Sunday, November 26, 2006


I getting a little confused about the whole Comprehensive Plan thing now. My wife is on the committee and probably won’t like me saying this, but what the consultant recently put out was a complete crock of hooey. Entitled “Land Use Planning” it relies on a whole bunch of ten dollar concepts and questionable density factors … but goes on to say the actual land use planning will be done in the ordinances at some later date. I am fairly well outraged by now.

My wife would also tell me to “shush” because they’ve had to rewrite everything so far.

But I simply can’t resist. Folks, we can sit around and talk about all the theory and potential issues you want. We need a plan to help guide growth on the Island. That growth comes from residential and commercial building. It is plain and simple as that.

In case you have been hibernating the last two years, the concept of managed growth was extremely unpopular with the real estate, developer, and construction industries. A group known as Laguna Madre Business Association was formed to elect town leaders who would not pursue any comprehensive plan – the reason being that they like things just fine as they are today. I look at this as a very simple problem to solve: “What is wrong with the rules on the books today?”

That was actually an easy thing to identify, since a majority of the zoning and planning ordinances were created by Cameron County after being granted special legislation. All the concepts about setbacks, height limitations, use, and so forth were created in the 1970’s and have only been tinkered with since that time. Even many prominent developers on the Island note that in many cases, the existing ordinances make absolutely no sense (do I have to build a pyramid to comply with setbacks way up in the air?).

Yee-haw, we’re starting to agree on something here already!

Most will agree that the commercial zones look OK and that the residential zone boundaries seem OK, except when they abut each other in some awkward situations. But that Zone B “mixed use” concept by the beach was a real turkey, a brain fart. Basically, when you allow residential single family, multi-family, and commercial entities to exist together you have ABSOLUTELY NO LAND USE DEFINTION AT ALL.

Well ain’t that something. Zone B has been a time-bomb waiting to explode ever since John L. Tompkins’ visionary platting in the 1950’s and the 1970 articles of incorporation. People are starting to complain because their once residential streets are being invaded by commercial high-rise structures having the horrible, ugly architecture and no parking. I mean some structures are so ugly they would make a freight train take a dirt road! The concept of having a huge commercial building next to a charming Island two-story is indeed perplexing.

But wait, the Town decided to piecemeal the parking study to yet another consultant so they couldn’t get together on adequate parking, a major beef in Zone B. One can make all the excuses in the world about how and why this happened, but the fact remains that parking became a separate issue not linked to growth. The results, my friends, could be devastating, especially in Zone B and the Gulf side.

Many of us are getting tired of fighting such bureaucratic snafus and over-opinionated back seat drivers. If you want to fix a problem, I am sure we didn’t need to hire two consultants to not talk with each other and screw up everything as a result. There is a lot more brain-power on this Island than folks give credit for – we simply needed a very good moderator to keep us on track. Remember, even the developer lobby wants to fix some rules, too. It might be messy but as long as we stay out of court and act nice to each other, I think we can do it ourselves just fine.

One just has to act like it is no big deal, there are trades and swaps for the good, and as Texans (honorary or born here) we can fix it right here and right now.

Just a really good, strong, and independent moderator: that’s all we need.

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