City to discuss El Jardin restoration, bag fee

BROWNSVILLE — The Brownsville City Commission will meet at 6 p.m. today and will discuss possibly transforming the old El Jardin Hotel into an affordable housing unit.

The commission will also discuss a city ordinance pertaining to plastic bag fees.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the City of Brownsville last year regarding the city’s plastic bag ordinance.

Paxton filed the lawsuit Oct. 12, saying the city’s ordinance violates Texas Health & Safety Code 361.0961(a)(3) that states, “a local government or other political subdivision may not adopt an ordinance, rule or regulation to assess a fee or deposit on the sale or use of a container or package.”

In a special city commission meeting, City Attorney Mark Sossi said the city has made an agreement with the AG’s office to remove the plastic bag fee. The agreement went to the Austin and if approved, the commission would have 30 days to amend the ordinance.

According to city documents, as of April 1 business will be prohibited from providing plastic checkout bags but instead they will be able provide reusable bags as checkout bags with or with out charge.

The commission will also visit the public hearing item to make the El Jardin Hotel into affordable rental housing.

El Jardin Housing Partners LP plans to submit an application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for the 2017 competitive 9 percent housing tax credits for El Jardin Lofts.

Back in January 2016, Reyes Ponce Environmental LLC, in Fort Worth had attempted to restore El Jardin Hotel. Dave Jordan, partner and manager of Reyes Ponce Environmental LLC, said he has received many calls from potential investors since Jan. 1, when Brownsville was named a “Texas Main Street City” by the Texas Main Street Program.

In May 2016, Dallas businessman Mike Hernandez claimed restoring the hotel wouldn’t be possible because Brownsville wouldn’t be able to attract potential lodgers because of the hotel’s location in the downtown area.

Mentioned in the May 2016 article, Terry Ray, a retired local contractor said the building “needs everything” such as mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades, though the structural rot is confined to just a few areas.

Another item that will be discussed is the action item to acknowledge the financial statements and cash investment report for the first quarter that ended Dec. 31, 2016.

The Brownsville City Commission will meet at City Hall, 1001 E. Elizabeth St.

Bag ban