McALLEN The airport will expand, the Heart of the City group will take a hand in the monthly Art Walks and city staffers will figure out a way to drop the ball on New Year's Eve rather than raise it at the stroke of Midnight. That's the upshot of Monday's workshop and regular meeting.

First, the party. Police Chief Victor Rodriguez told commissioners and the mayor that they are "moving along with planning" for the downtown New Year's Eve party. It will take place at the same location as last year, between Business 83 and Erie, Broadway and Bicentennial. Ground Zero will still be the intersection of Beaumont and 15th. It will be from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Chief Rodriguez told them that because of the height of the stage, the descending ball disappears behind the stage during the countdown to midnight. So, this year, they were considering raising the ball. That drew bemused remarks from everyone with City Manager Mike Perez quipping that they will work on a way of making the ball drop visible to everyone.

A larger airport in prospect

Airport Manager Phil Brown walked everyone through the airport expansion and renovation project which will commence soon. The construction cost is budgeted at $21,679,500 but Brown said the total cost will come in below that. The airport has five gates now and will add a sixth gate on a southside expansion. The concession area will be moved to make way for Transportation Security Administration offices.

Heart of the City

McAllen's Heart of the City (HOTC) organization will be turning its attention more toward the first Friday evening of the month Art Walks on North Main Street. The event attracts large crowds of people cruising the sidewalks, looking at what vendors have to offer and sometimes the crowds have posed a problem.

HOTC Executive Director Joe Rodriguez informed commissioners that he believes, after talking to residents and businesspeople in the area, that the event needs someone to organize and structure it and he would like HOTC to do the job. The mayor and commissioners told him to get to it.

The city manager reminded commissioners that a couple of years ago that they had told HOTC to focus on the South 17th Street Entertainment District to get it going, and that they are now seeking direction to get involved with Art Walk, which the commission gave.

All the above took place during the 2:30 p.m. workshop. Workshops are more informal than regular meetings and so there is more give and take between staffers and elected people and you can get a better sense of what the mayor and commissioners think about things.

What didn't happen

The regular meeting was uneventful including the event which didn't happen.

The commission holds public hearings starting at 6 p.m. and the agenda included a request for a Conditional Use Permit for a Planned Unit Development at 5800 North 10th Street. This is for a 22-story tower just north of the Lowe's at North 10th and Dove. A Conditional Use Permit allows a deviation from the city's zoning code, with commission permission.

About a dozen people who live in the area around the Lowe's were there to protest the tower but the item was tabled without comment. It has still not been acted on by the Planning & Zoning Commission so residents have time to make their sentiments known. P&Z has to act on it before the commission takes it up.

The Monitor quoted Commissioner Scott Crane as saying, "It's a fabulous development in an inappropriate location."