This morning I jogged along the seawall bordering the last natural urban beach in Texas. This wide and expanding beach, flourishing with natural vegetation, is the only undeveloped beach area adjacent to an established residential area in Texas. Other folks strolled, jogged, biked, and played with their children and dogs — all enjoying serenity and the ever-changing flowers of our natural beach.
Yet, the city council seems bent on aiding in the construction of beach-eliminating buildings with parking garages on this beach, which includes Porretto Beach. Other adjacent beach owners are now chiming in with their own development wishes. If the city council approves these plans, only a category 5 hurricane will be able to return our beautiful beach to us!
God has given Galveston naturally accreting beaches from 12th Street east to the island’s East End and has charged each of us with its stewardship. Neither man nor the Park Board of Trustees has anything to do with creating these natural beaches. The approximately $20 million recently spent by the park board to replenish sand did not include Porretto Beach or beaches to the east. The beaches are naturally accreting and require no continual investment.
In addition to the rights-of-way in Porretto Beach, the city government has the responsibilities of zoning and land use. Not long ago, zoning preserved the beaches. However, in recent years, the council changed the rules, ignoring the wishes of most citizens. For example, a recent poll by Houston’s Channel 13 found 90 percent of the respondents preferred to preserve the beach. And to their credit, the city council voted unanimously to begin the acquisition of these beaches in 2015!
Our city council is now faced with the choice of giving into threats of spurious legal action or upholding the rights of the citizens.
With the control of the rights-of-way, the city is in the catbird seat. The city council should begin negotiations with the Porretto Beach trustee. The city, along with the Galveston Redevelopment Authority can acquire Porretto Beach, as well as other property north of the seawall.
The Texas General Land Office, BP Disaster Restore Act funding, city of Galveston Industrial Development Corp., hotel and motel tax, park board funds, and private donations are all sources of funding which can be utilized. Once the land is acquired and the beach preserved, the city could even sell the property north of the seawall to high-quality businesses at a profit.
Sidewalk cafes, boutique hotels, and low-rise condominiums would provide new property tax revenue, revive an underperforming part of Galveston, while requiring no new infrastructure.
And it would work. Several years ago, Galveston’s mayor was instrumental in the county purchase of Justice Center land and surrounding land. Part of that land adjacent to the Justice Center will now be purchased and redeveloped by the first-class Dallas-based developer, Trammel Crow. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our mayor would do the same for the citizens of Galveston, saving our beach in the process?
The city council will meet at 1 p.m. Dec. 14 at city hall to decide. Please join us to tell the city council to preserve this approximately 50 acres of natural beach. Your support will be greatly appreciated by us, your children and grandchildren.