The roughly 268-acre property has been accused of flooding Kingwood neighborhoods south of the property twice in 2019—once in a May rainstorm and again during Tropical Storm Imelda in September. City and county officials want to turn the property into a regional detention basin.
Harris County commissioners unanimously approved the interlocal agreement at the Dec. 15 Commissioners Court meeting. Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle thanked commissioners for unanimously supporting the agreement.
"Thank you all for helping these folks who've been flooded and assisting these people who live in Harris County that will be directly impacted by the benefits of this project," he said.
However, Democratic commissioners and Judge Lina Hidalgo remained steady on a stipulation in the agreement that requires the city of Houston to adjust its detention requirements to match the county's development standards.
"This is an example of folks that shouldn't have built this ... [or] tried to build this development in the first place. That's ultimately what we're preventing by having the city adopt these potential requirements, which I think is the most valuable part of this agreement," Hidalgo said. "Hopefully this will be something that remains—those new detention requirements—that help us turn the page and make sure that throughout the county people are and communities are growing in a way that's smart and is not just flooding folks downstream."
With the agreement, the county has committed to paying roughly $12 million of the $14 million purchase price; however, $7 million of county's cost will be replenished when the city gives the county an equal amount in land assets. The city will cover the remaining land cost so it can use 73 acres of land for a new Kingwood wastewater treatment plant, officials said.
Russ Poppe, executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District, said during the Dec. 15 meeting that the anticipated closing date for the property is in early March. He said a purchase agreement will return to commissioners before the closing date.
Last week at the Dec. 9 Houston City Council meeting, council members unanimously approved their side of the interlocal agreement. Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, who represents District E in Kingwood, said the agreement was a victory for residents in North Kingwood neighborhoods like Elm Grove Village—where homeowners estimate almost 700 homes flooded during the two 2019 storms.
Martin also stressed the need for multijurisdictional policies to be formed to allow outside counties and cities to provide input on proposed developments that border jurisdictional lines or could negatively affect neighboring areas. In the case of Woodridge Village, the property is located directly above the Harris County line in Montgomery County, which makes it within the city of Houston's extraterritorial jurisdiction.
"We must step in and put a stop to irresponsible developments or suffer the consequences and be the next one down the drain," Martin said.
With the interlocal agreement approved by both parties, Figure Four Partners must still accept the $14 million purchase. The company is taking an estimated loss of $10 million, because the company bought the land for $14 million and spent $10 million to clear the land and dig detention ponds after the Kingwood neighborhoods flooded, according to Hidalgo.
If the purchase is finalized, roughly $20 million must be secured to build retention on the remaining 194 acres not occupied by the 73-acre wastewater treatment plant. Poppe said the detention could benefit 600 homes downstream of the property.
The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority board of directors is considering helping to fund future land remediation by taking out a $30 million loan with no interest for 30 years. The LHRA, which oversees property tax revenue collected in Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10 in Kingwood, is considering annexing the property into its TIRZ 10 boundaries. This would allow the authority to use the loan to remediate the land if needed.