Wednesday, January 11, 2006

City Council delays vote on beach traffic

CORPUS CHRISTI - A vote to ban vehicles on part of the city's beach has been delayed. Last month, council members canceled an ordinance that would have banned vehicles on the beach in front of the seawall, out on Padre Island. The intent was to expand the ban to suit a major resort developer.

It's because that developer you mentioned has not provided the city with a concrete plan. At this time, we don't even know the developers name. All we know is the company plans to build a world class beach resort next to Packery Channel.

So, the mayor has delayed voting on the issue, until the developer comes forward and makes the company's plans public. Mayor Garrett hopes that happens by February, so he and the city council can move forward and vote on banning vehicles on more than 5,000 feet of beach.

A group called the Beach Access Coalition plans to fight this ban. Once the council votes on this issue, the group said they are prepared to gather more than 8,000 signatures, which will then force the city to let voters decide the issue.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Authorities busy keeping people off Packery Channel

MUSTANG ISLAND - The project to connect the Laguna Madre to the Gulf of Mexico is still several weeks away from completion, but in the meantime, keeping people and boats away from the unpaved jetties and shallow channel has become a continuous task for authorities.

The channel itself may not be complete, but it's becoming hard not to find someone fishing, sitting, or taking a walk inside the restricted areas. The barricade on the jetty seems impossible to ignore, yet there are plenty that defy it.

It wasn't long before two game wardens spotted them. They politely told the fishermen to find another spot. Some tried to claim they didn't know the jetty was off limits. Guy Madison said it's not fair to be forced out.

"I said it's ridiculous, I mean you know, they didn't mind jacking our taxes to fund it, but now we can't use it," Madison said. Others feel the unfinished construction still poses a threat.

"Granite out there is slippery. If they slip and fall, you don't know if someone's going to see them or help them, and it's a construction area, they don't want people in there yet," Andre Lavoy said.

"I don't see the fact that any of the rocks or any of the slabs they've laid out here are going to move around or anything with us fishing on them, but I don't have the final say," Madison said.

On the beach side, there are these large metal pylons and a thick metal rope to block all cars. As you move further there are signs that say 'no trespassing' and 'hard hat area'. Closer to the highway 361 bridge, there is this orange fencing designed to keep cars out, but a lot of the fencing is down and people are still finding their way in.

"It doesn't matter what signs they put up. They keep putting them up, they get tore down, and the people go back," Lavoy said.

"Apparently, someone took the barrier down, so I guess we just took it upon ourselves to come out here, you know what I mean," said fisherman Joey Buentello. As the warm temperatures continue, there will likely be many more doing the same - even if a little early.

Along with Texas Parks and Wildlife, Corpus Christi police officers said they've also have to frequently clear people off the jetties. However, they said no one has been cited for trespassing yet and no injuries to visitors along the unfinished channel have been reported. The project is expected to be completed in late spring.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Island resort secret's out- Yeah Right!

Intrawest is big player in snow, sand & public beach access restrictions...

December 22, 2005

Vancouver-based Intrawest Corp. is the company that intends to build a $500 million resort on Padre Island, several people familiar with the agreement have confirmed to the Caller-Times.

Early this month, Austin developer Paul Schexnailder announced that a major resort development company had signed a letter of intent to build the first phase of a $1.5 billion resort on the island. Schexnailder has declined to identify the company, saying that to do so would violate a confidentiality agreement with the company.

Now multiple sources familiar with the development have confirmed to the Caller-Times that Intrawest, acknowledged to be a leader in the field, intends to build the resort. Schexnailder would neither confirm nor deny the report. However, among local business leaders and city officials, Intrawest had become a poorly kept secret.

Intrawest spokesman Tim McNulty wouldn't comment on any development in Corpus Christi. He said federal law prohibits publicly traded companies from speaking publicly about such projects until a final agreement has been reached.

Schexnailder has said that the letter of intent, signed Nov. 30, signaled the beginning of a 90-day period during which the partnering company would determine whether the project is feasible.

