CORPUS CHRISTI — The fate of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for North Beach is still up in the air.
A public hearing and city council vote to create that TIRZ was replaced with a briefing by city staff, which led to some frustration during Tuesday's council meeting.
The greatest frustration seemed to come from developer Jeff Blackard, who has been pushing for that TIRZ to make his multi-million-dollar North Beach development a reality. The centerpiece of that development is a canal, which Blackard says solves North Beach's decades-old drainage issues.
Speaking to the city council, Blackard described his experience trying to get the project going as "terrible." He also pulled no punches in criticizing the council's decision to delay a vote on the TIRZ.
According to city manager Peter Zanoni, the vote was delayed because some on the council wanted more information about the plan. That sentiment was echoed by some on the council.
“The devil's in the details of almost any contract or agreement you make,” said Mayor Joe McComb. “There was a lot of information in there that I think raised some questions.”
The North Beach Infrastructure Task Force believes it has given the council plenty of information, as well as opportunities to visit its Uptown war-rooms. Task force members also say they’ve asked council members if they have any questions. So far, they say, very few have been asked.
“For anyone to say at the last minute that they don't understand just means they perhaps weren't listening,” said task force volunteer Chad Magill.
In April, the task force gave a list of recommendations on how to proceed with North Beach. The council unanimously supported those recommendations.
“The very first recommendation is: move forward with the creation of TIRZ No. 4 on North Beach,” Magill said.
A TIRZ takes projected tax values of development in a given area and invests the money collected in improvements. TIRZ No. 4 was not designed to pay for the canal or any other drainage solution: It’s meant to stimulate development and private investment by paying for things such as area beautification, increased public safety, and added density through parking structures.
The city currently operates two TIRZs; one on Padre Island, and one in the Downtown area. McComb says he is worried about creating too many of these zones at once.
“When you get four, five, six, seven of these spread around town, then you're freezing the tax base for the rest of the community,” said McComb. “What impact does that have on us citywide?”
Tuesday’s hearing also featured comments from several residents who are in favor of creating the TIRZ, as well as the development proposals, many of whom have visited the task force’s war-rooms. The task force intends to continue its work, even if some city leaders feel its work is finished.
“The council will drive this process,” said McComb. “The task force, with this report, I think will complete its responsibility.”
So where does the project go from here? The city council and county commissioners will hold a joint workshop regarding North Beach on Oct. 24. The council also will hear a presentation on the North Beach drainage solution Oct. 29. The TIRZ public hearing and first vote is now scheduled for Nov. 12. If it passes that first vote, the second and final vote will be a week later.