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 partner with the city of Houston to purchase the cleared land and turn it into a regional detention basin.
At the Sept. 15 Harris County Commissioners Court, commissioners agreed to send the contract to Figure Four Partners—thus locking the $14 million purchase price for 120 days. The city of Houston must still agree to Harris County's conditions, and an interlocal agreement must be approved before the land can be purchased, according to Robert Soard, first assistant for the Harris County Attorney’s Office.
"The interlocal agreement with the city will come back to this court to be voted on, so all you're voting on today is to, in effect, establish a purchase price for the property with all these conditions," Soard said. "The ultimate condition being that if this court cannot get an interlocal agreement that's satisfactory, then the whole deal is off."
The purchase agreement is contingent on the city of Houston agreeing to several conditions discussed in previous meetings, including that the city pay for half of the land purchase with cash or assets; the city help fund construction on future detention for the land; and the city update its development guidelines to match the county's more strict flood mitigation standards, which are based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlas 14 data.
Additionally, a Sept. 17 news release from Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin's Office, who represents District E in Kingwood, stated that the city of Houston also intends to use roughly 73 acres of the land for a regional wastewater treatment plant. Two of three existing wastewater treatment plants in the Kingwood area were impacted by flooding during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, per the release.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who has pushed in previous court meetings on the importance of the city of Houston adopting Atlas 14 guidelines on par with Harris County's, said the city of Houston must adopt the guidelines in order for him to vote in favor of an interlocal agreement.
"If [the agreement] comes back and there's not some very strong reason for not adopting Atlas 14, ... I, for one, will be against it and will regret that I voted for it today," Ellis said.
Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock addressed commissioners at the Sept. 15 meeting saying that the city has adopted Atlas 14 rainfall data and similar mitigation standards. While the city's current detention standards are not the same as the county's, Haddock said the city's redevelopment and drainage taskforce is working to update drainage guidelines by the end of the year.
"[We] are committed to have that completed before the end of year," she said. "We need to achieve the same performance and levels of protection, but it may not look identical [to the county's standards]. We recognize that we need to have consistent criteria and that we need to have the same level playing field for everybody."