Intrawest resorts
# Blue Mountain
Collingwood, Ontario, Canada
# Copper Mountain
Copper Mountain, Colo.
# Keystone Ski Resort
Keystone, Colo.
# Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
# Mountain Creek Resort
Vernon, N.J.
# Panorama Mountain Village
Panorama Mountain Village, British Columbia, Canada
# Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
Walton County, Fla.
# Snowshoe Mountain Resort
Snowshoe, W. Va.
# Solitude Mountain Resort
Solitude, Utah
# Squaw Valley USA
Olympic Valley, Calif.
# Stratton Mountain Resort
Stratton Mountain, Vt.
# Mount Tremblant Resort
Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada
# Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
# Winter Park Resort
Winter Park, Colo.
Source: Intrawest Corp.
At the end of the 90 days, the company then would have 60 days to resolve any issues before making a final decision about the development. Schexnailder is 50 percent partner in Gulf Shores Joint Ventures, the company that owns the land on Padre Island where the resort would be built.

About the company

Intrawest is a resort development powerhouse. The company owns interest in 14 resorts in the United States and Canada and specializes in adventure travel.

Earlier this month, the company announced it would pre-sell 318 luxury condos in Hawaii on Maui's western shore. The condos, which ranged in price from $500,000 to about $4.5 million, sold out in three days and netted the company $425 million.

The company reported record revenues of $301.8 million in the first quarter of its 2005-2006 fiscal year (beginning July 1) - up 47 percent compared with the same period last year. Net profits for the first quarter were $9.2 million.

A local business leader, who asked not to be named because of the possible legal implications of identifying the company, said the company is well established at the top of its industry.

"They are absolutely among the very best in the United States," the official said. "We would be extremely blessed to have that development in our city."

Most of Intrawest's destination properties are ski resorts. During the past decade, however, the company has gravitated from the slopes to the sand, investing in year-round resorts where revenues don't fluctuate as sharply with the seasons. In 1998, Intrawest bought Sandestin, a sprawling, 2,400-acre beach and golf resort outside the city of Destin on the Florida Panhandle, and has since begun a $300 million redevelopment project of the property.

In October, Intrawest sold all but 15 percent of its interests in Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California - shortly before announcing the sale of the condos in Maui. And in early December, the company agreed to buy 56 acres in the Phoenix area for a resort development there.

At Sandestin and at most of Intrawest's resorts, much of the retail space is leased to small businesses instead of chains or franchises. Intrawest Corp. spokesman Tim McNulty said most of the company's resorts have a pedestrian village in which most tenants are independently owned.

"We try to have unique businesses," he said. "You're not going to necessarily see an abundance of chain stores and franchises. They are more entrepreneur-based."

Intrawest is an international public company traded as IDR on the New York Stock Exchange; its stock has gained steadily during the past year and closed at $28.44, down 17 cents a share Wednesday.

Padre Island Resort

Though only a fraction of the size of Sandestin, the 100-acre resort planned for Padre Island would be the largest residential development in the island's history.

The first phase would be built out over five to seven years and would include 1,000 to 2,000 residential units and between 75,000 and 150,000 square feet of office, commercial, restaurant, retail and entertainment space. Two more phases that are similar in scope and value are planned to follow, which means a total investment of about $1.5 billion. Schexnailder has said that the signed letter of intent is for the first phase only.

The development has generated controversy because Schexnailder has said the project is feasible only if the 7,400 feet of beach between Packery Channel and Padre Balli County Park is converted to pedestrian-only beach.

The City Council took what is anticipated to be the first step Wednesday, rescinding a recent ordinance that banned traffic along the 4,200-foot Padre Island seawall. The move clears the way for a new ordinance - possibly one that creates the 7,400 feet of beach Schexnailder says is needed for the resort.

A group of residents called the Beach Access Coalition circulated a petition following the previous ordinance that banned traffic along the seawall. The group has said it will start a new petition against any new ordinance the council passes to restrict traffic on the island's beaches.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Details of proposed billion dollar resort still vague

Your Tellin me!!!

CORPUS CHRISTI - Today's city council vote will allow the council to draft a new ordinance next month extending the traffic ban another 1800 feet from the north end of the seawall to Packery Channel. The change comes at the request of a developer who plans to build a world class beach resort next to Packery Channel.

