Since earlier this year, the city of Houston and Harris County have been in talks of purchasing the Woodridge Village development: a roughly 268-acre undeveloped property in Montgomery County that has been accused of causing flooding in Kingwood neighborhoods, such as Elm Grove Village. Figure Four Partners, a subsidiary of Perry Homes, last offered to sell the land for $14 million to the entities, but the purchase has not been finalized.
At the Nov. 11 LHRA board of directors meeting, Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, who represents District E, said he wanted a "backup plan" in the event the negotiations with the county fall through or the entities disagree on how to fund land remediation once purchased. The entities are considering turning it into a regional detention facility, while a portion of the land could be used as a new site for a Kingwood wastewater treatment plant.
"Hopefully we can work this out with [Harris County] Commissioner's Court, but they've been very inconsistent in their response every time this issue comes up," Martin said. "So it worries me that we're going to make promises to the folks in Elm Grove and not be able to live up to that commitment."
The city of Houston applied for a grant from the Texas Water Development Board to fund the remediation of the Woodridge Village property; however, Martin said the city was offered a $30 million loan with no-interest for 30 years.
The LHRA oversees property tax revenue collected in Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10 in Kingwood. Martin said he and LHRA board chairman Stan Sarman were discussing having LHRA annex the Montgomery County property into the TIRZ boundary. This would allow the LHRA to extend its debt capacity and to use the $30 million loan to eventually fund projects within the annexed area.
"If something does change with Harris County, we have the ability to grab some funds that we might need to finish out this project," Martin said. "But hopefully Harris County will agree that this is a good path—they’ve always said it [is]."
Board Member Phillip Ivy said it sounded like “the best of the outcome could possibly be.”
“We're going to help the flood-prone areas, it sounds like we're going to increase the capacity of the wastewater treatment facilities—or at least move an old, aged, damaged facility—and increase wastewater treatment with newer technology, which it has to be better than what we're using today. I don't see any downside to this at all," Ivy said.
If directors take on the debt, Martin said the LHRA would have to delay several intersection improvements, including improvements along Kingwood Drive at Woodlands Hills and Willow Terrace drives. The projects are currently nearing the end of the design phase.
The move will not, however, affect the Northpark Drive Overpass Project or Northpark Drive Reconstruction Project, Sarman said.
A public hearing will be held Dec. 2 at Houston City Council to allow residents to provide feedback on the annexation, with the LHRA board set to vote on the issue Dec. 10.