Mayor predicts new development code will be adopted

For supporters of a new development code in McAllen, the best part of Monday's City Commission workshop & meeting wasn't until the very end. That's when Mayor Richard Cortez announced that "I believe this City Commission is committed to this new code."

Cortez was referring to the McAllen Development Code, sometimes called the Unified Development Code, which will soon come to them for a vote. He made his remark near the end of their 4 pm regular meeting and after the commission held a Workshop on the code at 2:30.

"More time for more time's sake" is not needed, Cortez continued, and "if we need to clean things up," let's clean them up.

Even with the mayor's support, the new code is a ways from being adopted. A Public Hearing set for 6 pm Monday night so the commission could hear from people about the proposed zoning makeover was a bust when they lost their quorum.

Commissioners Aida Ramirez and Hilda Salinas were out of town and working, respectively, and then Cortez announced that both he and Commissioner Jim Darling had been appointed to a Hidalgo County board to decide how to spend $50 million in drainage money the county has received.

Cortez and Darling's departures meant there were not enough commissioners left to hold a hearing. So, it was left to the city manager and staff, along with the consultants who wrote the new code, to hear from and talk to the developers, architects and real estate people who showed up for the hearing. The open forum lasted about two hours.

The commission will have to reschedule a Public Hearing in order to vote on the adoption of the new zoning code. The McAllen Unified Code is the implementing language of the city's Foresight McAllen, which describes the kind of city the citizens want.

There has been pushback from Realtors, developers, builders and others, referred to as the development community, who have expressed concern over how the code would affect them. Many have called for more time to study it and Cortez's comment Monday against granting "more time for more time's sake" would appear to refer to that unease.

FUTURO McAllen supported the adoption of Foresight McAllen and two of our members were on the committee that drafted it. FUTURO also supports the adoption of the new code but believes the city should allow the development community a reasonable amount of time to study it and talk to the city about it.

Convention goers can take the trolley

In other action, the commission voted to purchase two trolleys which will run throughout downtown as well as from the convention center. One will run a "convention circulator route" from the convention center to major hotels and shopping venues three days a week. The city will only pay $144,404 of the $850,000 cost with the balance coming from the Federal Transit Administration. There is an 18-month delivery time.

The city has received 22 proposals trying to land the contract to design the new performing arts center. A committee of five will go through them and give the city commission five to seven for them to look at more closely. The committee consists of Convention Center Director Omar Rodriguez, Assistant City Manager Brent Branham, City Engineer Yvette Barrera and Ben Smith and Melinda Bosquez, who are on the Convention Center Advisory Board.

The arts center project has attracted bids not just locally but from around the nation and even abroad. With luck, the city may have an architect under contract by year's end.