In the meantime a lot of people don't know many details about the proposed billion dollar beach resort including some city council members. This deal all started with the promise of dredging Packery Channel. The voters decided it should be dredged but what may eventually sit next to the area is somewhat unknown.

By now you may have heard about the billion dollar resort in the works for Padre Island near the seawall. Brent Chesney, City Councilman explains, "It's a report complex... Housing... Hotel... Boardwalk... Shops... It's a full scale deal... And these guys are legit... I mean they're a national developer... Now whether they're legit on this property.. I don't know." Terry Carter from the Chamber of Commerce adds, "You would certainly recognize the developments that they currently own today and manage."

We are told the resort would employ about 1500 people. But those are all the details anyone will reveal at this time. We also know the developer is Paul Schexnailder and at least one council member wants him to give more details about what the island may look like. Chesney continues, "So I think it's time for him to step up and say here's the deal... Here are the specifics... Here's the letter of intent... Here's where we're going with this..." Chesney wants specifics because he says some information so far hasn't turned out to be accurate. Chesney adds, "The problem here is we continually get information from this developer that doesn't play out...and that's what's frustrating to that we're constantly put into a box and everybody says oh my God stand on your hand let's do this... And then nothing happens."

Beach ban rescinded

Mostly liers on city council.

The City Council room was filled Tuesday as people on both sides of the beach vehicle-ban issue lined up to have a say. After nearly two hours of testimony from the public, the council voted to rescind its vehicle ban on 4,200 feet of beach.

Way paved to close longer stretch to vehicles

December 21, 2005

It took a couple of tries, but the City Council voted on Tuesday to undo its previous decision to close 4,200 feet of beach to motor traffic.

Two votes on the issue produced two different results, with Councilman Brent Chesney changing his mind sometime in between. In the end, though, the council cleared the way to make a longer stretch of Padre Island beach vehicle free. Mayor Henry Garrett said he hoped to have a new ordinance put on the agenda next month, though probably not at the next meeting, Jan. 11. What that ordinance will say is not yet decided.

But it only will be on the agenda because of Chesney's change of heart. After almost two hours of public comment - some 35 speaking in favor of taking cars off more beach and about 20 speaking against it - the council initially voted 4-3 to rescind the old ordinance, with Chesney in the latter camp. Garrett and Council Members Mark Scott, Melody Cooper and Jerry Garcia voted to rescind the ordinance; Councilmen John Marez and Jesse Noyola voted to leave it in place. Councilman Rex Kinnison was absent and Councilman Bill Kelly abstained.

But because every ordinance and resolution before the City Council needs at least five votes to pass, the ordinance still failed.

Chesney then asked to take another vote, and changed sides. He said he did it so that the group against the original vehicle ban would have to do as little extra work as possible on a new petition.

The group - the Beach Access Coalition - has been circulating a petition to put the question of vehicles on the 4,200 feet of beach before the voters. Rescinding the ordinance that started the vehicle ban voided the petition.

Chesney had told the group that although he would do as it asked and vote against rescinding the petition this time, he believed the petition would still be voided in the future. When the coalition has collected all the necessary signatures - as of Monday they had 6,642 of the approximately 8,000 needed - it would have to go before the council and ask that the council members either rescind the ordinance or put it on the ballot. At that time, he said before the first vote, he would vote to rescind it.

But before the second vote Chesney decided that wasn't the best way to do things.

"I think it really came down to, if I'm going to vote to rescind the petition later when they bring the signatures in, why make them go through that (collecting all the signatures)," he said. "I got to thinking, 'Why play games?' "

Garrett and Scott both said rescinding the original ordinance gives everyone concerned a chance to start clean and decide what is best for the entire community.

"In the end, we need a plan," Scott said. "I want this community to put together a package on pedestrian beaches. If the community doesn't want them, then so be it. But we need to have that dialogue."

Scott said his vision is to take cars off the 4,200 feet of beach along the seawall and the 1,800 feet from the seawall to the south jetty of Packery Channel, but to make up for that with three parking lots, bathrooms, amenities and possibly lifeguards. And he believes the ordinance passed should also call for an amendment to the city's charter that would require a vote before cars could be banned from any other city beach - the city has about 79,000 feet of beach within its limits.

Austin developer Paul Schexnailder has said a major resort developer intends to build a resort just north of the newly restricted beach. He said the project is feasible only if a stretch of beach from the south jetty to Park Road 1 is vehicle-free.

Garrett thought there might be a possibility of compromise - perhaps on the exact amount of beach closed to traffic, or on the number and placement of parking lots and the types of amenities.

"It's imperative that we all come together and find common ground for a plan for our island," he said.

Members of the Beach Access Coalition did not view it so favorably, however. John Kelley, speaking for the coalition, said Tuesday's second vote "stifled democracy."

"They well know that a reversal in a public election would have prevented them from putting this issue back on the agenda for four years," he said.

The coalition, Kelley said, will start a new petition as soon as the council votes to close any more beach to vehicles.

A speaker addresses the council as Council Member Melody Cooper and Mayor Henry Garrett listen. About 35 people spoke in favor of taking cars off more beach and about 20 spoke against such a ban.

John Kelley, a spokesman for the Beach Access Coalition, which is in favor of continuing to allow vehicles on the beach, addresses the council Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Council to vote on beach today

Council to vote on beach today

Groups voice opposition to limiting vehicle traffic

By Nick Nelson Caller-Times
December 20, 2005

As the City Council faces a vote today whether to take back its traffic ban for one Padre Island beach, local organizations have weighed in on how the council should proceed.

The issue has shaped up as a choice between a $500 million resort development and the right to drive motor vehicles on the beach. The pedestrian-only beach concept has been touted as a safety issue and vilified as an erosion of rights. The proposed development has been heralded as an engine for creating jobs and prosperity and attacked as a burden on the environment.

The council voted in mid-October to restrict traffic from 4,200 feet of beach in front of Padre Island's seawall. Early this month, Austin developer Paul Schexnailder announced that a major resort development company intends to build a resort just north of the newly restricted beach. He says the project is feasible only if that area, in addition to the 4,200 feet, is vehicle-free.

"The chamber view is that our city needs a sound and proactive policy that encourages private-sector investment that will result in creating new employment opportunities and grow our economy," said chamber President Terry Carter.

The Corpus Christi Association of Realtors last week signed a similar resolution. The Padre Island Business Association board is pushing for a pedestrian-only beach between Packery Channel and Padre Balli County Park - a distance of about 7,400 feet. In a letter sent out Monday, Councilman Mark Scott urged members of the Padre Island Business Association to attend today's council meeting.

"The real issue is about who is in charge in this community," the letter stated. "It is about whose voice the council hears. I believe the citizens in our community want to grow. They expect us to make appropriate decisions to move our city forward. However, (today) is one of those days where the council needs to see the community. We need to see you. We need to see our friends and supporters out in the audience."

The Texas Coastal Bend chapter of the Surfrider Foundation has formally opposed vehicular bans of any kind on local beaches and has rallied behind a petition drive to undo the October ordinance. Pat Suter, chairman of the Coastal Bend chapter of the Sierra Club, said her group had not formally voted on a position, though she had little doubt what the vote would be: "The Sierra Club has opposed unwise development on the islands from the very beginning."

Suter said most of the thousands who have signed the petition are not affiliated with any group but are simply upset by the council's October decision. She said she expected the council to vote down that ordinance today to make way for a new ordinance that would restrict traffic on more beach.

"If they come back with another one, we'll just petition it again," she said.

Beach information
# Today: City Council is scheduled to vote whether to rescind an October ordinance that banned vehicular traffic on 4,200 feet of beach along Padre Island’s seawall.
# When/where? 10 a.m., City Hall, 1201 Leopard St.
# Why now? Austin developer Paul Schexnailder says the $500 million resort is feasible only if additional beach is restricted. Councilman Mark Scott said the council erred in not accommodating the proposed resort.
# If the ordinance is rescinded: Council could consider a new ordinance restricting more beach to traffic.
City would have time to make a more effective beach access plan, city officials say.
A petition that local residents have been circulating since October would be null. Petition organizers say if the council passes a new ordinance with new restrictions, they will start a new petition.
On Monday, the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution urging the council to rescind the October ordinance, so that the council can establish the larger pedestrian-only beach, extending to the south Packery Channel jetty.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Pedestrian beach sought by Realtors( shits getting deeper)

Pedestrian beach sought by Realtors
"Remember this is from the liberal one sided newspaper!"

Group asks council to close area south of Packery Channel

By Nick Nelson Caller-Times
December 17, 2005

The Corpus Christi Association of Realtors has weighed in on the issue of vehicular access on public beaches, urging the City Council to establish a pedestrian-only beach south of Packery Channel's south jetty.

The association sent the resolution to the council late Thursday. The resolution was drafted by the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau and Regional Economic Development Company, though those groups' boards haven't approved the resolution. It urges the City Council to:

n Repeal its October resolution to close 4,200 feet of beach along Padre Island's seawall.

n Establish a pedestrian-only beach between the channel and the north end of the seawall and make "appropriate provisions" for the areas between the north end of the seawall and Padre Balli County Park.

n Develop a new beach access plan for the area that assures the public's right to access the beach.

n Delay implementing any restrictions on vehicular traffic on beaches until developers have broken ground on the proposed resort.

The resort referenced is a $500 million project of Austin developer Paul Schexnailder and Gulf Shores Joint Venture, a company of which he is part owner.

None of the original drafting organizations has signed the resolution, though the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce is expected to sign it on Monday, according to chamber President Terry Carter.

Realtors association President David Cheek could not be reached Friday for comment.

Contact Nick Nelson at 886-3678 or nelsonn@,1641,CCCT_811_4322986,00.html

Friday, December 16, 2005

'Redneck Riviera' versus resort

Developer pushes ban on traffic; opponents doubt project benefit

Corpus Christi's business community is preparing to throw its support behind a $500 million resort planned for Padre Island, while one grassroots group is fighting to preserve what it described as the "Redneck Riviera."

The debate centers on whether to ban vehicular traffic on the 7,400-foot stretch of beach between Packery Channel and Padre Balli Park to accommodate a high-end resort community. The length is roughly 9 percent of some 79,000 feet of beach within city boundaries. Paul Schexnailder, one of the resort's developers, says the project is feasible only if it borders a pedestrian-only beach.

On Thursday, officials at the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau and Regional Economic Development Corporation deliberated whether to sign a joint resolution about the issue.

The resolution urges the City Council to repeal the ordinance it passed in October that outlawed vehicular traffic on 4,200 feet of beach in front of the island's seawall - an ordinance that prompted a public petition to overturn it. It also encourages the city to establish a pedestrian-only beach between Packery Channel and the north end of the seawall and to make "appropriate provisions" for the beach along the seawall and south of the seawall to Padre Balli Park.

The language was left vague to avoid "telling the city how to do its job," said chamber president and CEO Terry Carter, but the chamber supported the master-planned model Schexnailder has presented. The $500 million first phase of the project is planned for the land surrounding Lake Padre, and would border the beach just north of the seawall.

The resolution still was not officially approved by any of the groups on Thursday, but Carter said he anticipates the chamber board will approve it Monday. The CVB board elected not to sign the document until it has more information, said CVB President Tom Galyon.

At a news conference Wednesday at the Nueces County Courthouse, the newly formed Beach Access Coalition, the group that started a public petition to oppose the council's October ordinance, questioned the economic benefit of the proposed resort. The group, which includes surfing and fishing organizations, environmental groups and others, asserted that the money generated by the resort would circulate within the resort - not in the community beyond its fences.

"Working families who come to the beach and spend their hard-earned dollars with local small businesses will be displaced by wealthy tourists who will go directly to the resort from the airport, spend all of their money there and then leave town," said coalition spokesman John Kelley. "We've been the Redneck Riviera for a long time, and there's nothing wrong with that."

Kelley said restricting traffic on the beaches to accommodate a resort amounted to "Cooler Segregation."

"In other words, people won't travel any farther from an access point than it is comfortable to carry their chairs, cooler and other beach accessories, leaving the rest of the beach to private condo owners," he said.

