Residents across 22 subdivisions in northwest Harris County will have the opportunity to vote May 1 on several bond referendums that officials said will help build new trails, maintain aging infrastructure and keep up with growth.

Northwest Harris County Municipal Utility District No. 5 is seeking voter approval for a $120 million referendum for water and wastewater infrastructure and a $30 million referendum for parks, trails and landscaping, according to MUD documents.

"We really need this passed in order to, as a MUD, keep a little bit of growth in the future, but also we need to do some capital improvements," said Jeff Collins, president of the MUD's board of directors. "When you have facilities that are 20-30 years old, we need to start doing more to those facilities so we can get another 20-30 years out of them."

The MUD serves about 7,000 residents across 2,800 acres in northwest Harris County near the Cy-Fair and Tomball border, including subdivisions such as Lakewood Oaks Estates, Rock Creek, Enclave at Northpointe and Hayden Lakes. Although most of the land within the MUD has been developed, Collins said there remains about 450 acres of land where future single-family development could take place.

Planned projects

The $120 million bond for infrastructure projects includes about $5.1 million for repairs and improvements to the district's four water plants; $11.5 million for work on wastewater treatment plants, including a $10 million plant expansion; and $13 million on lift station rehabilitation, according to an engineering report.

Another $45.8 million will be spent on a water reclamation project, which would convert water from the district's wastewater treatment plants so it can be used for landscaping along grass medians and for larger water users, Collins said.

As a result, some homeowners associations that use reclaimed water would see lower water costs, and residents elsewhere in the district could see benefits in their water pressure, Collins said.

Residents within a municipal utility district pay pay a portion of property taxes to the MUD in exchange for utility services, including water, wastewater and drainage services. About $30 million would be set aside to prepare for the potential future development on 450 acres within the MUD, according to the engineering report.

Developers within MUD 5 cover the cost of utility line connections upfront and do not get reimbursed until they have made a certain level of progress on the project and have reached a certain level of value added, Collins said.

"That's done to make sure the developers have good products," he said. "That kind of keeps us fiscally sound and makes sure we're not adding a lot of debt so existing people in the district are not paying for new people’s water, sewer and drainage.

About $11.5 million of the $30 million parks bond would go toward connecting the MUD's subdivisions with an extensive trail system, according to MUD documents.

The first phase of the trail project—funded by an $8 million bond referendum passed in 2009—involves building a trail from Little Cypress Creek near Telge Road to Faulkey Gulley. That project is under construction and is expected to open soon, Collins said.

The second phase would involve trying to extend that trail system to most, if not all, of the remaining subdivisions within the MUD, Collins said. The fragmented nature of the MUD's neighborhoods makes it difficult for people to find good pathways to walk or bike on, he said.

"A lot of subdivisions don’t have sidewalks, so this is providing an amenity for folks to get out and exercise and enjoy our area," Collins said.

If passed, Collins said the bonds are not expected to result in an increase to the property tax rate. The board adopted a tax rate of $0.75 per $100 of valuation for the 2020-21 fiscal year, a rate that has steadily decreased over the past six years and is down from a rate of $0.79 per $100 of valuation in 2015.

The projects would be spaced out over time according to a schedule that would be refined after the election, Collins said.

"The bonds will be sold [at times that] make sense as far as what facilities need to be repaired and when," he said. "They’ll be phased in such a way that the tax rate is not expected to be affected by this at all. We’ll keep an eye on that every year when we do our budget and set our tax rate."

Voters can cast ballots at any polling place in Harris County during the May 1 election as long as they provide proof of residence, such as a utility bill. The four closest polling places to the MUD 5 boundaries are Wildwood Elementary School, Royce Black Elementary School, Saint John Lutheran Church and School, and Saint Timothy Lutheran Church.

Early voting runs from April 19-27. More information on the MUD bond and the engineering report can be found here.