The Rockport City Council, at its regular meeting Tuesday, July 28 heard a report/update by Community Planner Amanda Torres about the city’s draft Comprehensive Plan (CP).
Torres addressed the CP, as well as the completed report for the downtown area, which was conducted by the American Planning Association (APA), with the council at its Feb. 25 meeting.
(Note: a story about the APA report was published in the Feb. 26 edition of The Rockport Pilot. It is a “deep dive” into the needs in downtown Rockport. It is incorporated in the CP.)
Torres’ presentation Feb. 25 marked the start of a 30-day public comment period regarding the CP. That comment period was supposed to end Friday, March 27, but was technically allowed to continue well past the deadline with the onset of the COVID-19 threat in the community.
Tuesday’s report was initially planned for the July 14 council meeting, but it had to be tabled due to illness.
Only one person, former council member Adelaide Marlatt, provided input about the CP during the extended public comment period.
The CP has been available for public view on the city’s website.
The development of the CP began in spring 2018 after Hurricane Harvey. Rockport was chosen as one of two communities for participation in Texas Target Communities through Texas A&M University.
The development of the plan included four well-attended public input meetings between fall 2018 and spring 2019, as well as additional meetings with focus groups.
Mayor Pat Rios thanked all the universities and organizations, as well as residents of Rockport, that had a hand in the CP’s development.
“It is something we sorely needed and couldn’t have afforded on our own,” said Rios, referring to the free services provided post-Harvey.
“I appreciate all the hard work and many, many man hours (put into creating the CP),” said Mayor Pro-tem J.D. Villa.
Councilman Mike Saski said, “Great work.”
Councilman Bob Cunningham said, “I have many, many questions. I hope we have a workshop before this comes to us for approval.
“As a council, I don’t think we should just rubber stamp it.”
He thanked Marlatt for her lone public comment about the document, which was very detailed, outlining what she liked about the CP, and where she thought it could be improved/clarified, such as labeling properties “mixed use”, and exactly what that might mean in the future, as outlined in the Future Land Use Map.
Torres said city staff and Texas SeaGrant addressed Marlatt’s comments.
“The Future Land Use map was vetted in the community meetings,” said Torres. “We want to project the future in the map, but don’t necessarily have to stick to it. It’s one tool in the development toolbox.”
Cunningham pushed for additional public meetings to receive more public comment prior to the council voting on the adoption of the CP.
Public Works Director Mike Donoho noted the CP is a living document and should be addressed annually, and changes made.
City Manager Kevin Carruth said notice to the public about the availability of the CP (for public comment) was well publicized in local media, as well as via social media.
Rios reminded the council the CP was developed during the past two years, and the public has had the opportunity to provide input.
“It’s our job to represent our constituents and make decisions,” said the mayor.
Cunningham said the city can hold a workshop to go over the details of the CP.
“I saw how many participated on the front end. We promoted (those public meetings heavily),” said Cunningham.
Carruth reiterated the community has had the opportunity to provide input during the large community meetings used in developing the CP, as well as the focus groups.
“If we meet (again) now and have nine people show up, they may or may not be representative of the community,” he said. “This is a living document and can be changed at any time.”
Resident Ginger Easton-Smith, said she agrees with Cunningham’s desire to receive additional input from the public.
“I’d give it one more chance,” she said.
Marlatt asked, “How do we implement all this (and how did the parts of the CP become one)?”
Cunningham said, “I assume the city hasn’t done a cost/benefit analysis on everything in the CP. Each (part of the plan) we would have to pick and choose.”
Torres responded, “Exactly, y’all (council) make decisions and we (staff) carry it out.”
She suggested that if members of the council aren’t satisfied with the CP, then please ask her specific questions about it.
“I’m going to lean on you for specific direction,” said Torres.
Villa said, after listening to the council members’ comments, “It (CP) has been out there (for public review) and we received one comment. It has been out there long enough. I say, ‘Let’s move on.’”
Saski agreed, saying, “You can only do so much. Only so many people are going to get involved.”
He asked Cunningham where his people are who are calling for additional input.
“At this point we’ve had good people working on it (CP),” said Saski. “We need to move the ball forward.”
Cunningham said he doesn’t think the council is doing Torres and city staff any favors (by not offering the public an additional opportunity to provide input via targeted outreach).
“I don’t think I can vote for it without going out to the public, or us not having the time to ask questions,” he said.
Carruth noted the reverse is true, as well.
“You don’t want to dishonor all the work that has been done (by dragging out the process when there has been plenty of opportunity for the public to provide input),” he said.
Hattman said, “I think the plan looks great. I think producing a YouTube video (about the CP) would be good, and if people want to view it they can.”
A representative who worked with the public and city staff developing the CP said, “It has been a pleasure working with Amanda (Torres), city staff and the community (developing this plan).”
Carruth said it sounds like two scenarios are being suggested. First, hold a council workshop to deep dive into the details of the CP, or hold a workshop for the public.
Saski said, “I’m comfortable with the document. I don’t feel the need to go through it (again).”
Hattman said she is comfortable with the CP, as well.
Villa said, “We’ve had the information in front of us. We don’t have to workshop it.”
Cunningham said, “I’ve read the whole thing, and the appendices, and have many questions. I think we need a workshop.”
Rios said, “I’ll take all this under advisement, meet with staff, and come up with a plan.”