“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.
The acquisition, which is contingent upon approval by the Harris County Commissioners Court on Jan. 28, would lead to eventual construction of a regional stormwater detention basin in place of the clubhouse, tennis courts and golf course currently located in the Champion Forest neighborhood.
While some residents have expressed concern that the loss of such amenities could be detrimental to neighboring property values, Cagle said that if the deal goes through, the precinct has bigger plans for the property.
“The goal is to create something more along the lines of Kickerillo [Mischer Preserve] with beautiful park amenities—little fishing piers, boat launches and walking trails that go around it,” Cagle said. “No one goes to Kickerillo Park with Marshall Lake that’s just up the stream from there and says, ‘Oh, that’s ugly.’ That’s one of the most used and beloved facilities.”
Cagle said the creation of such an amenity would not only serve flood mitigation purposes for the Cypress Creek watershed but also serve recreational purposes for the surrounding communities. He added similar projects, like the drainage project underway on Champion Drive and the creation of Dragonfly Pond, which is located near the intersection of Telge and Spring Cypress roads, are two examples of detention ponds that serve dual purposes.
These kinds of projects, Cagle said, would likely increase the property values of neighboring homeowners, as the project would not only add functional ambience to the community but also make homes more flood resilient.
“I, candidly, have had some people who are upset because they know that if we improve the drainage in that area and we make those homes more flood-resilient and we put a big, beautiful park in front of it—that means the values of their homes are going to go up, and they don’t want to pay increased property taxes,” Cagle said. “If your home’s worth more and that’s your investment, that should be a good thing. I am a property tax champion, but improving the value of your home is not a bad thing in my book.”
Cagle said local residents had also shared concerns about not being included in the process and not knowing the plan for the project in advance. Cagle said because of the impending vote, he is hamstrung on what he is able to tell constituents.
“We don’t broadcast when we’re negotiating with someone because if we put that out there, then, speculators come in and try to buy the land out from underneath us and drive the prices up, and we’re trying to protect the taxpayer dollars,” Cagle said. “Everyone out there is allowed to speculate, but until the deal is done, it’s not a deal.”
To enhance transparency, HCFCD also added a page to its website this week with information on the project, frequently asked questions and a place to submit questions.
Cagle added that while the land acquisition will be funded through the $2.5 billion flood bond passed by voters in 2018, the actual 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.
“Of the 22 watersheds [in Harris County], Cypress Creek has gotten about 10% [of the flood bond funds], so we’ll be starting to push our envelope a little bit there,” Cagle said. “And everyone in Cypress Creek says they didn’t get enough [funding], but ... we have 22 watersheds ... and every watershed said they didn’t get enough.”
If the deal closes at the end of the month, the county could begin designing and surveying the property within the year-long period, Raveneaux will have to wind down its business to jump-start the process. Cagle said his goal will be to expedite the project to minimize construction time for both homeowners and commuters.
“We desperately need to have a significant detention project that helps everyone along the Cypress Creek corridor,” Cagle said. “This is really one of the first of the big projects [where] we’re able to say, ‘This might be the place.’”