WHAT IS FORM BASED CODE?
A training for staff, committee members and interested citizens was held on February 1, 2017. The Form Based Code (FBC) training began with the history of FBC on SPI presented by Alita Bagley. In 2003 a study commissioned to analyze the city summarized that tourism was dwindling due to “deteriorating aesthetic appeal”. A Comprehensive Plan designed to make the city more attractive, a better place to live work and play, was presented to the City Council in 2008. 2009 brought the Padre Revitalization Initiative to the Council and in 2010 FBC plans began. FBC was formally adopted in 2012.
Alita then introduced Jayashree Narayana, an originator of the SPI FBC, who gave an informative presentation beginning with: What is Form Based Code? She began by explaining how FBC looks at the big picture; considering how developments relate to one another by linking and connecting growth through “pedestrian oriented” expansions. Standard Zoning tends to create a “fortress mentality” rather than a unified plan. Instead of focusing on the potential of one particular lot, consider the entire area, the walkability, the aesthetics, the transit, etc. Walkability in an area increases property values.
Before FBC/After FBC
FBC is a slow incremental process, it does not happen overnight, especially when construction already exists. This is a 15, 20, 30 year plan, not a 5 year fantasy. Rome was not built in a day… and European cities are some of the best Form Based Community examples: vistas terminated by public art and beautiful architecture, streets that encourage tourist to walk around the corner, venture in to the park, enjoy lunch on the patio, step into the shops, sit relax and start again.
Each town must tailor their FBC to meet their specific goals. SPI is not Europe nor are we Austin, we are uniquely SPI. Our 6 mile corridor (3 up, 3 down) is bordered by neighborhoods and surrounded by water, we are like no other and that is cause to celebrate. How can we make it better, make it work for old and new businesses alike.
Education is vital to furthering the FBC concept. Parking, for example, is an ongoing issue, but as was noted, “how many successful ventures do not have parking problems?” We have an award winning rural transit system, how about shared parking and cross access easements, increase and improve pedestrian and bike paths, valet parking, parking garages, etc. These are all issues FBC can address, however not in the normal “check the box” way we are accustomed. In fact just writing the code does not make the change; making the design work and showing developers what can be done rather that what can’t be done is key, says Jay Narayana, Principal of Livable Plans & Codes.
SPI Birding and Nature Center hosted the Active Plan Panel Presentation on February 8, 2017. The RGV is known for many things, unfortunately one of those is the overwhelming diabetic statistics and the related health issues and costs that go with those numbers.
An Economic Impact Study also revealed that over $250M in wages are lost each year due to diabetes. In November of 2016, 10 cities officially adopted the Active Plan to promote active transportation and active tourism. The Plan proposes a network of multi-use trails, bicycle routes and paddling paths. Six “catalyst projects” have been identified. Strategically chosen to connect existing trails and resources intended to increase fishing, birding and other recreational tourism opportunities.
The featured Project is the Bahia Grande Multi-Use Trail connecting Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park with Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. The proposed route will also link Port Isabel, Laguna Vista and other cities. The 21.5 miles of hike & bike trails will encompass trail-head facilities, resting areas plus way-finding and interpretive signage.
Business opportunities along this trailway were the main focus for the panel. The active Nature Tourist does not prefer “chain establishments”. Much information was shared on start-up of new business and entrepreneurial opportunities from excursion organizers to bike shops to bistros, the prospects are only limited by your ideas.
The “homework” assigned by Dr. Rose Gowen was: Contact Your Law Makers. Starting with this featured project The Bahia Grande Trail, let it be known if you are in favor of decreasing health care costs and increasing economic impact for RGV by bringing The Active Plan to fruition.The 4th Venue Tax Update came in the form of a workshop on Feb 27th where more than 50 people showed to give presentations and/or make comments on the 5 propositions.
These are the updates on information gathered since the City Council Meeting on Feb 15th (for previous details see “Meetings in Review” below):
The Overview restated we are only able to work on the projects listed on the “ballot language”.
A reminder was made that these funds are NOT coming from the taxpayer’s General Fund nor Property Tax, these monies are collected from tourist visiting SPI as part of the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT).
Regarding funding and revenue: a maximum amount to borrow has been advised at $20M over a 30 year term; allowing for $1.3M in debt service yearly.
