Harris County Flood Control District will prepare a final offer letter to purchase the $14 million Woodridge Village plat.
Woodridge Village is a 268-acre residential development from Figure Four Partners—a subsidiary of Perry Homes—accused of causing flooding in Kingwood neighborhoods twice last year. Harris County officials have said they want to purchase the cleared land to turn it into a detention basin.
At their April 28 meeting county commissioners directed the district to prepare the letter. However, the offer letter hinges on two terms: the city of Houston must give Harris County $7 million in land for flood mitigation purposes, and the city must increase its development guidelines to match the county's mitigation standards. The county's standards are more strict than the city's and are based on Atlas 14 rainfall data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The April 28 terms were revised from those laid out at the April 7 meeting, where commissioners requested the flood control district research what parts of Montgomery County's drainage criteria officials would have to change to get an agreement on the table as well as what assets the county would want to obtain from the city of Houston.
The Woodridge Village development is located in Montgomery County, but it is also in the city of Houston's extraterritorial jurisdiction, which means the project went through both Montgomery County's engineering department and the city of Houston for permitting. For this reason, the district is including the city of Houston in the agreement rather than Montgomery County, said Matt Zeve, deputy executive director of the flood control district.
"We're working with the city of Houston to make it more simplified, and we'll follow up with future correspondence about working with the surrounding counties about their drainage criteria," he said.
According to information from the flood control district, Harris County is requesting the city of Houston update its 500-year flood plain development standards, remove a portion of its design requirements that allows detention requirements to be waived, and revise the way developers calculate the detention volume based on tract size, to name a few.
Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin weighed in on the court's decision at the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce's livestreamed luncheon on April 29.
"There were two stipulations on the sale, both of which we're already working on and agreed to a couple of weeks ago," Martin said at the meeting.
Martin said the city has already identified 11 pieces of land that could potentially be given to the county, including several along Halls Bayou in northeast Houston. He did not comment further on the city's development standards.
The next steps
If the city of Houston agrees to the county's terms and the offer with Figure Four Partners goes through, Zeve said the land purchase could be approved in June.
"All that has to be approved by [Houston] City Council and commissioners court before commissioners court will approve the flood control district purchasing that property from Figure Four Partners," Zeve said.
The flood control district then has to find funding for the detention basin project. While the district intends to purchase the plat through money allocated for land acquisitions in the county's $2.5 billion bond referendum, the district does not have roughly $30 million to build a detention pond on the 268-acre plat, Zeve said.
Zeve said the district intends to first pursue an excavation removal contract with a company that would dig the basin for free in exchange for the material collected, which he said could take a year to construct. Other funding options include applying for state and federal grants or working the project into the flood control district's capital improvement program budget over the next four to six years, Zeve said.
"We're trying to get to the end point, but none of this stuff is easy, unfortunately," he said. "We're working through our processes."
Also at the April 29 luncheon, Martin said the city of Houston has talked with the flood control district about potentially using the Woodridge Village property to divert water from Bens Branch and Taylor Gully to the Kingwood diversion ditch, which crosses near the Northpark Drive and Woodridge Parkway intersection.
"We think it makes a lot of sense to have a combination of both: of diverting water to protect residents downstream and at the same time creating the detention in that particular land," he said. "We're already working with Harris County Flood Control [District] over the next 10 weeks to build a barrier between Elm Grove and Woodridge Village—that land that we're hopefully going to buy—to create sort of a stormwall there, so the water doesn't get to us while we're doing all of the construction projects."