. Schulz neglected to explain to the paper he should have never worked on Sonya Porretto’s case when she hired Greer Herz & Adams for trial court or the side deals they made with the defendants (the park board) in the case. Schulz neglected to disclose he was part of the issues why my late grandfather filed the case but instead Schulz tried conceal this information that we recently discovered. Greer Herz & Adams had direct conflicts of interest with one of the defendants, the park board, and city. Whoever the judge is replaced with, someone will have to address the violation of rights, egregiousness and unlawful activity that transpired and those who partook rather than reporting it to proper authorities. What’s the most disturbing is that this post will probably go unheard, will be left out of the conversation, or brushed under the table. The truth is these people involved have taken everything from us. The attorneys and city have bled us dry and drug this case on for years and years and hope we shut up and go away. My grandmother has no retirement because of these people. The city council are supposed to protect and better the island but they only see dollar signs and don’t care about how much you have contributed to the community or the island you’re just in the way of their bottom line which they would gladly eviscerate you in front of everyone with no remorse. I ask that you please share this post and help out some fellow Americans who have worked for everything and are being destroyed by a city of corruption, thievery, and greed. The sad thing is that this only scratches the surface of the egregious acts committed by attorneys and the city against our family but we are here to stand up for what is right against greed and corruption when no one else will.

Bob Mitchell

Well, it looks like this case will drag on another ten years. I hope Mr. Nelson's family comes out victorious in the end. I think the best point he made is that the city will make any kind of deal imaginable with the big money people. We all saw how the park board squeezed out all the bait camp owners on Boddeker Dr. - a favorite place of locals and visitors alike in favor of developers that were proposing to build a fantastic residential and commercial complex on the east end flats many years ago. My, isn't that a fabulous attraction down there! smh

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