News Column

Supporters, opponents of proposed entertainment center prepare for council meeting

May 9, 2014

By Kirsten Crow, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Texas



May 09--CORPUS CHRISTI -- Mini-movie trailers, fan art, online petitions and memes are going head-to-head with more traditional outreach efforts of block-walking, cold-calling and organized community meetings as supporters and opponents of a proposed family entertainment center rally in the final days before what could be a make-or-break City Council vote.

In stapled paper packets arguing against a rezoning request that could lead to the construction of the center, opponents raise concerns of an influx of impaired or inexperienced drivers, noise, bright lights, traffic congestion, decreased property values and degraded quality of life for nearby property owners. In social media posts, including memes and fan art, on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, proponents dispute those arguments and others, and paint the proposal as an opportunity for a fun, family-friendly activity, as well as a way to help encourage young people to stay in the community.

The proposed development, called Movies and More, includes preliminary plans of a 63,000-square-foot building, which would house movie theaters with up to 1,300 seats, laser tag, bowling lanes and an arcade.

The upcoming City Council vote on Tuesday could clear the way for construction near Yorktown Boulevard and South Staples Street.

Several City Council members said they'd received dozens of emails on the subject. Rudy Garza Jr., who represents the district, said he had received more communication on the proposed entertainment center than any other topic in his time on the council, estimating that he had received about 150 emails as of Wednesday, with about 100 in favor and 50 against.

It was not immediately clear how many people might turn out for public comment at the meeting.

About three dozen people -- who appeared nearly evenly split in favor of and against the project -- showed up to a community meeting hosted last week by the potential developer, Jeff Dinger. Part informational session, part question-and-answer period, the meeting saw several tense exchanges.

Since then, about 120 people have signed an online petition urging the council to rezone the land so Movies and More can be constructed. Alternatively, those who do not want the development at that location have several people going door to door in nearby neighborhoods, seeking signatures from like-minded homeowners, said Timothy Dowling, a Kings Crossing resident who has helped organize opposition to the project.

He did not immediately have information available Thursday on the number of signatures opponents have collected.

THE ARGUMENTS

Both sides are urging attendance and public comment during the meeting Tuesday.

Although voiced concerns are far-ranging, the two major sticking points appear to be concerns about traffic congestion and alcohol service.

Sue Hoyt, a resident of Kings Crossing, said it was exactly those issues that at the forefront of her mind. She's also bothered that the center would be next to Asbury United Methodist Church, which hosts children's activities.

She's not against business or expansion, Hoyt added.

"I don't think it should be built in the middle of a premier neighborhood in Corpus Christi," she said.

Generally speaking most of the opponents don't take issue with the project, but in locating it in a residential area, Dowling said.

Joe Hilliard, a community advocate who runs the site 40 Things to Do in Corpus Christi, is among those who have actively encouraged supporters of Movies and More to make their voice heard with the council. He dismissed many of the arguments in opposition to the project, and noted that as the city continues its southern growth, more traffic would be seen in the corridor.

The project could provide a unique opportunity to bring something similar to the popular Alamo Drafthouse to Corpus Christi, he said.

"I believe there is an unspoken desire for Corpus Christi to stay the same," he said. "Corpus Christi has to either grow or shrink. It can't stay the same."

Dinger, meanwhile, has been making the rounds on various radio shows, trying to answer questions people have about the project.

"I sympathize with their concerns," he said. "But nothing justifies the fears expressed by the opposition."

COUNCIL WEIGHS IN

The Planning Commission is recommending that the council, which has the ultimate authority on the subject, approve the rezoning.

At least two council members, Mark Scott and Garza, said they were still not decided on the issue and were continuing to weigh the issues. Meanwhile, council members Colleen McIntyre and Kelley Allen both said they would vote in favor of the rezoning.

McIntyre said she spent hours researching the subject, observing traffic at existing theaters and on Staples Street, and meeting with Texas Department of Transportation officials about traffic.

Much of it comes down to the fact that the property was originally zoned as commercial, she said. It was changed to multifamily residential for a housing project that fell through, and a vote in favor of rezoning only returns the land to its original purpose, she said.

Garza said he expected a large turnout, come Tuesday.

"In the final analysis, the City Council has to decide... to leave the politics out of it," he said. "We have to decide whether this particular project will do more harm than good."

Twitter: @CallerCrow

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(c)2014 the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Corpus Christi, Texas)

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Source: Caller-Times (Corpus Christi, TX)


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