LAGUNA VISTA — Voters didn’t just select a presidential candidate or sheriff on Election Day.
They also chose to approve a 2-percent hotel tax increase to fund amenities that could change the entire landscape of South Padre Island and Laguna Vista.
The projects listed on the Nov. 8 ballot were intended to provide an educational facility in Laguna Vista and an amphitheater on South Padre Island.
Both will be funded through the tax initiative approved by voters in a narrow tally on Election Day.
Most of the races in the county as well as throughout the Valley were not close.
However, these two propositions were extremely close with differences of more than 1,200 votes on one and 1,800 votes on the other out of a total of 70,000 votes.
The first project, Proposition One, was the Sea and Air Amphitheater.
It is designed to accommodate visitors who gather to witness rocket launches expected just across the ship channel at the SpaceX Boca Chica launch site or enjoy concerts featuring local musical or national entertainment acts.
The cost is expected to be about $1.5 million and will be located at Dolphin Cove on the southernmost tip of SPI.
Proposition Two was a ecological nature center. It is slated to be located on 23 acres provided by the town of Laguna Vista and located just south of Highway 100 between the Laguna Madre Bay and the Bahia Grande wetlands.
This area is unique and home to animals such as the ocelot and plants and marine life not found anywhere else.
The center would house exhibits, detailing the natural beauty of the region, have outlooks and information about what to do and see in the coastal area.
Mark Yates, director of Planning, Development, & Management, said the city of Laguna Vista is dedicating the property to create a venue where a visitor can stop and get information on the tourist attractions that are not only found on South Padre Island but also that are found up and down the coastal areas of the county.
“This site is projected to intersect areas that are planned for nature trails throughout the county,” he said.
“Also planned for this site are paddling trails that could be used to explore the Bahia Grande Wetlands. Scheduled for this site are programs that will include disabled veteran kayaking facilities and facilities to observe the native water birds of the region.”
The projects will be funded through a county visitor tax, which was a very close vote but starting in January the new tax will go into effect.
“Commissioners Court will canvass the votes and pass an order and so that will set everything in motion and allow us to coordinate with the Comptroller’s Office,” said County Administrator David Garcia. “The venue tax lasts for as long as the project needs funds to develop and construct.”
After that the tax will go away. The details on how that will occur will need to be outlined and determined.
“We will keep the public informed every step of the way,” Garcia said.
Garcia has been a strong proponent of this project from the beginning.
“If it works like it has in other places it will be a win-win for the community and for the county as a whole,” Garcia said. “We foresee continued growth in our tourism. As we work to attract more people we will have more heads in beds and every city throughout the county will benefit in some form or fashion (for example, sales tax, more shops built, more attractions and events) that will increase revenue to do other things.”
The center will intersect rural trails being created throughout the Bahia Grande. The cost of this project is expected to be about $10 million.
Laguna Vista officials are ecstatic.
“It’s going to put Laguna Vista on the map,” said Mayor Susie Houston.
“This way we will see an uptick in the active tourist.”