Jersey Village City Council moves forward with tax investment plan for Jersey Village Crossing

A draft indicates the proposed boundaries for the Jersey Village Crossing TIRZ.[/caption]

Jersey Village City Council unanimously voted to establish a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for the 274-acre Jersey Village Crossing area following a public hearing at last night's council meeting.

The TIRZ will allow the city to take tax revenue generated in Jersey Village Crossing and place it into a separate fund that can be used for structural improvements and enhanced infrastructure in that area. It will exist for a period of 30 years.

Jersey Village Crossing covers the area south of Hwy. 290 around Jones Road in Jersey Village. Several businesses and companies already exist within it, but a lot of the property is vacant and city officials said they hope to attract more quality family-oriented retail, dining and entertainment options.

"The idea behind the Jersey Crossing is a mixed-use development," City Manager Austin Bleess said. "High-end retail and office space is the goal behind that with associated residential units. A sustainable development that provides the residents of Jersey Village with more retail choices, job opportunities and more residential options is what economic trends show is desired."

Economic development, including in Jersey Village Crossing, was a major goal in the city's 2015 comprehensive plan, Bleess said.

"Jersey Village can expect reasonable growth over the next 30 years, with ongoing demand for both residential and non-residential real estate," he said. "The Jersey Crossing site would capture a fair share of that growth so long as it includes a mix of mutually reinforcing land uses for both day and night."

In comments supporting the TIRZ, Councilman Andrew Mitcham said it will allow Jersey Village to compete with other cities that use similar economic development tools, including Tomball and Sugar Land.

The development is expected to be the location of a light rail stop in the future, as laid out in plans by the Metropolitan Transit Organization of Harris County. However, it is unclear when the light rail project will begin, and city officials said business development will likely take place first.

The plan will also eventually require the annexation of some of the city's extra-territorial jurisdiction, including properties around Wright Road.

Several residents expressed concerns during the public comment period of the July 17 meeting, many of which centered around how the TIRZ board would operate.

Bleess clarified that seven-person board would feature at least five members appointed by city council and up to two members appointed by Harris County if the county chooses to participate. The overall financial plan for the TIRZ, as well as any projects, use of bonds or eminent domain, would have to be approved by council, he said.

The creation of the TIRZ follows council's unanimous adoption of several other economic development programs at its June meeting that will take effect citywide, including property and sales tax abatements to incentivize certain businesses to build in Jersey Village.

A draft of the TIRZ financial plan was made available to the public before the public hearing, and a final version could be adopted at the Aug. 21 council meeting, Bleess said.

Residents still concerned about flooding

Residents at the July council meeting also used the public comment period to discuss the city's ongoing efforts to mitigate flooding. The city brought in Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation to conduct a long-term flood study, and engineers presented their proposal to the city in June.

Resident Fred Ziehe asked council to have Dannenbaum take a closer look at the White Oak Bayou bypass, which was built in 2010 with the purpose of directing flood water around the city. He said the bypass no longer slopes in the right direction near the city, causing water to back up and flood the main channel.

Although earlier studies conducted by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers showed the bypass functioned properly, Ziehe and others said a fresh study was needed to see if that was still the case.

"[Dannenbaum] told us that surveying the bypass was not part of their study, and I was flabbergasted that they would not do that," Ziehe said. "I think this [study] should acknowledge that people have seen water flowing in the wrong direction. We are asking the city and Dannenbaum to resurvey that to see if it has changed since it was built in 2010."

A final set of recommendations from Dannenbaum could be adopted as early as the Aug. 21 meeting.

By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.