There is an interesting contrast to the way — within Galveston County — local officials view their jobs and economic development.

In Texas City during the past few years, the attitude has been a market-driven one — if you can get the bankers and backers, then the city will do what it can to help you.

Blue-collar development is what is seen —malls, shopping centers and the like, both new and refurbished — as well as new housing, sprouting up.

And it is market-driven. The business’ success or failure is in its ability to attract customers.

In the city of Galveston, it seems there is a different approach.

To do business in Galveston, often-times it appears the developer is applying for a country-club membership.

The purpose of any governmental body is to enforce the rules. So how often do we hear of rezoning based upon the mood of the people speaking to the council, instead of the rules?

In December, Galveston’s planning commission voted to recommend a zoning change for two empty lots on the West End. Before a 2015 overhaul of the city’s zoning rules and maps, the property was zoned as a planned development, a broad designation allowing many uses, including commercial.

The city no longer has the planned development zoning category.

The commission’s recommendation, though, was met by opposition and the zoning change was denied by the city council.

What puzzles us were the arguments against allowing the rezoning to take place.

The proposed business was not the right kind of business. City administrators understood the developer planned to build a Dollar General store there, Assistant Planning Director Catherine Gorman said.

Those who were opposed offered the argument that those who live on the West End only want businesses that cater to their lifestyles.

Residents were concerned about a national chain retailer, which is contradictory to the lifestyle and nature of the West End, said Jerry Mohn, president of the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association. The residents he represents would prefer small, mom-and-pop businesses, he said.

They also argued a national chain could hurt small businesses already in the area around Sandhill Shores and Sunset Cove neighborhoods.

In making the recommendation to the city council, the planning commission shouldn’t make exceptions to zoning rules because of the type of business that might be built on the property, Chairwoman Carol Hollaway said.

We agree with Hollaway’s point.

The right kind of business — in the vast majority of cases — should be determined by the marketplace, not the city council.

• Dave Mathews

Dave Mathews: 409-683-5258;

(12) comments

Gary Scoggin


Ron Woody

Hear! Hear!
I believe two members of the City Council voted for the development, so please give credit to those doing what is right. I did not understand the decision at all.

Jarvis Buckley

Dollar Stores are like Walmart. Kill small businesses.

Robert Braeking

What small business would be killed by a dollar store? Where is the Ben Franklin® store or the TG&Y®. It has been my experience that the dollar store is like a department store for the elderly. It has what they need without the miles of aisles in a wal mart or supermarket. If a store wants to compete with a new store then it is up to them to offer what the public wants. It is not our place in government to decide who opens what type of store.

George Croix

In a nation where consumers demand top dollar for their own labor and rock bottom prices for all they consume, there will always be a disconnect.....
The dollar stores are not built justfortheheckuvit....consumers demand them, and would rather pay 1.00 to a chain than 1.10 to Mom or's like the folks you hear bragging about getting 3 cents a gallon cheaper gasoline over at the station across town....ignoring they spend a buck 50 in gasoline to get there......[wink][whistling]

Miceal O'Laochdha

When I took my first "Jack Kerouac" drive across America only 50 years ago, most regions and towns had very unique features, businesses, culture, accents, etc. and it was a thoroughly interesting and enlightening experience. Now it is, too frequently, just a Walmart/Starbucks/Mac Donald's/Dollar Store America of homogenous, vanilla, boredom. Market force faith is all well and good but, like most things, it is not 100% benign. I would rather see all local elected and appointed officials be ready to support the legitimate desire of constituents trying to protect their area from the relentless wave of sameness. For every 7 Seas store, there are a thousand Dollar stores. I think people need to have a solid right to try to keep one, and exclude the other, in their neighborhood.

George Croix

I miss Mom and Pop as much as anyone, if not a lot more than many others.
That's how I grew up, for the most part - with old, established businesses where you got not just a product, but a personal experience, too.
Mom and Pop didn't die because they charged 10 cents more for an item, but because too many people buying decided their personal shopping was more of a have to do, where time and selection matter more than than a social interaction, and they'd rather go to a single place and buy differing items, rather than different places for each one.
Me, to this day, IF there's a mom/pop and I can get what I want there, I don't care about the extra cost. I even buy my trucks where I feel best about the dealership and the people there, even if cost me more.
Ya'll may be the same way.
We're anachronisms.....
Neighborhoods SHOULD have some say, agreed, even a LOT of say...but shouldn't kid themselves about why a chain would want to move into an area, if there's no money to be made because everybody really is loyal to mom and pop more than the bottom line....

Wayne Holt

This issue offers interesting insights into many other controversial positions that affect Galveston. Yes, making development subject to non-formalized standards is going to be harder for economic development, long-term. On the other hand, why is it odd that property owners would like to be heard loud and clear on what affects their neighborhood, the businesses already there and their quality of life?

The nub is that BOTH are legitimate concerns. In my mind, City Council is the mechanism we use to make sure the autopilot of rules and regulations don't wind up taking us onto a shoal through unexamined consequences.

Dave Matthews is correct in his last paragraph: "The right kind of business — in the vast majority of cases — should be determined by the marketplace, not the city council."

So the question becomes not whether City Council should intervene but rather is this one of those times when its intervention, and decision, were appropriate. That is a reasonable question, again IMHO.

Jarvis Buckley points out the kind of fallout efficiently "following the rules" may bring. We can also look at the construction of the interstate highway system that brought faster, cheaper delivery of goods to us all...while being the single biggest factor in decimating Main Streets all across America. Overall, I think it is healthy having City Council in the middle of that arena asking tough questions when brought to their attention by residents.

Lisa Blair

It’s also important to remember that the rights of the property owner, who is seeking the zoning change, are important too. Rights that are equal to the rights of the neighbors. Property owners depend on the rules to allow the full legal use of their property whether it’s popular or desirable by others in the area. This property owner didn’t get to sell because the potential buyer couldn’t get the zoning they needed.

Wayne Holt

That is 100% true and why there are no good guys and villains in these situations...just people who have different interests they are seeking to protect. I think the question of HOW we resolve these differences in many situations hasn't been examined enough to get a sense of where fairness really resides. If...IF...we could ever agree on that we would be light years closer to avoiding hard feelings. But it may be too tall an order to be realistic; I like to think it is not.

Chuck DiFalco

I don't think I'm in agreement with the conclusion of this article. Aren't zoning assignments, and by extension zoning itself, a city council's way of it deciding the "right kind of business" on each parcel? League City voters approved zoning in League City many years ago. So are you saying the majority of voters were wrong? If so, why have voters approved zoning in so many cities? Zoning and the various incarnations of classifications hasn't stopped development in League City. Could it be booming in spite of zoning, or even because of it? I will never own residential property in a city without zoning. Amazingly enough, I find many of my neighbors think the same way about their community as I do.

James Lippert

100% True. Planned economies DO NOT WORK. Time and time again government attempts to directly manage supply and demand for goods & services by controlling production, prices, and distribution in accordance with a long-term design and schedule of objectives have FAILED. Take Obama and the $535 million Solyndra scandal. Down to the ongoing “FEMA-Gate” investigation involving Floodplain Regulations in Unincorporated Galveston County and the involvement by some of our local elected servants. Planned economies are Socialist and simply do not work!

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