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Apr 07 2017

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Letter to the Editor for April 6, 2017

Special to the PRESS

Dear Editor,

Laguna Vista residents should be aware that the existing LV Recreational Association (LVRA) lease — for the town-owned marina — is a self-serving sham that does a complete disservice to Laguna Vista’s tax-paying citizens.

According to the PI PRESS, a workshop is scheduled for this Monday, April 10 (6.30 pm at City Hall) to further negotiate a “new” 25-year lease.  The LVRA Board must be laughing out loud at the naivety of the Laguna Vista City Manager and City Council for even considering extending the lease for another generation — and doing so FOUR YEARS before the current lease expires.

Why do you think the LVRA interested in re-negotiating a new lease so far in advance?  Perhaps it’s because the current City Council is stacked with friendly votes?  Three of the seven sitting council members are current members of the LVRA, and I’m told a fourth is running for Place 4 in the May 6 election.

In my opinion, the marina lease should not be renewed for even one month after its’ expiration in 2021.  I don’t know what Mayor Robert Moore’s objectives were when he entered into the original 50-year lease in 1971; but now looking retrospectively, Mayor Moore essentially gave away the Town’s most valuable piece of property.  For nothing.

Fast forward to 2017, the proposed $1,200 a year rental charge is a joke for the Town’s waterfront jewel.  Any serious land negotiator representing the Town would demand a minimum of $2,500 a month ($30,000 per year), maybe double that given the ideal location on the West side of the Laguna Madre.  When local apartment rents are going for $1,000 per month or more — how can the Town’s elected officials, given their stated fiduciary responsibility to ALL Laguna Vista citizens, charge only $100 per month for the Town’s most valuable piece of property?

The reality is that the 130 people who are existing members of the LVRA are using Town-owned land as their own private marina — with no recourse from, or benefit to, the Town’s other tax-paying residents.

On a related subject that I don’t ever recall being discussed in a public forum, is the City Manager or City Council aware of any commercial fishing operations being run out of the marina?  Despite the LVRA being reportedly a “non-profit” organization, if one does a simple Google search on:  “Commercial fishing charters in Laguna Vista, TX”, there are pages of charter options listed?

Importantly, anyone now serving on the City Council who is a current LVRA member should automatically be recused from discussing and voting on any marina issue, due to a visible conflict of interest and obvious lack of impartiality.  While I could be mistaken, I believe this includes Council Members Mike Carter, Gary Meschi, and Nadine Smith.  If true, those three individuals control 43% of today’s vote.  By gaining only one of the remaining four voting members on the Council, the new marina lease gets approved for another generation, and Laguna Vista’s tax-paying citizens can do nothing about it.  Does that sound like fair and reasonable municipal governance to you?

If the Town can burden its citizens with $3.5 million in debt service over 20 years — which is the case with the parks renovations at $2 million principal plus interest, started in 2011 — the Council could certainly at least consider a similar approach to the Town-owned Marina, obviously at a much lower cost than the parks.  Has this option been considered by the Council, and what was the result?

The Port Isabel PRESS (Mar. 23, 2017) claims the LVRA’s income is $18,200 a year (130 members X $140 annual dues).  If accurate, the City Council could increase the property tax on each of Laguna Vista’s residents by $12 a year ($1 a month) —  and generate more than twice the income, with money remaining for operational expenses, repairs and investment.  Then the marina would be open and available for use by ALL 4,000+ residents, equally.

From my perspective, and I am aware others may differ, the City Council should let the existing marina lease lapse without renewal.  The Town — under the direction of the City Manager — should assume direct operation of the Marina in 2021, immediately making it available to the ENTIRE Laguna Vista population.  The Marina can easily be self-supporting, and should be a recreational destination — in conjunction with Roloff Park — for ALL of the Town’s tax-paying citizens and their families, not just the current few who use it as their own private playground.

According to the Town’s website (www.lvtexas.us), Laguna Vista advertises itself as the “Gateway to the Bay.”  However, unless you are lucky enough to be a member of the LVRA, there is NO gateway available to you.

Bill Schnier
Laguna Vista City Council Member (2009-2012)

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Permanent link to this article: http://portisabelsouthpadre.com/2017/04/07/letter-to-the-editor-for-april-6-2017/

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