SPI seeks input on plans for future

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The Island city is revising its comprehensive plan, and it wants locals to have a say.

Residents can share their input on what should be included in the city’s long-term vision through an online survey or by taking part in a public meeting on the plan June 19.

The survey is available at theislandway.myspi.org.

“It really is a roadmap for the future,” City Manager Susan Guthrie said.

It informs how the city approaches economic development, land use, tourism and transportation, she said. Other important issues include how the barrier island will tackle drainage and its streets, Guthrie added.

South Padre Island last released a comprehensive plan in 2008. While there was an updated one drafted in 2013, Mayor Dennis Stahl said there is a “need to do it on a more regular basis.”

“It is the citizens’ community,” he said, “and before we go writing a path forward, we want to know their likes and dislikes. We’re very pleased with the feedback so far.”

Stahl said a huge change the city has experienced since the last comprehensive plan is the “explosion of social media” and its effect on how people choose restaurants and get around this Island.

“In 2008, there was no vision of that,” he said.

Stahl said the city is now working on a way-finding system, likely a Smartphone app, to help visitors connect with unique locations and attractions on the Island. That’s the kind of issue public input and the comprehensive plan can help the city improve, he said.

The Island has a unique economy, Guthrie said, because it relies heavily on tourism. The growing offering of Spring Break events has visitors spread out across the Island more than in the past, she said, which has administrators thinking about how they will safely cross the road.

Also, the city must consider how it will be impacted by the surrounding area, Guthrie explained, like demand for venues to watch SpaceX launches or an influx of highly paid employees that could come to the area as a result of the Port of Brownsville’s efforts to attract a steel mill.

Roxanne Ray, president and CEO of the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce, said the business community will be happy with a plan that “acknowledges tourism as our industry, our economic driver.” An example would be including attention to ecotourism as the plan develops.

“All of the aspects are as important to tourism as they are to local residents,” she said. “A new plan is definitely needed, and we’ve got lots of great growth happening here.”

She added that the comprehensive plan should include a strategy for northward expansion during the next 10 to 20 years.

The city held its first public input meeting May 1. Stahl said residents expressed their opinions on whether the city should attract cruise ships, infrastructure improvements and beautification. They also expressed approval for the addition of sidewalks and medians that have been competed on Gulf Boulevard and continue on Padre Boulevard.

Stahl said a nine-member panel will present a draft of the comprehensive plan to the city council for approval. Guthrie said that phase of the plan will take place in the fall.

“I’d just encourage all citizens to participate,” Stahl said. “Don’t assume we have the best ideas in mind. We’re not mind-readers.”