Sidewalks through the Shores (2400′ of 6′ sidewalk): $1.872M and there is no room to add medians or center turn lanes as the road is not wide enough. Gap to be funded by Venue Tax for completed project of sidewalks (through the Shores) and medians on Padre Blvd (Swordfish to Convention Center) would be $6.14M ($6.4M w/engineering)
A Convention Center Annex could be used for the Arts on SPI but not be built exclusively for the arts: Venue Tax can be used for promotion of the Arts but not for construction of a theatre.
Parking Facility has 4 options: “EcoTourism Lot” adjacent to Sea Turtle Inc is
Option 1. Much opposition was voiced on this option.
Options 2, 3 and 4 (parking lot or garage in an alternative location) will be dependent upon location of Venue Projects.
Wind and Water Sports advocates offered an impressive presentation complete with a comprehensive evaluation of 6 locations. 2 locations were noted as highly viable and a computerized walk through of a world-class facility was demonstrated ending with a round of applause from the audience. Discussion on procurement of the property is in progress as these properties could allow for an events venue, wind sports facility, parking area and future development encompassed on property owned by the City SPI rather than leased from the County.
Amphitheater was briefly discussed reiterating the need to procure land for future development which could be completed in phases.
Concern of the timeline was mentioned and the need for options was established.
Meeting adjourned at 2:37 pm
A moment of silence was observed in Council Chamber for the passing of SPI City Attorney Paul Cunningham on February 26. As one of the founders of our City Charter, Paul was instrumental in numerous aspect of shaping South Padre Island as we know it today and much thanks were given for his service.
New POWC-SPI Members
Property Owners Who Care welcomes our newest members:
Julie Sorenson Daniel Bryant Bonnie Walker
James and Amanda St John
Lynn Mauer and Capt. Kevin Nicholls
Richard and Kathy Betz Daleand
and Mary Stoltzman Dean
and Margaret Bau gher John
and Carol Goolsby Robert Garber
We would like to thank San Carlos Condominiums for renewing their Association Membership and everyone who renewed their Individual Memberships this month. Your membership is vital to POWC … Our Strength is in Our Numbers.
POWC Meeting Notes
The Property Owners Who Care Meeting was held o n February 4th. Thanks were given to The Pearl Resort for hosting the gathering which boasted more than 150 people in attendance.
After introductions by POWC President Shane Wilson, Mayor Barry Patel commented on the “State of the City” stating the City has built up its cash reserves and is in good financial shape. Mayor Patel also asked for patience with the inconvenience o f some o f the City’s projects.
Susan Guthrie, City Manager, spoke to her first 100 days in o ffice no ting the City has undertaken perfo rmance and pro gress management, in addition to some strategic planning. She then highlighted so me o f the great infrastructure pro jects under way in So uth Padre Island. Overall, Susan gave the meeting attendees a wo nderful o verview o f the exciting pro gress and pro jects o ccurring o n the island.
Next Police Chief, Randy Smith, advised o n security activities relating to Spring Break. He stated the Police Department is in control and will again have support from a number o f county and state agencies. He also announced the newest member o f the team, a new, friendly, drug dog that will also be utilized during Spring Break. Randy reported that the license plate readers are installed and operational and thanked POWC for this initiative.
Brando n Hill, Sho reline Management Directo r, pro vided an update o n activities o f the Sho reline Management Department including bay and beach access repairs and impro vements, new and impro ved bo at ramps. Brando n sho wcased the SPI dune gro wth fro m 2002 to 2008 to 2016 due to aggressive planting pro grams and po pulace support.
Lynne Tate, President o f SPI Birding and Nature Center, was next to the podium. She touted the outstanding improvements to the facilities which have resulted in increased revenue and attendance. She then introduced Javier Gonzalez,
Naturalist Educator who also spoke to the success stating tourist and family attendance has grown. He hyped several events involving shorebirds, migratory songbirds, butterflies, raptors and more with plans o f turning these into ongoing annual events and expanding habitats.
Javier explained how residents o f South Padre Island could also plant trees and bushes that would help to provide food and shelter for migratory birds and butterflies.
Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Directo r, Keith Arnold, discussed the City’s
$2.8 million marketing program and showed video examples. Primary targets o f marketing are the off season gro ups and last fall bro ught several new events: (A) the SPI Wahoo Classic fishing tournament, (B) the SPI Open Water Festival swimming-based event, and (C) the SPI Lantern Festival. All three events were successful and plans are to hold the events again next year. CVB is adding several new employees in 2017 and it anticipates higher economic activity. Keith proudly announced that South Padre Island was the only U.S. destination that Trip.com named a “rising star” for 2017.
Mark Spier, National Park Service’s Superintendent o f Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park in Brownsville shared how the park preserves the location o f the first battle (which o ccurred o n May 8, 1846) o f the two -year war between the U.S. and Mexico. The park is a 3,400-acre site that includes a Visitor’s Center and walking trails. In 2015, the park had 58,000 visitors. A portion o f the awarded TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic
Recovery) grant has been set aside to create a hike and bike trail connecting the park with other point o n the “Active Plan” currently in planning stages.
VP o f Friends o f RGV Reef, Daniel Bryant, then spoke expounding on the federal regulation that have shut down fishing waters hence Friends o f RGV Reef has been trying to get the GLO (Texas General Land Office) to permit the building o f artificial reefs. Friends has sunk
two boats (a tugbo at and a pilot boat), both are attracting fish and soon they will drop 60,000 cement blocks into the area. Daniel added the organization is seeking financial support.
Barry Patel then made a motion that POWC submit a letter o f support for Friends o f RGV Reef to the GLO. The motion was unanimously approved.
Mike Bo swell informed the crowd that Rio Grande Valley Committee for Good Government (RGVCGG) has hired a law firm to evaluate the
regulations o n large mass gatherings o n SPI. When comparing those regulations to the regulations o f similar cities along the coast, the law firm stated that South Padre Island’s regulations were poorly designed. This evaluation has also been made available to City o fficials.
Shane Wilson then opened up the floor for questions and answers. A large number o f questions were asked and answered and much discussion ensued.
The meeting adjo urned pro mptly at 4:00 p.m.
From CVAB Meeting Feb 22, 2017:
- Texas International Fishing Tournament (TIFT) was awarded $15K
- The Sand Castle Trail was awarded $3K
- Jailbreak Race Events-South Padre Marathon was awarded $40K on a reimbursement bases only
- Valley Haven Fishing Tournament was awarded $5K
From the EDC Meeting on February 21, 2017:
- SPI Birding and Natu re Center (BNC) was funded $6.4K to study the economic impact. Several new members of the BNC Board are cu rrently doing strategic planning with short and long term goals.
- Funding to analyze the economic impact of implementing the Active Tourism and Transportation Plan was tabled: 1) u ntil new members on EDC Board can be edu cated on the program 2) City of SPI had already fu nded $5K toward the $82K analysis.Sea Tu rtle Inc received approval for $179,160 (over 3 years) to construct a nature and foot traffic walkway over their lagoon with
- Sea Turtle Inc received approval for $179,160 (over 3 years) to construct a nature and foot traffic walkway over their lagoon with agreement of an easement to access the future City of SPI Ecotourism boardwalks.
EDC Officers elected for 2017 include: Irv Downing-President, Ron Pitcock-Vice Chair and Bob Friedman- Secretary/Treasurer
City Council Meetings In Review
February 1, 2017 City Council Meeting began with comments from Mayor Patel. He talked about the fruitful Form Based Code (FBC) Training and stated the 3 hour meeting was extremely informative and brought forth lengthy dialog revealing facts many of us did not know. He went on to thank Council Member Alita Bagley for organizing this workshop as it explained the concepts and intricacies while providing vital clarifications of our FBC. Many good ideas were alos offered by the professional presenter, Jay Narayana.
He announced the Cameron County Parks Planning Committee, after several meeting and workshops, have approved a $20M bond to renovate the 3 Island Parks: Atwood, Andy Bowie and Isla Blanca. The bonds will be serviced by the increased User Fee which was implemented last year.
The Mayor urged citizens to come to the City Council meetings to give input on the Venue Tax items approved by voters in November. This will be a discussion item on every agenda until June when decisions will be finalized. If you are unable to attend City Council Meetings (1st and 3rd Wednesday each month at 5:30pm) you can send an email as Council wants citizen input. More workshops are also being scheduled.
