PORT ARANSAS – A court battle between the Port of Corpus Christi and Harbor Island in Port Aransas that spilled over from 2019 seems is now over as the two entities have reached a settlement.
At the July 21 Port of Corpus Christi Commissioners meeting, the Port Commission Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer were authorized to finalize a settlement agreement which the Port Aransas City Council approved on Aug. 20 with a 7-0 vote.
The issues began in March 2019 when the Port approved a 200 acre, 50-year lease on Harbor Island to Lone Star Ports LLC as a joint venture with the Carlyle Group and the Berry Group. The plans are for the companies to build docks, a major marine terminal and possibly a new pipeline on the island at the mouth of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.
The agreement would also further talks of a desalination plant Corpus Christi has proposed on the island.
The 50-year lease could bring a minimum of $2 billion to a possible maximum of $4 billion over the life of the lease to the Port.
An injunction was filed by Port Corpus Christi LP President Kenneth Berry but only lasted three days and the vote to lease the land was passed.
On Aug. 29, 2019 an emergency moratorium was approved by the Port Aransas City Council to stop the Port from issuing development permits or approvals for industrial development on the island beginning immediately. According to Port A officials, many concerned residents feel that bringing in large industry would affect the environment and in turn hurt the city’s lifeblood — tourism.
The Port responded by filing a lawsuit against Port A and then pulled their lease for the marina which was on Corpus Christi owned property. Port A argued that since Hurricane Harvey destroyed their fire department, they wouldn’t be able to provide emergency services.
In October 2019 the Carlyle Group pulled out, leaving the Berry Group the sole owner of Lone Star Ports LLC. Port of Corpus Christi CEO Sean Strawbridge said the group remains in the deal.
With their court date set for Dec. 20, and the moratorium ending Oct. 29, the Port continued the litigation to ensure Port A wouldn’t be able to try anything similar and limit the Port’s access to permits.
At the court hearing, Nueces County Court at Law 3 Judge Deanne Galvan declined to grant the Port a temporary restraining order against Port A since the moritorium had already expired but ruled that Port A should not attempt to pass further similar ordinances.
After months of negotiations the two entities have finally come to a settlement, the details of which were not disclosed.
“We are thrilled to finally have reached an agreement with the city of Port Aransas on how to best move forward with the development of Harbor Island,” Strawbridge said. “We value our relationships with local municipalities and this agreement paves the way for more economic prosperity and public safety for the good citizens of Port Aransas.
“We thank (Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan), the entire city council and City Manager Dave Parsons for their leadership in reaching this accord, thereby endorsing a long-term collaborative view of the future of Harbor Island.”
Bujan added, “For a number of years, the city and Port Authority have been fighting over matters regarding each entity’s respective regulatory powers, and how conflicts between such powers should be resolved. This costly fight has recently spilled over into the courts.
“But, finally, by entering into an interlocal agreement the Port and the city now have a workable framework in place to address development on Harbor Island, including oversight on city ordinance and permitting issues, and funding provisions to address fire protection and emergency services. The agreement also ends all of the litigation between the city and the Port.
“Hopefully, this agreement can serve as a springboard for continued discussions with the Port on Harbor Island and on other matters of mutual concern between the Port and (Port A). The city is pleased to have resolved these issues and looks forward to continuing to address related matters of concern to the city’s residents.”
Paul Gonzales is a reporter at The News of San Patricio and can be reached at 361-364-1270, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.