Citing fears of flooding, residents took the city to task at Monday’s council meeting over what could eventually be a 54-acre development that falls in the center of a conflict over a flood mitigation project that placed dirt in a floodway.
“Don’t make us the next Woodlands Township,” said Cheryl Johnson, referencing a lawsuit filed by 485 people against a developer over flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
The proposed development was not on the council agenda, nor has it been taken up by the Planning & Zoning Commission, but signs at 2811 Dixie Farm Road promoting Parkwood Plaza, a retail and office development by Westover Plaza Ltd., raised alarm among residents, including Johnson.
City Attorney Mary Kay Fischer advised the council not to discuss the issue publicly as the city itself has been threatened with legal action. City staff also refused to comment.
Documents presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on May 17 indicate that the Development Review Committee has looked at plans for the shopping center. The document indicates that the DRC discussion included the need for on-site detention and approval by the Harris County Flood Control District.
The dirt itself remains a concern, Johnson said, as it was coming from a site near the Brio superfund, an Environmental Protection Agency cleanup. In addition to stopping the development, Johnson said she wants to collect dirt samples for independent testing for contamination. She also wants the city to re-adopt the 2007 flood maps.
The flood control district has said dirt from the project site was cleared by an environmental consultant. The city of Friendswood also issued a statement affirming that the dirt was not from the Brio site and had been deemed safe, based on the flood district’s environmental study.
“Please note, based on that report, it appears that no further testing or action is needed,” the statement reads.
Council Member Carl Gustafson told residents who spoke June 4 that the council was listening.
“I’m very sympathetic to their concerns,” he said. “And I want to be real clear: Staff and council have not been sitting on their hands for the last nine months on this.”
Under a permit approved in November, the property began receiving dirt excavated from the South Belt Detention Basin project, which is expected to reduce flooding in the Clear Creek and Mud Gully/Beamer Ditch watersheds.
As much as 50,000 cubic yards of dirt had been dumped by the time the flood control district realized it should not have used the site for the placing the detention project’s dirt because it was in a flood-risk area under the county’s 2007 maps.