The South Jetty asked questions, and the candidates answered them.
Dale Christianson and Edwin Myers, who are facing each other in a run-off election for Place 6 on the Port Aransas City Council, recently responded to three questions that the newspaper posed to them on town issues.
The questions and the candidates’ answers follow. The election will be on June 28. Early voting starts on Thursday, June 16. Details on early voting are in another story in this edition.
Question: Some people in Port Aransas feel that short-term rentals have created too many problems with regard to parking, noise, garbage, displacement of long-term rentals and other things. But accommodations are important to this town’s economy. Do you support the measures that the city council and staff have taken in recent months with regard to STRs? If elected, what more, if anything, would you want the council and staff to do in that area?
Myers: In regards to STRs, I think that collecting data and focusing on the issues that arise the most is the best course of action. I think a specific action that might be worth revisiting is how we approach STRs and their connection to Flexible Unit Developments (FUD). FUDs center around the idea of a planned development that includes some public benefit. Currently, this public benefit is something like the builder will build and maintain the street. However, I think this public benefit should be specifically directed at long term housing. This way the city can work with developers to build more long-term housing into their developments.
Christianson: I do consider what the city is doing as a step in the right direction. Harvey delayed some of the implementation of our STR ordinances and how they are to be enforced. The STR workshops that I attended in the fall, were productive in bringing together interested parties to discuss STRs. The advertised numbe r of parking spaces on a property should include vehicles, golf carts, trailers and should have been printed on the required exterior sign on the home. The property owners and their local representatives should be held accountable for all ordinances and the correct collection and payment of hotel taxes, for which they agreed to when they registered their property to rent. The new STR hotline is now available and should be put to use. The annual registration fee of $175.00 for a home that sleeps 20+ should not be the same as an efficiency that sleeps 2. The impact of those additional people and vehicles are not the same. Additional funds could be used to help the city departments meet the increased demands related to the population that stays on our island. A committee should be created comprised of management company owners, self-managed owners and an equal number of citizens that live in STR areas with no ties to STRs. The committee would help review data and make recommendations for the continuing measurement of compliance. I have often said that it is the behaviors of the vacation guests that disturbs the balance and stresses neighbors who live here, as well and other vacation guests that exhibit good behaviors. Port Aransas has an opportunity to help set high standards for STRs as so many cities seek to find answers. We have been a resort community for many decades, we can figure this out together.
Question: A story in the May 26 edition of the South Jetty reported a record number of residential permits issued so far this year. With that level of development happening in Port Aransas, more and more parts of town are being covered with concrete and asphalt. That leads to more runoff, which scientists say could cause pollution problems in waters that are critical for marine life, our bread and butter. Are you interested in pushing for permeable surfaces? If so, how would you go about making that happen, specifically?
Myers: When previously on council we had a drainage study done that gave our city some best practices which resulted in decent management of this issue. Permeable surfaces are one solution to helping with the run-off problem, however the problem gets complex with other considerations such as our high-water table and other factors. I think as a city we should look into multiple solutions to this problem while also paying close attention to the efficiency of our drainage and the structural integrity of our roads. This will mean mix of revisiting the best practices from the past and developing some new creative solutions.
Christianson: Yes, I am in favor of permeable surfaces to help with the pollution caused by run-off into our waterways and bays. I am also concerned when our ground becomes saturated, and the run-off goes elsewhere. A property’s drainage plan should have some permeable surfaces and the rest of the water be directed to the streets, ponds, canals and then to our wetlands and marshes to be filtered and evaporated by nature. Not to your neighbor’s property. We need to avoid, when possible, draining directly into our marinas and waterways. We must keep our storm sewers free of sand and debris to minimize flooding depending on rainfall. I support the city purchasing land for a nature park behind IGA to expand our control of run-off and permeable surfaces. The STR Hotel Tax may be used to pay for this park. I would also support an on-property catchment drain for large parking lots to take rainwater underground to the city’s storm sewer drain, rather than add to the flooding on streets when a permeable property is being developed for the first time. We live on a barrier island and the water table is high in many areas. Ordinances have caused homes to be built higher and we have seen owners raise their homes, such as those on Ave J. Continued work on the city’s drainage plan is important as the island develops. Mother Nature does not concern herself with building codes and insurance companies or the height of a structure. Having a drainage impact fee for new construction could help in funding future projects and help in paying off any future bonds.
Question: Without personally attacking your opponent, what issues differentiate you from your opponent and make you a better candidate? Please be specific.
Myers: In my conversations with Dale, he’s a nice guy. The big difference between Dale and I is experience and that’s what this city council needs more of. The experience needed to deal with legislative items efficiently and keep us on track for success.
Christianson: I could not find any of my opponent’s stances on “issues” that differentiate from mine at this time based on the South Jetty’s published candidate’s statement or candidates’ night for the Place 6 election. I am passionate about what I do and have done here in Port A for the past 10 years. The word is out about Port A and people are moving here to live and more guests are coming our island for the beach, fishing, birding and all that Port A has to offer. These are the same things that brought my family here, and possibly yours too. Texas is growing and we must prepare for the future. A leader must make decisions that benefit the bigger team. I feel called to lead and serve. I am thankful every day and feel blessed that I get the privilege to live and work in Port Aransas. I respectfully request your vote for Place 6 one more time.