Corpus Christi Caller Times - October 4, 2012, By Mike D. Smith
CORPUS CHRISTI — Continued development under Corpus Christi's existing zoning and land use plans could limit the mission of the city's military facilities and pose safety risks for residents, according to findings in a joint land use study.
The study, a combined effort between the military and the community to resolve potential conflicts between military operations and economic growth, development and public health and safety, was outlined during a public workshop Wednesday evening at City Hall.
The findings will be folded into a final report. That report won't be enforceable rules and regulations, but tools for planners to use to ensure development is in line with community and military needs.
Ninety percent of the yearlong study is covered by a grant from the Defense Department's Office of Economic Adjustment. The city matched the remaining 10 percent.
Among the findings detailed by consultants with Matrix Design Group were continued and new development that would make runway expansions difficult at Navy facilities and at Corpus Christi International Airport. Development also could pose risks to public safety and the military mission for Naval Air Station Corpus Christi and other facilities, according to the study.
Public health and safety and economic impact are the major concerns, said senior city planner Bob Payne.
The Navy has told the city where flight zones are and though accidents are rare, areas where accidents could occur also are identified, Payne said.
Estimates show Naval Air Station Corpus Christi has an economic impact of $3.6 billion — about 21 percent of the city's $17 billion economy — and supports more than 10,000 jobs.
The study grouped concerns into high, medium and low priorities.
Other high priorities include the development of wind farms, placement of cellphone towers and other construction, which could impact height restrictions and interfere with aircraft communications.
The lack of land use authority in rural areas also could pose problems as development occurs in potential accident zones.
Much of the situation comes from many years of Corpus Christi developing without the guidance of an overall plan, city planning commission Chairman A. Javier Huerta said.
Leveling out those differences to become more compatible could help with sustaining the base through budget cuts should the military begin comparing communities, Huerta said.
"If we're not equal, then it's just points we don't have in our favor," Huerta said. "So, this would be points in our favor, or at least get us to that threshold where we're equal with other communities."
Compatibility would require zoning changes that would alter land uses and either help or hurt landowners. For example, if a landowner has residential property that suddenly becomes commercial for compatibility, the land is more valuable. However, that landowner could have to wait before the city's growth reaches that property and makes development possible, Huerta said.
"That's going to be the dialogue that hopefully the community, the committees can have with property owners so we can say, 'OK, what can we do that can make it viable so you can support it?' " Huerta said. "There's a lot of land that is going to be affected, and so we want to be able to do that."
The next steps are to develop a military compatibility area that would define which restrictions would affect certain areas, said Mike Hrapla, project manager for Matrix.
Existing structures would be grandfathered into any plans, said Celeste Werner, vice president and planning director at Matrix.
© 2012 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online
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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.