Woodridge Village is an in-progress development in Montgomery County that has allegedly caused flooding in Kingwood neighborhoods. Harris County officials have said they want to purchase the cleared land to turn it into a regional detention basin.
Harris County commissioners directed the Harris County Flood Control District in late April to begin negotiations and seek an interlocal agreement with the city of Houston before buying the land. The interlocal agreement was contingent on the city giving the county $7 million in land assets for flood mitigation purposes and on the city increasing its development guidelines to match the county's Atlas 14 mitigation standards.
However, an interlocal agreement has not been approved since the vote in April, leading one Harris County commissioner to say he was skeptical the deal would move forward.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack expressed concern that the deal might be "dead"; he said that unless Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner mandates his staff meet the county's requirements, the agreement will not happen.
"Unless the mayor comes forward and basically instructs the city government to work with the county and have this 50/50 deal and buy this property, ... I conclude the deal is dead," he said.
HCFCD Executive Director Russ Poppe said the city has yet to adopt the county's requirements—which are based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlas 14 data—within the city limits nor within the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ.
"They adopted the rainfall rates, but it's my understanding they haven't adopted the detention and mitigation requirements commensurate with ours," he said.
Additionally, Poppe said the county and the city still need to determine costs associated with maintaining the area if purchased as well as turning the 268-acre plat into a regional detention facility, which officials have said could cost $30 million.
"We want to make sure ... that if there's work to be done on that site in the interim before it's developed into a full detention site, ... the flood control district isn't burdened with that ourselves," he said.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said he believed the county's requirement for the city to adopt stricter detention standards were "reasonable" because the city of Houston approved the development plats for Woodridge Village back in 2018 and 2019. He said the city was required to approve the plat because the development is located in the city's ETJ.
“I think all of the conditions that the county advised are reasonable," Ellis said. "I hope regardless of what happens with this project, the city and our other [Harris County] cities do adopt Atlas 14 standards.”
However, Houston City Council Member Dave Martin, who represents District E in the Kingwood area and also serves as mayor pro tem, said via email July 30 that the city has already adopted Atlas 14 requirements.
"I know the city of Houston has already adopted Atlas 14 and even met the caveats Commissioners Court injected to this deal back in May," he said. "I was a bit surprised by the comments made at [Commissioners Court] this week as an offer was presented to Figure Four last Friday [July 24], while County Judge [Lina] Hidalgo and Mayor Sylvester Turner work to bifurcate the issue of acquisition and future improvements."
Community Impact Newspaper has reached out to Martin's office for further explanation on the city's development standards. The article will be updated with more information as it becomes available.
Poppe confirmed in the July 28 meeting that a draft contract for property acquisition was sent July 24 to Figure Four Partners, a subsidiary of Perry Homes, which is the developer of Woodridge Village. He said the county attorney received comments from Figure Four Partners on July 27, the day before the court meeting. He did not know whether the comments had been addressed.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, who originally did not to speak on the agenda item, later said he is hopeful that the agreement will continue with the city of Houston so the entities can purchase the Woodridge Village property.
"I have hope that this project may still rise from what seems to be the ashes—or should I say, the flood waters,” he said. “I am hopeful that we can still make some progress on this.”