Private building on public beaches in Bolivar?

June 5, 2009 4:18:53 PM PDT
Texas law says you cannot build on a public beach, but one east Texas lawmaker subtly and successfully passed an exception for some properties along the Bolivar Peninsula, including his own. Now efforts are underway to change, what some say, is an unfair exemption.

This is a proposed bill that hasn't been passed into law yet, but if the law passes, the Bolivar Ferry will be the dividing line between those who can rebuild the way they want and those on the Galveston side who cannot.

On a sunny and clear day, the open beaches on Galveston's west side are impressive and fill up fast with tourists. It's a reality that Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson says he is fighting to keep intact.

"As you know the erosion of Hurricane Ike moved the beach inland and those structure locations that were in the past in permissible locations, if rebuilt or repaired, would be in a non-permissible location," said Patterson.

The commissioner locked horns this week with a member of the House of Representatives. At issue is property on the Bolivar Peninsula, including a stretch of land along Gilmore Street.

Proposed legislation would allow homes here to rebuild on what is now public beach, exempting them says the commissioner from the Texas Open Beaches Act which prohibits private building on public beaches.

The author of the proposed bill is State Representative Wayne Christian who coincidentally had a beachfront home on Gilmore Street that was destroyed by Ike. The hurricane destroyed the beach and pushed back the vegetation line.

Representative Christian's proposal is baffling to many who live along the beach.

"He owns a piece of property right there. It smells like he's using his position to help himself," said resident Willa Nadalin. "I understand that he said he was using the position to help others as well, but it's our beach."

The proposed bill is now on the governor's desk to either sign or veto. The Texas Land Commissioner however says that if it is signed into law, he will not enforce it, which will be a problem since he takes an oath to uphold Texas law.

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