SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — In an effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, rules are still in place for those headed to this city’s beach.
During a meeting held Wednesday, South Padre Island City Council made a five to one vote in favor of extending its emergency management order regarding beach operations to Dec. 3.
The order mandates that all types of canopies and pop-up tents are prohibited on the beach, as well as single-pole shade structures that are larger than 8 feet in diameter.
It also requires single-pole shade structures to be separated by a minimum of 15 feet, and only two chairs per single pole shade structure is permitted.
Other setups are prohibited within the 15 feet between the equipment.
A violation of the order is a Class C Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.
Prior to its extension to Dec. 3, the order was set to expire on Nov. 14.
SPI Mayor Patrick McNulty said one of the council’s number one priorities is to try to keep the public safe.
“One thing that we do need to consider when we look at this is that we’re getting ready to start having an influx of Winter Texans that are coming down here,” McNulty said during the meeting before the vote. “One of my concerns is that the Winter Texans are coming from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, etc., which are all having our issues that we had in the late summer.”
The order’s purpose of prohibiting canopies and pop-up tents is to hinder the spread of the virus by preventing large gatherings of people who don’t live in the same household.
“We’re not out to ban pop-up tents because I’ve gotten a lot of calls why are we banning? We’re not banning,” council member Kerry Schwartz said during the meeting. “All we’re trying to do is keep visitors that want to come to the Island, keep them safe. History will certainly prove, in the past when you have these pop-up tents, unless we start putting distance the same as the umbrellas, they attract large gatherings.”
Some individuals expressed their opposition to the order’s prohibition of canopies and pop-up tents during the meeting.
Laurie Coker, a SPI resident and business owner, said it’s unnecessary to have a ban on pop-ups and thinks that a pop-up is no different than an umbrella.
“If you’re saying that you have an umbrella and two chairs, and you have a family of four — If they’re sitting on the ground, and in two chairs, you got a family of four underneath there,” she said to the council. “So, to me, the rule doesn’t really match the desire. I think distance is key.”
A public comment made by Eva Lizette was read during the meeting by council member Eva Jean Dalton.
Lizette’s comment stated that she was in strong objection to the order regarding beach operations due to the fact that the regulations outlining the prohibition of canopies and popup tents by members of the public is a form of classism and systemic oppression that should not be allowed.
“I have like eight letters. I can sit here and read them all, but they’re all pretty much the same thing that people are asking that we do not ban the pop-ups and the canopies,” Dalton said. “Maybe we’re at a point that the beach operations, that we need to look at it.”
During the meeting, council member Alita Bagley said it’s the council’s responsibility to provide safety.
“I’m not seeing classism or oppression or shameful obscurities or capitalizing on anything,” Bagley said. “This is our responsibility as city council members, and that is the most important thing, providing for the health of our visitors and our residents.”
Council member Ken Medders, Jr. made a motion to extend the order to Dec. 3 and asked for a roll call vote.
“There is nobody up here that wants to ban tents. Right now, we have a moral obligation to stay on top of this and make sure our guests are safe,” council member Joe Ricco said during the meeting. “That’s our number one priority. If that means all of us here can’t use our tents for another month, two months, so be it, but we have to provide that safety for our guests and families that are coming here.”
Every member of the board voted in favor of the extension except Dalton.
“I’m going to vote no, but I do want to make this statement that I don’t like the implication that I’m not concerned about the safety of my community because I am very concerned about the safety, but all I was asking for was an amendment to allow all shade devices,” Dalton said after voting.
To read the entire order, visit https://tinyurl.com/yxksmxld.