County backs off dune permit move
Nearly 20 Port Aransas residents and officials went to a meeting of the Nueces County Beach Management Advisory Committee meeting on Friday, Nov. 10, loaded for bear. It was largely unneeded - this time.
At issue, and the sole item on the committee's agenda for the special called meeting, was the question of whether Nueces County should consolidate all dune building permits under one office, presumably the advisory committee.
Committee chairman Fred McCutcheon noted that the committee had been considering the move "for some time." It started, he said, because the City of Corpus Christi, whose dune permits are handled by Nueces County, is "critical of allowing Port Aransas to do its own thing when Corpus Christi doesn't."
Although Nueces County has legislative control over dune permits, Port Aransas city officials issue dune building permits within the city under an inter-agency agreement signed back in 1994.
Among the sticking points for Port Aransans is the proposal that all dune permits should be limited to more than 350 feet from the beach. That conflicts with the current Port Aransas policy of treating each case on its own merits, and asking both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council to take a look at it.
However, McCutcheon said the county committee had no intention of making everyone conform to a 350-foot rule.
"Certainly, private landowners' rights trump public legislation when the private rights exist ahead of time," he said.
However, developer and Port Aransas city engineer Jim Urban charged that the only reason the matter came before the committee was "to ease the pain on Corpus Christi." Port Aransas has no interest in that, he said, and noted that the city "has a coastal management plan that was adopted by the state and that enforces the same rules."
"It's worked seamlessly and enforceably for 12 years," he added.
City Manager Michael Kovacs pointed to the General Land Office's "procedural and timing issues" with dissolving the agreement between the county and the city, and added that "we think things are going along pretty quickly." "We think we do this process very well," city councilman Keith McMullin told the committee, "and based on the accolades we receive from others ... they think so too."
Committee member Linda Storm said the body had been looking at projects on Nueces County beaches since 2000.
"One requirement of the Dune Protection Act says that all projects must meet minimization and avoidance," she said. "We thought stepping all permanent structures to 350 feet (back from the dune line) would do that."
In the end, Storm said she wasn't ready to recommend to county commissioners that the permitting be consolidated in one office "at this time," and three other committee members agreed with her.
McCutcheon, Strong, Lawrence Young and Jack Ponton voted to tell commissioners not to consolidate the permit process; Carl Bedalich voted to go ahead.
Committee members Dr. James R. Dian and John Michael weren't present for the meeting.
The recommendation was expected to be on the commissioners court agenda for Wednesday, Nov. 15 but was withdrawn from the agenda, Kovacs said.