Located in the Champion Forest neighborhood, Raveneaux Country Club has been a staple in the northwest Houston community since the 1970s. In addition to the country club, the community amenity also features a golf course, tennis courts and fitness gym, and hosts weddings and special events throughout the year.
According to HCFCD Deputy Executive Director Matt Zeve, HCFCD has been negotiating with the owner of Raveneaux Country Club, Michael Bloch—who manages Kera Development LP and Cypress/Raveneaux LLC—for the past year with the goal of acquiring the property for flood mitigation purposes.
Last Tuesday, Harris County Commissioners Court authorized the Harris County Real Property Division to make an offer to acquire the property, which is located at 9415 Cypresswood Drive in Spring.
“We’ve been working with Mr. Bloch and his people for awhile now—probably over a year—and we’ve finally come to a tentative agreement,” Zeve said. “[However], pretty much everything we do has to be approved by commissioners court—so nothing is official until [the court] approves the transaction at its Jan. 28 meeting. If they vote not to do this for whatever reason, then [the deal] is off.”
According to an email that was sent to Raveneaux Country Club members from Vice President of Operations Lou Mills, Bloch had accepted the offer extended by HCFCD as of Jan. 11.
Zeve said if the transaction is approved by commissioners court later this month, HCFCD hopes to close the deal by Jan. 30.
“If the transaction is approved by commissioners court, we will enter into a lease agreement with Raveneaux where they will have one year to continue operating the club and golf course, and then after the year is over with, then they will have to wind down all of their business and close up shop,” he said.
While Zeve said no decisions have been made on exactly what the plans are for the property, the goal is to construct a regional stormwater detention basin for flood mitigation purposes. Although details of the basin have not yet been determined, Zeve said in similar past projects, HCFCD has partnered with the local precinct to fund the construction and maintenance of adding recreational facilities to the property, allowing the basin to serve a dual purpose for the community.
However, Zeve added he was unsure yet if that is something Harris County Precinct 4 is interested in doing as the two entities have not yet discussed the matter.
Several Champion Forest residents expressed concern about the potentially negative effects the loss of Raveneaux Country Club could have on their neighborhood, including the potential decrease in home values. One of those residents is Allison Lewis, whose home sits on the golf course and whose backyard has been submerged in past heavy rainfall events.
“These detention ponds can’t hold nearly the amount of water to stop the flooding when we’ve seen water in the great proportion that we’ve seen,” Lewis said. “So is a detention pond going to stop the flooding? No. Obviously, it’s part of a bigger plan that will contribute to flood mitigation ... I am all for flood mitigation, but I’m for thoughtful flood mitigation, especially in a community that really values its neighbors, its infrastructure and most importantly, our green space.”
Champion Forest residents also voiced concerns about not being included in the process. However, Zeve said over the next year, HCFCD will be engaging with the Champion Forest community to gather input on the future of Raveneaux. He added HCFCD would be adding a webpage for the project to its Cypress Creek watershed page mid January where residents can submit questions and learn more about the project.
“We’re very aware that we’re not going to make everyone happy, but we’re also very aware that we’ve been asked by the Cypress Creek community—sometimes very forcefully—that major flood damage reduction projects are needed in this watershed," he said.
Zeve said HCFCD will be working over the next year to acquire the additional 206 acres of the property—including the golf course—that are owned by the Cypress Forest Public Utility District, which purchased the property with taxpayer funds in 2008.
While the current lease between the Cypress Forest PUD and Bloch states the tenant must actively operate at least one 18-hole golf course on the property throughout the term of the lease—99 years—Zeve said as HCFCD will not be taking over the existing lease and will instead, be drafting an entirely new lease; the old lease and its tenant requirements will be terminated.
Zeve added the land acquisition will be funded entirely through the HCFCD’s $2.5 billion bond referendum that was approved by voters in 2018, as $100 million of bond funds are allocated for acquiring property in the Cypress Creek watershed for flood mitigation projects.
“The flood control district recognizes that this project is transformative in that there’s a club in the community that’s been there for decades and that’s going to change and we’re sensitive to that, but we’re also sensitive to the toll that flooding has taken on that exact same community over the last three to four years,” Zeve said.
Harris County Commissioners Court is slated to vote on the transaction at its next scheduled meeting on Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. The meeting will take place at the Harris County Administration Building, located at 1001 Preston Street, Ste. 934, Houston.