Each of the seven members of the Port Aransas City Council has weighed in on the question of whether the town’s Coastal Management Plan (CMP) should be changed to possibly allow for more commercial activity on the beach, including food and beverage sales.
Following are the council members’ votes and some of the comments they made at a council meeting on Thursday, July 21:
Council member Glenda Balentine voted against changing the CMP language.
Balentine asked that her fellow council members change their votes to scuttle the proposed CMP change. ( The council voted 4-3 in favor of the change during a second reading of the measure on June 16.) She said she’s confi dent that Port Aransans will vote to prevent more commercial activity on the beach if a referendum election is held.
Councilman Charles Bujan voted against the CMP change.
Bujan said he sees a “disconnect” on this issue between the desires of Port Aransas residents and tourists. Tourists seem to want beach vending, and residents don’t, he said.
Bujan said he’s against it because residents seem to be mostly against it, and because he believes it will result in more litter and traffic jams on the beach. It also will hurt smaller businesses in town, he said.
“My family came here in 1885, and they would turn over in their graves if they heard this (proposal),” Bujan said. e
Th issue of beach vending shouldn’t be up to the council, Bujan said. It should be a decision made directly by the people of Port Aransas, he said.
Bujan said he would organize a committee to conduct a petition drive to call for a referendum that could overturn the council’s decision to change the CMP. (See story, this issue.)
Councilman Keith Donley voted in favor of changing the CMP language.
Donley said he supports the idea of allowing food and beverage sales on the beach.
“I believe in America,” Donley said. “I believe in free enterprise.”
Donley indicated that he voted yes because he believes it would benefit a majority of Port Aransans and visitors. As councilman, he said, he has a responsibility to all Port Aransans and “not just a vocal few.”
Donley said he’s not swayed by the argument that beach vending would be bad because it would compete with businesses in town. By that same logic, it would be a good idea to stop allowing more restaurants and fishing guides to do business in town, because they’d provide additional competition too, he said. Trying to limit commercial activity in that way obviously wouldn’t be right, and neither would a prohibition on more beach vending, he said.
Councilman Steve Lanoux voted in favor of changing the CMP.
Lanoux said the city should allow itself the freedom to allow more commercial activity of some kind on the beach in the future.
“I don’t think we should constrain ourselves,” Lanoux said in an interview.
But he said he doesn’t favor food and beverage vending.
“I don’t think it would enhance the Port Aransas experience,” he said.
Any attempt to add food and beverage vending at Port Aransas waters would be “dead in the water,” Lanoux said.
Mayor Keith McMullin voted in favor of changing the CMP language.
McMullin pointed out that the issue at hand at that particular meeting was not specifically to decide whether to allow additional vending on the beach, but whether the CMP should be reworded to allow for the city the freedom to some day create an ordinance that would allow more beach vending.
McMullin said the city already allows some commercial activity on the beach. The CMP allows for one business to operate on the beach, but the business must be the kind that rents items like chairs and umbrellas. Currently, the CMP doesn’t allow that business or any other to even sell water, the mayor said.
A Port Aransas City Council, McMullin said, isn’t likely to allow more than a handful of additional vendors on the beach.
McMullin was the city official who, last year, first brought forward the idea of changing the CMP to possibly add more commercial activity such as food and beverage sales on the beach. But he ended up encountering a lot of people who are against the idea.
“I’m sure I’ve made more enemies in the past month than in the past few years,” he said.
McMullin has taken out an ad, which he termed an “open letter” to Port Aransans, stating some of his views on beach issues, in the current edition of the South Jetty.
In part of the ad, he wrote that he sees strong public opposition to the idea of creating an ordinance to allow food and beverage sales on the beach.
“As such, I have no interest in pursuing any future ordinance and as I stated in the last council meeting, I will not,” McMullin states in the ad.
Also in the ad, the mayor said that he voted in favor of changing the CMP language “to provide the city flexibility in how we meet the needs of our beachgoers in the future. … One day, it might be appropriate to expand the services/locations of our existing vendor or allow a condo or hotel to offer services for their guests on the beach. The language that is in the recently modified version allows the city to make these decisions should the need and interest arise.”
Councilman Edwin Myers voted against the CMP change.
Myers complained that the proposed language change in the CMP is so vague that it could allow for far more kinds of commercial activity than just food and beverage sales. He suggested that it could allow T-shirt sales, for example.
Deputy City Manager Dave Parsons has said that the language would allow only for food and beverage sales and “beachrelated services.” Parsons said beach-related services might involve volleyball clinics, for example, but wouldn’t allow retail activity, such as T-shirt sales.
Myers is general manager of Kody’s Restaurant and Bar, but he has said that has nothing to do with his opposition to beach vending, which some see as being possibly too competitive with businesses in town.
“I wasn’t elected to represent my business,” he said. “I was elected to represent the people who live here.”
Councilman John Price voted in favor of the CMP change.
As to Myers’ remarks about being elected to represent Port Aransans, Price said non-residents are important too, and many locals depend on tourism for their livelihoods.
Price said he doesn’t have strong feelings one way or another on the question of whether to allow additional beach vending. But he said he feels “a fiduciary responsibility” to give the town the power to make money.
Price said a survey should be done to see what beach users want.
Questions? Comments? Contact Dan Parker at (361) 749- 5131 or email@example.com.