Corpus Christi Planning Commission Hears from Citizens on PlanCC 2035

Corpus Christi, Front Page
April 20 Planning Commission
Rick Milby addresses Planning Commission on PlanCC 2035

     On Wednesday, April 20, 2016, about 40 citizens attended the Corpus Christi Planning Commission to voice their concerns about PlanCC 2035.  According to the minutes of the March 23 and April 6 meetings, the topic was slated for Public Hearing on April 20, which prompted the large turnout of citizens at Wednesday’s meeting.

     According to the posted minutes of March 23 , “Ms. Annika Yankee, Development Services, read item ‘IV’ into record. Recap, this item was taken to City Council in November 2015, and staff will return to Planning Commission on April 20, 2016, to review the comments made by Council Members.  Staff is proposing to present all comments in the form of a matrix by element/chapter to make comments easier to read and work with. Plans are to provide edits to Commissioners (2) weeks in advance for their review prior to the Public Hearing at the Planning Commission meeting on April 20, 2016.  Legal confirmed that a motion is not needed in order to proceed with Staff’s plans and recommendations.”

     During the Director’s Report at the Wednesday, April 6, meeting,  Annika Yankee was asked to give an update on the status of the PlanCC 2035 material preparation to which she responded, “My only update is that the documents you need to review, I should have those to you by Friday morning.  It’s a little bit short of the two weeks requested.”

     Earlier this week, however, City staff pushed the item to May 4 and then May 18 saying that City staff needed additional time to prepare the materials for the commission’s review.

     The commissioners were encouraged to read PlanCC 2035 carefully and compare it to the existing 1987 Comprehensive Plan and Councilman Magill’s PlanCC 2036 before making a decision.  Some concerns about PlanCC 2035 brought forth by the citizens who spoke included:

  • Unclear/imprecise language of the plan, which can lead to bad policy
  • Missing elements in the plan  (i.e. public safety, fire, police, port, military)
  • Overreach of government on private property rights
  • Negative effects of plan on local farmers
  • Falls short in terms of being a “master plan”
  • Will lead to more government regulation and more private property restrictions
  • Too much emphasis on modes of transportation other than personal vehicles
  • Runs counter to Constitutional rights
  • Was created with the direction of consultants who are not from the Corpus Christi area
  • Agenda 21 elements included in the plan
  • Elements that infringe on the public’s rights

     All who addressed the commission thanked the commissioners for their service and for allowing them time to speak.  One person spoke in favor of the plan citing the elements that are designed to protect quality of life in the city and the plan’s progressive nature.

     The current version of PlanCC 2035 was sent to the Planning Commission for review in November 2015 after a 9-0 vote by Council.  As per the minutes, “Council Member Magill made a motion directing the City Manager to extend the time frame for council members to submit written comments for 30 more days, (until December 17, 2015) and to convey all council members’ written
comments to the Planning Commission, seconded by Council Member Vaughn and passed unanimously.”

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1987 Comprehensive Plan Is a Classic

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

Comprehensive plan 1987

     I spent thirty years teaching English, and part of my job was teaching literature.  Now, I could have taught anything really, but I chose to teach the classics.  I especially enjoyed re-reading the pieces each year.  Like an old friend, a classic welcomes us to return to hear the same story with new ears and fresh insights supplied by our own experiences.  The Ten Commandments and the Constitution of the United States of America definitely are classics in their own rights.  They have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as the day they were created.  Jesus simplified God’s commandments so that we could better understand them and live by them, but He did not abolish them.  Our constitution has been amended to meet the needs of today’s society, but it has not been re-written.  When something is good, we really should just leave it alone.  Coca-Cola learned this lesson the hard way in 1985 with New Coke.  It was a huge flop.  Only with the return of Coke Classic made from a formula created in 1886 did the company save itself.  Classics are good for a reason; they appeal to the people whose lives they affect.

     This leads me to the Corpus Christi Comprehensive Plan from 1987. The writers, all Corpus Christians with an intimate knowledge of the city, somehow beat the trendy “smart growth” movement of that same year and created a plan that is truly comprehensive, including all that is of real importance.  Its goals took every person and every element of the city into consideration, thereby meeting the rules laid out in the City Charter.  It is easy to understand, allows for forward thinking, and offers direction to those who use the plan on a daily basis.  It withstood the test of time and served its people well for nearly thirty years.  Should we really change the formula?

1987 ToC 1
Table of Contents 1987 Comprehensive Plan, p.1
1987 ToC 2
Table of Contents 1987 Comprehensive Plan, p.2

     PlanCC 2035 is very much like New Coke.  It is progressive and supposedly appeals to the young professionals who somehow will move in and save the city by living an auto-free, high-density lifestyle (aka “smart growth”).  In the Pew Charitable Trusts article by Teresa Wilz from April 2015, “Returning to the Exurbs: Rural Counties Are Fastest Growing”, we learn that the young professionals who once sought smart-growth cities no longer want that lifestyle. “The Great Recession stalled population growth in the exurbs. But new census data show that the far suburbs are enjoying a renaissance. They are now the fastest growing areas in the country,”  writes Wilz.

     These young professionals become migrating millennials when they marry, start their families, and start looking for a place with room for the kids, dogs, goats, chickens, and an organic garden.  Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV show, “Fixer Upper” are leading the way for others just like them who want the freedom to choose how and where they live.  With UPS delivering what they need to the door and many jobs performed via computer from home, the possibilities of how and where to live are endless. Even the under-35 group will more than likely follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before them and opt to own a piece of the rock.  However, there are no guarantees – well,  except that businesses will follow the people wherever they decide to live, which creates multiple town centers within a municipality (See Fig. 3 from 1987 Plan).  The 1987 Comprehensive Plan writers seemed to know that and allowed for such freedom of movement in their Classic-Coke formula.  And isn’t freedom to live how and where we want the most important part of the American dream?

Edge cities

     “But, what about the $1.2 million spent on consultants out of Massachusetts and Maryland?” you ask.  “What about the countless meetings and hours of discussion with all who participated in the creation of the New Plan?” you query.  Rather than continue to throw good money after bad, the Planning Commission should simply suggest to council that we continue with the classic 1987 plan.  We know it works and is easily updated with a little tweaking at little or no cost, which is what Councilman Chad Magill has illustrated with PlanCC 2036.  He took the classic 1987 Plan and re-designed the package to include the ambitions and aspirations outlined in PlanCC 2035, which is a respectful approach that allows for these visions to come to fruition if ample money, time, and human resources allow.

     To devise a plan around a particular part of a city or a specific lifestyle leaves not only leaves over half of the population out, it is like getting a trendy, new haircut.  It will always require expensive maintenance to keep it in proper shape.  Then, when the person gets tired of the look and wants to change it, time and more expense will be required to undo the do.  Even with the push of Dr. Richard Jackson, a pediatrician, and Elizabeth Chu Richter, a local architect, both giants in their fields, to get Corpus Christi and other cities across the nation to take the progressive approach and design healthy communities, such designs will quickly fall by the wayside because parents realize that kids will still get fat when they eat fast food every day and live in urban villages where backyards don’t exist and parents don’t have the time to take them to the park to burn off those calories.  As it is written, PlanCC 2035 will fail to meet the needs of future generations because it is timely but is not timeless. 

     Related article:  “Why Millennials Are Headed to the Suburbs”

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