Saturday, November 26, 2011

Surfrider Texas Chapters Conference!

I ran out of time to publish this article about my recent trip to the Surfrider Texas Chapters Conference in Galveston, but I will just take a quote from Rob Nixon and say Ditto! From Rob's blog:

All said and done, I personally had a great time with some amazing coastal Activists who put in thousands of volunteer hours a year sacrificing time with Family and surf sessions to ensure that Texas Beaches are preserved and kept open for everyone to enjoy and pass on to the next generation.  These exceptional Texans embody what it means to be a Texan.  We were all raised with the ingrained ethic of fiercely defending what you love at all costs and that moral obligation passed down from previous generations of Texans to us runs strong throughout the Texas Surfrider Foundation Chapters!

I was so stoked to meet all of the great Texas activists, and the crew from California. Truly inspiring people, and it was great to see the passion that everyone had for protecting the coast!

At Carol Severance's House - Note the house was occupied as a vacation rental as we stood for this kodak moment

"about our field trip: We stopped by the beach house owned by California divorce attorney Carol Severance. She is the person who purchased 5 Galveston properties a few years ago. Three of which were already on a list of houses in violation of the Texas Open Beaches Act (TOBA) and subject to removal by the state. She then filed a lawsuit against the people of Texas. Her goal was to overturn TOBA (the law that guarantees public access to our beaches for everyone, not just front-row owners). Six members of our Texas Supreme Court ruled in her favor and against the people of Texas last year. The result: there is no public beach above the high tide line on the West End of Galveston Island. Did I mention that she also accepted the FEMA buyout and netted over $900,000 profit after she gutted the TOBA & has since had FEMA fraud charges filed against her.

Here is a group photo of Surfrider Foundation officers standing in front of the house she is accused of defrauding FEMA in this debacle. And now, for the rest of the story. She applied for the FEMA buyout for houses that were more than 50% damaged. Because they were too expensive to rebuild. She then began to rent the "badly damaged" house on a weekly basis to tourists (as she had done since she bought it). I don't know the actual price, but these houses go for about $4000/week. When FEMA accepted her application, her neighbors were upset. You see, they didn't want the house torn down and the lot turned into public property in the middle of their exclusive, gated subdivision of only 12 houses. The other owners sued to stop the sale. They failed. The deal was about to take place and her good neighbors accused her of FEMA fraud. She inflated the damage estimates in order to qualify for the buyout. How could she continue to rent a house for thousands of $$ a week and still claim the house was beyond repair? Her good neighbors even stated they "did not want the public" in their subdivision. Severance gutted our Texas Open Beaches Act, and her good neighbors gutted her. I guess it was a friendly neighborhood until the repugnant idea of having the public use their beach turned them all against each other."

Again, an inspiring trip, and crucial thanks to the Galveston Chapter for being such great hosts, and I got some surf!

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