Schexnailder has said if the pedestrian-only beach is denied and the resort proposal falls through, his next option would be to sell the land in parcels - an alternative he said would be a missed opportunity for Corpus Christi.

Kelley said the land would be more beneficial to the local economy if it were parceled and sold as individual lots as opposed to being developed all at once.

"If Shexnailder parcels out the land, what that's going to be is a lot of small resorts, a lot of small and local businesses. What makes a community's economy work is how many times a dollar turns over in that community."

In response, Shexnailder said: "It is inconceivable to me that anyone would think that an unplanned development would be of greater value than a planned one."

Jim Lee, an economics professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said master-planned resorts are riskier because "if the plans fall through, the whole development falls through." But Lee added that when successful, master-planned communities are better for the economy than piecemeal development.

"A master plan for a resort is better than smaller projects because you can create an identity around the area," he said. "You don't have that with sporadic development."

Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez also said planned development works better than the alternative.

"Developing without a plan could lead to gaps in infrastructure," he said. "Economic development will occur more effectively whenever it is planned."

Addressing the Rotary Club of Corpus Christi last week, Schexnailder said phase one of the resort would create about 1,500 jobs. He said the company that intends to build the resort but cannot be named because of a confidentiality agreement traditionally leases retail and restaurant space within the resort to local businesses. "They like to maintain the local color," he said.

The coalition said the development would strain the local economy because it would create mostly low-paying, tourism industry jobs. Taxpayers would have to subsidize the jobs with food stamps, public housing and public transportation.

Carter said that along with the minimum-wage workers would come a host of higher-paid staffers to manage them. "A lot of management is going to be required," he said. "It's going to require individuals with years of experience and probably degrees in running that type of establishment."

Lee said the natural use for Padre Island is tourism related, meaning any development there will likely create jobs in the tourism industry.

"The choice is between low-paying jobs or no jobs," he said. "I don't think we're going to build any high-tech industries over there."

Petition at risk-=- Bull Crap it is!!

Council vote could require drive to start over
Just south of the seawall on Padre Island is an additional 3,200 feet of beach that Austin developer Paul Schexnailder and City Councilman Mark Scott have proposed to close to vehicle traffic.

Almost two months of petitioning may have been for nothing, but the group trying to put the vehicle ban on 4,200 feet of Padre Island beach to a vote said that if necessary, it is ready to start over.

Mayor Henry Garrett said Wednesday the City Council will decide next week whether to undo its October vote to close the beach along the Padre Island seawall to traffic. If the council votes to do so, that will clear the way for a future vote on whether to ban traffic on that same stretch and an additional 3,200 feet. Austin developer Paul Schexnailder has said that much needs to be car-free to make a $500 million resort community feasible.

City Secretary Armando Chapa said voting to undo the previous ban would also void the petition opponents to the ban have been circulating since October. The group - Beach Access Coalition - currently has almost 6,000 of the approximately 8,000 signatures needed to put the ban to a vote, but if the council repeals their current ban and approves a new one, the coalition will have to start a new petition.

John Kelley, a member of the coalition, said if that happens, the group would immediately start a new petition. He added the group also would try to make such an act an issue in the next council election.

"The issue for the council is one of integrity," he said.

In a meeting on the coalition's beliefs, Kelley read from the original ordinance that closed the beach to traffic, which said the council did not intend to close any other beaches in its jurisdiction to traffic and instructed the city manager not to process any requests for vehicle bans by beachfront property owners.

"They made a written promise to the people, and they want to go back on it two months later," said Neil McQueen, chairman of the Coastal Bend chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, one of the groups involved with the coalition. "I can tell you that people are mad now. They feel like they've been betrayed."

Councilman Mark Scott, the only council member who has committed to voting to repeal the original ban, said it's not an issue of going back on a promise, but of correcting a mistake. If the council had known in October that the ban needed to be on 7,400 feet of beach, they would have voted to close all 7,400 feet to traffic then, he said.

"It is politically painful to admit we made a mistake, but it is absolutely the best public policy," Scott said. "I don't think anybody's dishonest. We made an error Let's try to fix it and move on down the road."

Just south of the seawall on Padre Island, a sign indicates the beginning of beach maintenance.