State tries to preserve Galveston beaches

June 11, 2008 4:13:48 PM PDT
When you talk about preserving Galveston's beaches, most people think that's a good idea. But what about when conservation interferes with economy?Currently, homeowners are going head to head with the state over keeping Galveston's beaches free from too much government interference.

"For existing homes, I say leave us alone," homeowner Linda Lundgren said.

Lundgren lives on the edge, literally. Her Galveston beach home is just a few feet from the beach -- an amount of beach that, because of erosion, gets shorter each year.

"My bigger concern is duning and seeing to it that duning is created in front of all of the homes and not just some of the homes," Lundgren said.

Dune creation in Galveston is not consistent. Older homes on the west end of the island, built before the area was annexed, are in front of the dune line, on the water's edge. Other neighborhoods have homes built behind the dunes lines. And then there's new construction where homes are completely protected.

However, new and old development could be in jeopardy. New regulations published by the General Land Office last month are asking local governments to adopt new guidelines that could, in the name of conservation, push back beach construction.

"In some areas it could be as far landward as 200 to 300 feet from the line of vegetation," Wendy O'Donohoe, Galveston Director of Planning and Community Development said, "and in those areas you would have existing lots that you may be still able to build, but would have to build to a stricter standard, if the city were to adopt that setback."

This week, Galveston County officials are meeting with state officials to hash out how to cut down on erosion yet protect property rights -- not accepting the state guidelines would be costly.

"Without the adoption of a mitigation plan, which is what's being required in the rules, local governments would no longer be eligible for CEPRA funding which is a state funded renourishment program," O'Donohoe said.

Since 2000, Galveston County has already received about $11 million from the Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act. Many say it is a delicate balance between protecting property rights and protecting the environment.

"We're just trying to get it rewritten a little bit different than what it is so we don't end up taking three and four rows of property out of use here in Galveston," real estate broker and appraiser G.W. Corneliun said.

The City of Galveston is asking the state for an additional 90 days to review the state proposed regulations. They are also asking the state to come to Galveston and hold public hearings so local neighbors can give their opinions.

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