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4th of July Beach Parade enjoys record turnout

By PAMELA CODY

Special to the PRESS

Waving American flags and wearing patriotic clothing, more than 200 people gathered on 4th of July morning on the beach at South Padre Island to participate in this year’s annual South Padre Island 4th of July Beach Parade. Adults and children of all ages, along with a variety of 4-legged friends, walked, strolled and rolled from Beach Access #22 to BEach Access #17 to celebrate Independence Day.

The event, headed by South Padre Island Parks & Recreation Manager Mary Kay Hancock, was a tremendous success, thanks to support from organizer Debbie Huffman and scores of volunteers. Observing the festive crowd shortly before the parade began, Hancock commented on the fun, family-oriented event. “We’re so glad everyone’s here. It’s a great crowd and I’m so happy everybody came out on this beautiful day.”

She praised community members, ranging from high-school students to senior citizens, who donated their time to the event. She gestured toward the crowd, saying, “With all these people volunteering, it’s a great start to the 4th.”

Also on hand for the parade was Mayor Barry Patel, dressed in a festive flag-themed shirt and straw hat, who, accompanied by his wife, walked the parade route. He gave a big smile when asked how he was enjoying his first Independence Day Parade as mayor. “I’m happy to be here. I want to wish everybody a Happy 4th and come on down for some family fun. The water’s clear and the weather’s great!” he exclaimed.

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SPI approves rental property charges

By FERNANDO DEL VALLE Staff Writer

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — After weeks of opposition from some property owners, City Council members Wednesday took the first step to crack down on rental property owners who fail to pay as much as $300,000 a year in hotel occupancy taxes.

In a meeting, council members unanimously passed the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would charge $50 to register individual rental property units. Owners would face a fine of $500 a day for violations.

“Not everybody completely agrees with everything but I think we’ve come an awful long way,” Councilman Dennis Stahl, who pushed for the proposed ordinance, told a group of rental property representatives.

Stahl said officials agreed not to charge $50 registration fees to rental property owners who pay hotel occupancy taxes.

Officials found that owners of about 1,000 units do not pay hotel occupancy taxes, which add up to an annual loss of as much as about $300,000 here.

“It’s not punitive,” Mayor Barry Patel told the group. “This is a very vital industry for South Padre Island. This is to get better compliance, which we’ve been struggling for many years.”

The ordinance would require properties that rent for less than 30 days to register each unit, listing ownership information. The ordinance would also require that properties designate representatives to handle any complaints, making them available 24 hours a day, within distances of one-hour drives.

Violators would face daily fines of as much as $500.

Terri Galloway, general manager of Suntide II Resort Condominiums, told council members that the proposed registration process, including the collection of property owners’ information, would take long hours and hard work.

“This is a whole lot of extra work for anyone in the rental businesses,” Galloway told council members.

Galloway said Mexican property owners rent their units to friends and family in Mexico, leaving city officials with “no detail, no history” of records.

South Padre aerial

SPI Shoreline Task Force supports PI, SPI artificial reefing project

By ABBEY KUNKLE | Special to the PRESS

The South Padre Island Shoreline Task Force met for a special meeting Monday afternoon to consider supporting a Port Isabel and South Padre Island reefing project. Vice Chairman Troy Giles said that he believed fishing was one of the most important things for the area, only second to the beach. With that in mind, he and the rest of the task force were eager to discuss any project that would positively impact fishing in the gulf.

The meeting was requested by Mayor Barry Patel after receiving an email from Gary Glick, who came to the Task Force to request a letter of support for the project. This letter would be used to help in the process of gaining a permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) along with letters that have already been submitted from Property Owners Who Care (POWC) and the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce.