According to HCFCD Deputy Executive Director Matt Zeve, the district has been negotiating with Raveneaux owner Michael Bloch—who manages Kera Development LP and Cypress/Raveneaux LLC—for the past year in hopes of acquiring the property for flood mitigation purposes. The property has flooded in the past alongside neighboring Champion Forest homes, including during Hurricane Harvey.
Zeve added the 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 in 2008.
“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.
However, several Champion Forest residents expressed concern about the negative effects the loss of Raveneaux 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 floods.
“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. “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.”
Road to acquisition
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 a fitness gym, and it also hosts weddings and special events throughout the year.
At its Jan. 7 meeting, Harris County Commissioners Court authorized the HCFCD’s negotiation and acquisition of the property on Cypresswood Drive.
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 the HCFCD as of Jan. 11; the deal closed Jan. 30.
“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 ... they will have to ... close up shop,” Zeve said.
While Zeve said no decisions have been made on plans for the property, the goal is to construct a regional stormwater detention basin. Although details of the basin have not yet been determined, Zeve said in similar past projects, the 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.
Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said his goal for the property is to create something akin to Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve, another Precinct 4 park that doubles as a detention basin.
“The goal here is not to make this an ugly hole in the ground; the goal is to make this safe and to make it beautiful,” Cagle said.
Tom Petrick, the Cypress Forest PUD vice president, said the entity was unable to comment on the matter and deferred to the utility district’s lawyer.
In addition to dropping property values, residents also voiced concerns about not being included in the acquisition process. However, Zeve said over the next year, the HCFCD will be engaging with the Champion Forest community to gather input on the future of Raveneaux.
Other Champion Forest residents, such as Kevin Wyatt, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1987, voiced concerns about the requirements of the current property lease between the Cypress Forest PUD and Bloch. The lease states the tenant must actively operate at least one 18-hole golf course on the property throughout the term of the lease—99 years.
However, Zeve said as the HCFCD will be drafting an entirely new lease and not taking over the existing lease, the requirements of the old lease will be terminated.
“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 ... that major flood damage reduction projects are needed in this watershed,” he said.
Zeve said the $11.4 million land acquisition is funded entirely through the HCFCD’s $2.5 billion bond referendum that was approved by voters in August 2018, as $100 million of bond funds are allocated for acquiring property in the Cypress Creek watershed.
Meanwhile, the construction of the regional stormwater detention basin and accompanying amenities will be funded through capital improvement project funds and a variety of state and local partnerships, Cagle said.
“We desperately need to have a significant detention project that helps everyone along the Cypress Creek corridor. This is really one of the first big projects [where] we’re able to say, ‘This might be the place,’” Cagle said.