Following more than a year of negotiations, the city of Houston and Harris County officially sealed the deal on acquiring the in-progress Woodridge Village development, which the entities hope to transform into a regional stormwater detention facility.
The property, which is located north of Kingwood in Montgomery County, was intended to be a residential community from Figure Four Partners, a subsidiary of Perry Homes. The roughly 268-acre development was accused of causing flooding in Kingwood neighborhoods twice in 2019.
Harris County Flood Control District announced the $14 million land purchase from Figure Four Partners in a news release March 4. The entities closed on the property March 4, according to flood control district officials.
Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, who represents District E in Kingwood, said in a statement from the release that he was thrilled to see the city and county combine efforts toward the flood mitigation project.
“This purchase is integral for investment in the future of the Kingwood area as well as many homes along the county line," Martin's statement read. "Collaboration like this is essential in providing a sense of security to many residents who have endured so much uncertainty these last few years."
Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle also provided a comment in the news release.
“This is a great example of government doing what government is supposed to do—listening to the people who live in those neighborhoods and working to protect them from future flooding, and I appreciate the added benefit of getting the City of Houston to adopt stricter regulations closer in line with those of Harris County,” Cagle stated in the new release.
Most recently, Harris County and the city of Houston had approved an interlocal agreement in December to buy Woodridge Village. Negotiations on the interlocal agreement had been ongoing for months, as some Harris County commissioners were requesting that the city of Houston match all of the county's standards for developing in flood plains before an agreement was reached. The city reportedly agreed to the development criteria of the interlocal agreement, according to flood control district officials.
Now with the purchase secured, officials will turn their attention toward making the property a regional detention facility. About 73 acres of the 268-acre property will be used purely by the city of Houston for its new wastewater treatment plant.
This is why the city paid about $3.8 million for 73 acres of the property versus the county contributing roughly $10 million from its 2018 bond referendum toward the total land cost. The city had also agreed to reimburse the county for half the county's contribution—about $5 million—by way of giving land assets to the county, Community Impact Newspaper reported.
According to the flood control district's news release, the district will perform an engineering analysis to determine stormwater detention volume, the project's benefit to the community, and project cost and funding. The Kingwood community will be allowed to engage in the project planning, as the district will gather input from residents on the proposed project and present project alternatives, according to the release.
In the past, officials have estimated remediation could cost about $20 million, as at least five detention ponds have reportedly already been cleared by Figure Four Partners. Martin and the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority board of directors have discussed the LHRA taking out a $30 million bond to help fund the detention area if alternative funding is not made available.
Although the property has been purchased, it will not affect ongoing lawsuits Kingwood residents filed against Figure Four Partners and other connected parties.
Hundreds of homeowners in Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest filed lawsuits against the builders in May 2019, claiming Houston-based PWSA Inc., general contractor Rebel Contractors Inc. and Figure Four Partners caused their homes to flood when they cleared trees and vegetation without building detention. A pretrial order was signed Feb. 26 for this case, according to Harris County District Clerk documents.
Figure Four Partners declined to comment on the land purchase on March 4, according to a representative for the company.
Correction: The original version of this article was inconsistent on the total land area that was purchased. It has been updated for consistency.