Council Member Dennis Stahl echoed the comments on the FBC Workshop and also thanked Alita for pushing to get the training together. Alita mentioned the meeting had been recorded and she encouraged everyone to go to the City Website and watch the video. Council Member Teresa Metty agreed with all comments and suggested the FBC training be held every year.
Alita commended the Public Works Department for painting the curbs, weeding and cleaning out median flowerbeds, painting light poles, etc. Thanks were given tothe City Manager and Assistant City Manager. Alita also gave thanks to the CVB Director and his staff citing work being done on the boardwalks at the Convention Center.
Council Member Paul Munarriz reaffirmed the FBC training as awesome, very involved and informative.
Council Member Ron Pitcock gave a brief update on the Sand Dollars for Success applications stating this program will bring new business to the island and increase existing commerce.
City Manager, Susan Guthrie, announced a Meet & Greet Reception for new staff members prior to the next City Council Meeting. She also remarked on the 32nd anniversary of City Secretary, Susan Hill, stating this
Brandon Hill, Director of Shoreline Department talked about a volunteer beach dune improvement consisting of 7,000 plantings by 20 people visiting the island for a conference.
Next Arnie Crenein came to the podium with an update on the Food Truck Ordinance. The recent follow up meeting noted no problems reported; there was also discussion of an annual fee rather than monthly.
Sherry Pindard with Friends of Animal Rescue gave the monthly stats: 9 dogs, 10 cats, 11 possums and 6 birds came in to the Shelter. 2 dogs and 7 cats were adopted, 1 cat and 4 dogs were reunited with their owners and 1 cat was fostered out.
Dennis Franke next gave an update on the future Museum. Very good progress behind the scene is being made. Members from the Texas Historical Commission have come to the island and offered use of their resources and archives. $2M will need to be raised.
A Coastal Studies Lab Facilities and Operations representative invited everyone to take the tour at the Coastal Studies Lab, inside Isla Blanc Park. Comments were made on how great the tour is.
After these Public Comments, came Item 4, a Proclamation Recognizing Interim Fire Chief Albert Perez with a Certificate of Appreciation for continued dedication and excellent service. Albert thanked the Fire Department and the Leadership Team for the great impact on his journey.
Alita Bagley recognized The Last Plastic Straw Group for their grass roots efforts. Taking time to talk with bartenders and patrons asking people to “just say no” to plastic straws and/or use paper straws instead. Their efforts are greatly appreciated.
Consent Agenda Items 5(a-e) were approved; 5(f) was approved separately.
The first City Council Update and Discussion on the Venue Tax was item 6.
Mayor Patel noted this item will be on each agenda until decisions are made regarding details of the projects voters approved in November. He strongly encouraged public involvement at the meetings, via email or future workshops. City manager Susan Guthrie then began a PowerPoint which has been prepared detailing staff actions taken as a result of citizen input voiced at the workshop in January. First she displayed the “ballot language” and explained how we are limited to the projects listed. She further stated this is really one project with many components.
(a) Padre Medians and Sidewalks: Phase I is sidewalks being funded by TAP grant and construction will begin in next few months; Phase II engineering is in progress now for raised medians from Kingfish to the Convention Center. Originally part of the TAP grant application, TXDOT removed these median to focus on sidewalks. Cost of this median project is $5.5M; Phase III is sidewalks from the Convention Center to the southern boarders of the Shores. This would cost $1,483M (before engineering), these sidewalks may also require elevated boardwalks if they are revealed to be designated wetlands; This phase does not include sidewalks through the Shores as those will be constructed and designed by TXDOT/CRMA during the 2nd Causeway project.
(b) Convention Center: No direction came from public workshop on this item. Council moved forward (Note: question was later asked regarding the theater addition requested by public input at the Workshop).
(c) Parking: Option 1 is the Ecotourism Network Lot just south of Sea Turtle Inc. This area could accommodate an estimated 300-391 spaces at a cost of $1.5M. Also the original Restore Grant application includes this property for educational research, boardwalks, kayak launching, etc and parking. Value here is to preserve the wetlands, connectivity to the Convention Center via the boardwalks, increased parking and purchase of property that could increase the Ecotourism vision for this area; Option 2: parking garage at the Convention Center at $20K per space; Option 3: parking garage at new, city- owned location at 20K per space.
