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of former state senators, the issue goes beyond the perceived right to spin wheels in the sand. Former state Sen. Babe to cars is an affront to the Texas Open Beaches Act, which is supposed to protect citizens’ ability to access public land in a state where 94 percent of la terra firma is privately owned. “Public beaches are the crown jewel of our coastline,” Schwartz says. “The last pristine accessible beach ought not be bargained away.” Closing beaches to vehicular traffic is not illegal in Texas. Officials can prohibit vehicular traffic on beaches as long as the Texas General Land Office approves and the city provides ample parking and better or equal access to the sand and surf. Schwartz says the GLO has traditionally done a good job with Texas beaches. But he says he wants the land office to prevent city officials from creating a de facto private beach for a highdollar development. Like Schwartz, the garrulous Truan spoke critically of the city council. “We need to make certain that we do everything possible to prevent losing our public beaches to special interest. And the special interest here is the developers,” Truan says. “It would have been a very bad idea for the city council to give up the public beaches just to accommodate a developer. It’s one developer today, but what about developers tomorrow?” Today’s developer, Paul Schexnailder, has been talking resort for years. He didn’t return calls to the Observer, but his current plan has been widely discussed in the coastal town. Though the sometimes-elusive, Austin-based Schexnailder won’t disclose publicly the name of his financial backer, it’s believed to be a Canadian resort-building company called Intrawest. The multimillion dollar project, which includes a complex of hotel rooms and condos, is slated to be developed in three phases, according to a presentation by officials at a March 21 city council meeting. Corpus Christi City Councilman Mark Scott says he envisions Schexnailder building a “resort experience,” more like that of Florida than South Padre or Galveston. He says the proposal is “designed to be something different than you have along the Texas coast.” The resort also is expected to pad the public coffers with $50 million a year, officials say. That kind of money makes politicians giddy, especially in revenue-starved communities like Corpus Christi. City leaders also talk excitedly about the jobs that come with such a major project, even if they mainly will be low-paying service jobs. At-large Corpus Christi Councilman Brent Chesney responds to critics by saying that any kind of job would be a positive addition to the local economy. “We are what we are. We’re a tourist destination,” Chesney says. “This is the kind of thing that we wanted for years.” Corpus Christi’s business community and many people in local government have been willing to do just about anything for the prospect of a large-scale development in the Sparkling City by the Sea, as the city calls itself. But the vision of city leaders and developers very well might be spoiled if McCutchon and the rest of the group of waterlogged residentsalong with Schwartz and Truancan gather about 8,000 signatures to put the council’s pedestrian-only ordinance up for a referendum. Depending on how long it takes to gather signatures, Corpus Christi voters could decide on the beach’s future next November or in April 2007. If the grassroots effort prevails, then the developers are expected to pull out of the project. The petition to reverse the council’s decision to prohibit cars on the beach is just one part of the grassroots effort. McCutchon and his group are also trying to overturn a related charter amendment, which states that all future attempts to close portions of the beach to cars must first be approved by the voterslanguage designed to appease the beachgoers. But that language left “gaping” loopholes that make McCutchon and his friends uneasy. So they’re also trying to shoot down the charter amendment. Schwartz, a former state senator from Galveston, says the city politicians would be wise to listen to their motivated and organized constituents, especially considering that most council members were elected with fewer votes than the petitioners are expected to gather. “I’m surprised the city council can take this position knowing the adversary can round up 9,000 people to sign a petition,” Schwartz said. “My experience in this business is that the people will prevail.” McCutchon says the trick will be to keep his allies engaged and willing to vote to rescind the city council’s action and change the charter. But if the people fighting the establishment don’t rally behind their cause, then water-lovers like McCutchon might want to look for a new surf spot along some of the remaining openand drivableportion of the Texas beach. APRIL 21, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11