This detention zone, which involves land known as the Ruffino Tract, is being pitched as a way to benefit parts of southwest Houston and curb the threat of flooding with the next severe weather event.
The Houston City Council voted in favor of a resolution at its Nov. 2 meeting for the city to enter into a purchase and sale agreement with West University Place for acquiring its portion of the land—approximately 70.87 acres along the southern bank of Keegan’s Bayou and east of I-69.
Originally, Houston planned to hold off on the purchase of the West University Place portion, but the city put the item on council's agenda after West University Place officials expressed a desire to sell the land sooner, Houston's Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello said.
The city has completed field visits, soil testing and detention analysis on the area. If the purchase and sale agreement is settled among both cities, the land title would be transferred over to Houston.
“Once we reach an agreement with [West University Place] then we will move quickly to close on the property,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said during the Nov. 2 council meeting.
Next, the city will submit a Title IX land mining application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Costello said. The land was, at one point, used as a landfill, and its matter will need to be relocated. More recently the area was a golf course and then open green space.
It could take three to nine months for the TCEQ to review the city’s application and move the landfill, Costello said in an interview with Community Impact.
“We’ve talked about Ruffino for years, and all the different possibilities and projects and things we would like to see done on that tract of land, but we never owned the land,” District J Council Member Edward Pollard said at the Nov. 2 meeting. “This is the first step to putting forth something that can be meaningful ... that our city can look forward to discussing not only with the federal government and other stakeholders and partners but the community.”
The city intends to purchase the plot of land before the end of 2022.
“I’m just glad Houston is looking to purchase this land,” West University Place City Manager David Beach said. “My hope is ... that Houston can continue working towards improving flood relief for its residents.”
On the Bellaire side sits approximately 72.5 acres, directly adjacent to the West University Place plot. Bellaire has a nonbinding agreement with Houston to move forward, with the next step being securing and conducting appraisals—on both sides—to assess the land value. Bellaire City Manager Sharon Citino said they are still in the beginning stages of this process.
About 15 acres of this land will remain a trash transfer site.
“Our property is very similar to [West University Place], and so I think our primary concern is to do something positive for the citizens of Bellaire with this property,” Citino said.
The Bellaire property is currently designated as park land, and if both cities move forward in their agreement, will need to be voted on in Bellaire in order for that status to be changed.