(d) Wind and Water Sports Facility: Much input has been received from the Wind Sport Community. Option
1: short term facility at the Convention Center; Option 2: construction of a mid-term facility at the property adjacent to Convention Center; Option 3: Explore purchase of property at other locations. Property tours of the various sites
(e) Amphitheater: “Festival Entertainment Pavilion”. Option 1 is to explore construction of the event venue on the Convention Center property currently under lease with the County; Option 2 would be to purchase new property that would accommodate the events venue, windsurfing facility, parking facility and future development to create synergy. Preliminary construction estimates are in the $10M range.
Public input was again requested, research will continue and whatever we decide the bonds must be issued with-in one year of the vote, however the bond process takes a while and we need to get the projects prioritized no later than June of 2017. Item (f) will be added to the PowerPoint addressing the timetable.
Jessie Arriaga was next to the podium requesting permission for the existing bike lanes to be used as alternate bus lanes during high peak traffic periods (Spring Break, Semana Santa, July Fourth). Much discussion and concern ensued. Police Chief Randy Smith noted this would be after 10pm not during day light hours and would only be utilized when traffic was at a complete stand still. Council took notice of the amount of preparation and consideration already put into this idea and approved a pilot project.
Item 8 dealt with the widening of West Palm St. for trucks and boat trailers. Staff and Shoreline Development are
working on improvements to the Palm Street Boat Ramp. Resurfacing the street and incorporating 9-10 parking spaces with sidewalks is a cost of $160K.
Motion was made to move forward with Engineering of the boat ramp repairs and bring both back to council as one project for approval.
A budget amendment of $266K for improvements on W. Aries, W. Verna Jean and W. Palm was approved.
Discussion to change the composition of the Keep SPI Beautiful Committee was next. Quorum difficulties due to vacancies and lack of qualified people to fill positions under the current guidelines were discussed. Motion passed and applications were reopened. New members will be announced March 1.
Item 11 brought several recommendations on the realignment of the Gulf
Circle Beach Access path as proposed by the Las Costa Condominiums mitigation plan. The lack of North/South boardwalks was of issue and is strongly recommended. These walkways reduce dune destruction by connecting existing walkovers and limiting the need for additional dune
walkovers. Motion was made to follow thru with Staff recommendation to satisfy the preapproved permit, follow the path of least resistance and least dune impact. Shoreline TF voted to move forward and send to Council. Motion was approved. It was noted GLO recommendation were to not remove the walkway but a fine to be assessed on the homeowners.
The walkover at Marisol Condominiums was next on the agenda. This walkover has failed and City Staff recommended removal and rebuilding according to permitted engineered plans. Ordinance is in process
to give substance to Shoreline Dept. in reference to permits and inspections of dune walkovers. Motion was made to approve.
Queen Isabella Causeway Boardwalk repairs in the amount of $62K were approved. Council Member Alita Bagley spoke with glee as she discussed this long anticipated project. Repairing and/or replacing the damaged pylons will once again open up this entire boardwalk (walkway located under the Causeway where it meets the island).
Chief Smith presented the 2016 Racial Profile Report as he reminded Council this is merely an acceptance of the data, not agreement of the report. Report was accepted.
Item 15 was consideration of rescheduling or cancelling the Regular City Council Meeting due to Spring Break Texas Week (March 11-19, 2017). Motion was made to cancel the March 12th meeting, all agreed.
February 15, 2017 City Council meeting began with comments from member, Alita Bagley. She announced that a grant from Gulf of Mexico Alliance has been awarded to create a master plan for public access, education, conservation and tourism which will allow for trail networks, water access, parks, etc. Much work was put into this process and much thanks were given for the perseverance and hard work of all involved.
Thor Lassen of The Native Plant Center shared the native plant of the month, SPI Mistflower. This educational initiative, “plant of he month, is upon request of the City Manager. Request was made for residents to strive to plant native when landscaping.
Many new employees were welcomed at the Meet and Greet held prior to the Council Meeting, Mayor Patel announced each name and their department also the newly promoted employees were recognized.
