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Future of North Beach project rests with TIRZ vote

Posted at 5:25 PM, Oct 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-10 12:47:09-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It's been six months since the North Beach Task Force unveiled its vision to fix drainage issues on that side of the Harbor Bridge; next week, that vision faces a crucial vote by the city council.

On Tuesday, the council has a first vote on creating a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) #4 on North Beach. That TIRZ would pay for a variety of projects from signage to developing incentives for development of North Beach. So while it's not directly a vote for the canal, there won't be a canal without a TIRZ.

“If there's no TIRZ voted for, we'll be gone,” said Jeff Blackard, part of the North Beach Task Force.

Blackard believes Oct, 15 is an important day for the whole city, not just North Beach.

“I know it's a TIRZ vote, but when they do that they show that they can do things in this city,” said Blackard.

The TIRZ zone would establish the following:

  • a description of the zone boundaries with sufficient detail to identify the territory within the zone
  • a designation of the board of directors for the zone and an indication of the number of directors of the board
  • a provision that the zone will take effect immediately on passage of the ordinance
  • Ordinance designating a Tax Increment Financing District to be known as Reinvestment Zone Number Four in the area of the City known as North Beach
  • an indication of the zone termination date
  • a name for the zone as provided under Tax Code Section 311.004(a)(5)
  • a provision establishing a tax increment fund for the zone
  • findings that the improvements within the zone will significantly enhance the value of the taxable property within the zone and will be of general benefit to the city or county
  • a finding that the area meets the criteria for designation of a reinvestment zone under Tax Code Section 311.005.

According to the council agenda, "The City would participate at 100% for the first 10 years and at 75% for the following 10 years. At no time will the City’s contributions exceed $20,000,000."

According to Blackard, North Beach generates about $380,000 a year for the city. As property values increase with development, the TIRZ collects those added taxes, which are estimated to be up to $3.2 million per year after 20 years. That money pays can be used to help pay for various improvement projects within the TIRZ.

“This TIRZ and the canal is really a utility project,” said Blackard.

The canal would run down the length of the old railroad line and open into the bay. Blackard sees it as the centerpiece of a Riverwalk-style attraction on North Beach designed to bring more visitors to the city. Blackard has previously said he would pay to develop the land if the city digs the canal.

“There's 800,000 people going to the Lexington and the aquarium every year,” said Blackard. “It's the front door.”

Most importantly, Blackard believes the canal solves North Beach's decades old drainage problem, which the city’s police and fire chief have called public safety issues. Blackard says improved drainage makes North Beach safer for both visitors and residents.

“When it has a little rain, people there can't get to their property,” said Blackard. “They have rights as taxpayers, just like they have rights to clean water.”

Not only would a "no" vote kill the canal project, Blackard says it would kill a proposed $35 million development which he says is ready to start construction subject to both the TIRZ and the canal.

If the TIRZ is created, the next step is for city staff to develop a plan to solve the drainage issue. Blackard believes the TIRZ has the support of all but one council member.