Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Public Meeting: Main Street Implementation Plan

A public meeting will be held tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 6:00 p.m. at the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center, 400 West Walker, to discuss League City's Main Street Implementation Plan.  For those of you not familiar with the venue, it's right up the street from Centerpointe, in the same "municipal row" that is bracketed by the police station on its west end and library to the east.

The purpose of the Implementation Plan is discussed in this morning's offering by Galveston County Daily News.  Basically, it's a plan intended to help transform League City from a place name on a map that folks drive through as they're on their way to somewhere else, and into a "destination" that offers a greater concentration of recreational and retail options. 

We'd all like to see improvements along those lines, but the instigators of this effort have quite a challenge on their hands.  It is precisely because League City is a municipal poster child for unplanned development that it is not a "destination", and it will be very hard to crack that socioeconomic development nut in any meaningful way.  The encumberances upon the city are severe and include but are not limited to the following: it is sliced in half east-west by one of the worst arterials in greater Houston (FM 518), sliced north to south by a rail line that allows crossings only at certain arterials, and many of its residents would rather stay at home than face the perils of Five Corners.  The city lacks cohesion even on the localized scale of its original core neighborhoods. 

Having been out of the country for a spell, I have not had a chance to review the Implementation Plan, but upon scanning it briefly this evening, one thing jumped out at me: strengths and weaknesses appear to have been enumerated but have not yet been assigned any kind of relative weighting. 

For instance, with respect to the "Creekside" area, which is where we lived prior to moving to Centerpointe, the Dallas Salmon Wastewater Treatment Plant is listed as a weakness, and the presence of Clear Creek is listed as a strength with development potential.  Paddle boating and other water recreational activities are listed as development possibilities.

When I read that, my first reaction was, "Holy wow, Batman!"  Did the writers of this Implementation Plan actually try to launch any watercraft of their own before presenting that idea?  I doubt it.  As a sometimes-kayaker I have, in fact, put in at the small Heritage Park boat ramp.  It is not for the faint of heart!!  The first thing a paddler has to do is run a major gauntlet of treated sewage which is literally blasting out of the adjacent Dallas Salmon Wastewater Treatment Plant at a rate of several hundred thousand gallons per hour.  Assuming you can keep your bonny craft upright through that turbulent mess long enough to make it northward toward Clear Creek proper, you run a very real risk of being mowed down by the power boaters who fly up the channel at about 40 miles per hour.  Even if they don't actually hit you, their wake vortices will easily swamp a non-motorized kayak or paddle boat.  And that water they spray up into your face in the process is, of course, largely treated sewage. 

Even if you manage to strike a calm morning with no power boats and a lower rate of effluent discharge, you still might be faced with noxious odors emanating from the plant.  According to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) records, there were twenty-four public complaints against the plant in the period 2006 - 2009.  All but one of them pertained to foul odors. 

One of the less sophisticated complaints verbatim,
which pretty much sums up the situation.
Excerpted from
The chronic odor issues with that plant were one of the reasons we moved from "old town" to Centerpointe in 2010.  An installation like that just doesn't make for optimal quality of life, whether you're trying to live in that area or simply engage in recreation there.

Seriously, in sum, the whole boating / floating / water recreation thing is a nice idea, but substantial infrastructure and procedural changes would be needed before I could see it being attractive to the general public, or even do-able in a halfways safe manner. 

It's not my goal to be a naysayer, however, and hopefully some good ideas for further development will emerge from this planning and public meeting process.  If there's one thing that League City needs right about now, it's good development ideas. 

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