Retirement of David Rocha as Public Works Foreman after 31 years. Much thanks was given from City Council for his dedicated service.
Item 5 included (a-e) Consent Agenda Items and all were approved.
Newly promoted and hired City Staff Members were noted as a
great reflection of “what our City is about” stated Susan Guthrie, City Manager.
Mayor Patel then delivered the Oath of Office to our new Fire Chief, Doug Fowler, and all welcomed him and his wife Karen to the island.
Item 7 (a-f) encompassed the updates and discussions on the Venue tax Projects since the last City Council meeting 2 weeks ago (new information was displayed in yellow on each item in the PowerPoint).
After the ballot language was displayed, Susan Guthrie stated CFO Rodrigo
Giminez would first give the audience a time frame analysis.
(f) Timeline: Debt must be issued by Dec. 2017; 3 months will be needed for issuing debt moving the decision date to October; final approval of bond amounts and project parameters are asked for by June 30.
(a) Medians and Improvements: Phase III would cost $1.483M for sidewalks from the Convention Center to south of the Shores (before engineering); sidewalks through the Shores would cost $1.872M; The road is not wide enough to add medians.
(b) Convention Center Annex public input was clarified and although a theater was originally suggested by citizen input at the workshop, the Attorney General recently made opinion regarding HOT used for the arts. Mayor Patel clarified, “If we have extra funds and decide to use those Venue Tax funds for a Performing Arts Center, we can go back the voters”. Property acquisition for a Convention Center Annex can be an addition to the existing structure or an off- site purchase.
(c) Parking: Option 1: parking lot located just south of Sea Turtle Inc at the costs of $1.5 M (not Restore Grant funds), 50 to 391 spaces. The University would like to pursue a partnership to do research with the mangroves on this property. Citizen opposition is strong based on increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic on White Sands; Option 2: parking garage at the Convention Center; Option 3: parking garage at new, city-owned location; Option 4: a parking lot at a new city-owned location. Designs cannot be developed until a decision is made as to where Venue projects will be.
(d) Wind and Water Sports Facility: Contact has been made with four key stakeholder and all sites have been explored. Option 1, short term facility at the Convention Center, is not recommended by the stakeholders. Option 2, construction of a mid-term facility, was also not recommended and no response was received from the property owners when contacted. Option 3 is recommended as the properties provided wide sweeping bay access. At least 4 properties meet these requirements, procurement, building and construction costs are unknown at this time.
(e) Amphitheater: Option 1 is to explore construction of the event venue on the Convention Center property, property under lease with the County. Preliminary estimates are in the $10M range. Option 2 would be to purchase new property that would accommodate the events venue, windsurfing facility, parking facility and future development.
Next step is continued staff research and public input will continue at City Council Meetings plus the next public workshop. It was again noted, as discussion and prioritization continues, awareness of the time element must be a precedence.
Item 8 was a Public Hearing regarding the rezoning of Lot 2 Block 96 brought 2 people to the podium against and one email was read against. Dr. Kim stated staff was neutral.
Discussion and possible action on the zoning change resulted in denial.
Item 10 was the first reading of the Rules and Regulations for public parks and recreational facilities. City Manager suggested making this an administrative directive for the newly hired Parks and Rec Director whose start date is March 6. First reading approved.
Authorization for the Mayor to write a letter to the GLO (General Land Office) requesting condemnation and removal of the old Queen Isabella Causeway structure and asking for the remains to be relocated to the RGV Reef site was approved. Shane Wilson stated he would be submitting a letter to support this eco-friendly initiative (as POWC President) along with several other island organizations he represents.
Decision was made, after much discussion, to render the Historical Preservation Committee dormant rather than dissolve or merge it with the SPI Historical Museum at this time.
Presentation of the TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone) Report was accepted (for itemized details see Agenda Item 13 online).
Action was taken as Item #14 on the CMP funded Moonlight Beach Walkover. GLO has approved current plans, Shoreline Task Force recommends going forward with procuring bids and vote was taken to move forward.
Item #15 was removed from the agenda.
Purchase of a new front end loader was approved in the amount of $80K after much discussion of cost and clarification of need and assurance of maintenance protocol.
Meeting adjourned at 7:27pm