Are we ready?
If a nine-story luxury resort that includes a water park, convention center, spa and restaurants is built on Mustang Island just north of Port Royal Resort, it will impact Port Aransas even though it will be in the city limits of Corpus Christi.
The property will have a Port Aransas telephone number and address; it will be served by the Nueces County Water Control and Improvement District No. 4, which serves Port Aransas; and telephone and broadband Internet service likely will be provided by CenturyLink, which also provides those services to Port Aransas.
Whether and when ground is broken is waiting on classification to establish the property value for tax purposes by the Nueces County Appraisal District.
Developer John Blomfield is frustrated because “I’m not getting an answer from the county.”
Calls to the appraisal district by the South Jetty were not returned in time for this story.
La Tranquila plans call for a ninestory hotel with 600 “keys.” Those keys can be applied to 220 units composed of 450 rooms. Each unit can be used in one, two or three-bedroom configurations so it “can accommodate families in summer and conventioneers in the winter,” Blomfield said.
A 130-room boutique hotel also will be located on the property
The water park, Blomfield said, will be a “mini Schlitterbahn” with a giant wave pool, indoor and outdoor play areas, water slides and more.
Blomfield, who purchased and developed the St. Mary Lodge and Resort, an upscale resort at the entrance to Glacier National Park in Montana, said he chose Texas for this resort because “Texas is one of the best states to develop in because of favorable laws for developers.”
He said he chose Mustang Island because, “I searched the whole coast, and this area has the biggest potential.”
The area boasts a lot of “high-end residences, and there is more high-end money there than in Galveston and South Padre Island. Our resort is extremely high-end,” Blomfield said.
The property will be marketed as Mustang Island in Corpus Christi and Port Aransas “because it belongs to all three. There are advantages each way,” Blomfield said.
His partner in the venture is J. Jesus Gallegos Alvarez, who developed a resort, also called La Tranquila, north of Puerto Vallarta at Punta Mita.
The development would be serviced by the NCWCID No. 4, based in Port Aransas.
Is the district prepared for a development of that size?
“It’s hard to answer, but we feel we’re in good enough infrastructure shape to serve this building,” said District Manager Mark Young.
“We have not met yet. We have seen a site plan of roughly what the footprint will be, and where utilities will be served. We’re in good shape there with existing utilities without major improvements having to be installed,” he explained.
Infrastructure installed over the past few years has put the district in a position of readiness.
Larger water lines between the two water towers on the west side of State Hwy. 361 have been installed, and the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant also has been increased.
Future improvements include increasing elevated water storage from a combined one million gallons to two million gallons, combined.
A second wastewater treatment facility capable of treating up to 1.2 million gallons per day (mg/d), also is on the drawing board in the 2016 to 2018 time frame.
The existing facility can treat 1.88 mg/ d, and typically treats 1.3 to 1.5 mg/d.
According to Texas Environmental Quality Commission regulations, “If you breach 75 percent of 1.88 million gallons per day for three consecutive months, you should be under design and preparing to finance,” Young said.
“I don’t know if our flows are there, but our readiness is. We have a basic design and the land. We’re getting closer financially.”
Young said the facility breaches capacity in the summer, “but our summers aren’t that long, so we may breach for two consecutive months.”
The district already has purchased 10 acres of land on the west side of State Hwy. 361 across from La Mirage Condominiums (at the city limits), and has an active discharge permit for another 1.2 million-gallon wastewater treatment plant.
The estimated $8 million plant will be financed largely by money set aside from capital impact fees. Other options are the sale of bonds and property tax.
“Property tax is the last choice,” Young said.
The district has not assessed a property tax in recent years because “We have no debt,” Young said.
The capital impact fee was implemented in 1982, and “it’s kept us from going in debt to make improvements. Our goal is to not go into debt and pay for improvements with water rates and capital impact fees,” he said.
“Because we don’t have debt, our water rates are cheaper than anyone else in Coastal Bend. The capital impact fee is best thing that happened to the district. We were one of first in the state (to implement a capital impact fee),” Young said.
The rate structure, he added, has not changed since 1982. The capital impact for a home is $1,025, “and always has been,” he said.
“That was a blow in the early 80s. Now it’s nothing. That may need to be revisited at some point, as value of the dollar drops and the cost of infrastructure repairs climb,” Young added.
“We’re ready for La Tranquila, but we don’t have much knowledge about what they’re proposing, but we feel certain we can service them” because of recent and pending infrastructure improvements, Young said.
CenturyLink is also ready to serve such a project.
South Texas district manager John Navarrett, who is based in San Marcos, said, “We have fiber and we would end up putting in a larger remote in that area (a smaller one feeds neighboring Port Royal and the area).”
La Tanquila “could mean a big shot -- an economic boost because we’d be looking at lines for the hotel and its ancillary services that come with it, such as wi-fi in lobby, on-site service for whole site, the network for the hotel itself,” Navarrette said.
CenturyLink’s investment would be fiber into the resort, “otherwise we’re ready to add that type of project anywhere on Mustang Island. The infrastructure is there,” he said.
In Port Aransas proper, the benefit will be increased traffic to shops and restaurants, according to Ann Bracher Vaughan, executive director of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce-Tourist Bureau.
“It will be in the city limits of Corpus Christi, so we won’t benefit from hotelmotel tax,” she said.
“It will eventually help Port Aransas by creating a need for additional shops and restaurants that can accommodate the visitors that would frequent that facility,” she said.
Darla Honea, city finance director, said there is no way of projecting the impact visitors to such a facility would have on city sales tax revenues. But, if those visitors are frequenting Port Aransas restaurants and shops, there will be a return to city coffers in the form of sales tax allocations.
Blomfield said the resort would create a mixture of 600 full-time and part-time positions of various levels, from management to hotel staff.
“If the local labor force is competitive, we’ll use them,” he said.
Meanwhile, he awaits a ruling by the appraisal district on how the property will be classified to determine its taxable value.
“Then we can agree or disagree,” he said.