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URGENT: IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE HIGH-RISE DEVELOPMENT, WRITE LETTERS TO THE ARMY CORPS AND TCEQ. DEADLINE: MARCH 1. SEE LINK AT TOP RIGHT OF HIGH-RISE PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS.

Huberty Introduces HB1671 To Extend Water-Quality Protections to West Fork

State Representative Dan Huberty introduced House Bill 1671 this week. It amends Section 26.551 of the Water Code to give the West Fork of the San Jacinto protections enjoyed by the John Graves Scenic District on the Brazos as a result of a pilot program started in 2005. The bill covers the portion of the West Fork between Lake Conroe and Lake Houston which has 20 square miles of sand mines.

Visual Inspections Twice a Year

If adopted, it would obligate Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to conduct visual inspections of the West Fork twice a year. The inspections would consist of two parts: flyovers and from the water surface. TPWD would conduct one set of inspections in summer and the other in winter.

Any fines received as a result of these inspections would go into a fund for reclamation and restoration of “beds, bottoms, and banks of water bodies affected but the unlawful discharges.”

Pilot Program Ends in 2025

If approved HB1671 would take effect on September 1, 2019, and run through September 1, 2025. That’s because the original bill was conceived as a pilot program that expires in 2025.

Greater Setbacks, Performance Bonds and Best Practices

The original bill also prohibits the construction or operation of any new quarry, or the expansion of an existing quarry, located within 1,500 feet of a water body located in a water quality protection area. However…

Exceptions may be granted if the quarry can prove that it satisfies performance criteria that address:

  • (A) slope gradients that minimize the potential for erosion, slides, sloughing of quarry walls, overburden piles, and banks into the water body and related water quality considerations;
  • (B) whether operations could result in significant damage to important historic and cultural values and ecological systems;
  • (C) whether operations could affect renewable resource lands, including aquifers and aquifer recharge areas, in which the operations could result in a substantial loss or reduction of long-range productivity of a water supply or of food or fiber products; and
  • (D) whether operations could affect natural hazard land, including areas subject to frequent flooding and areas of unstable geology, in which the operations could substantially endanger life and property.
River is migrating toward pit in background at 12 feet per year. Only 38 feet remain before river breaks through dike. Wider setbacks, like those mandated in HB1671, would reduce this danger and consequent sedimentation.

The other major provisions of the bill make quarry operators:

  • Follow best management practices which, presumably, would be defined under HB909.
  • Post a performance bond that covers site reclamation when they finish mining.

Pros

This bill would be a good first step in protecting the shores of the San Jacinto.

It would requires new operations to move farther back from the river. That should help reduce sedimentation and erosion in the long run. Lake Houston Area flood prevention activists have pushed this idea for more than a year.

HB1671 would also force operators to follow industry best-management practices and to reclaim land when they are done mining.

Cons

Unfortunately, the pilot program only runs for six more years. However, if successful, the legislature could make the program permanent in 2025.

The twice yearly inspections are a disappointment though. The major damage to water quality comes from breached dikes. Operators can patch dikes and plant grass which conceals the evidence of breaches after a few weeks in this climate. Landsat images, such as those in Google Earth, provide a much more effective method of monitoring. The satellite goes over this area every 1.5 hours…16 times a day. Monitoring operations from a computer monitor in near-real time would be much more effective and cheaper. One person could monitor every mine in the state on a daily or weekly basis.

About one month after this West Fork sand mine breach, new grass was already knee high. Inspections need to be made more frequently than once every six months. Satellite photos provide a more timely and cost-effective solution.

However, neither miners, regulators, nor legislators seem eager to take advantage of this technology when I bring the subject up. It makes one wonder why.

Recommendation

All in all, I love what HB1671 is trying to do and support it whole-heartedly. I hope as it makes its way through committee, the amendment can be amended to include more frequent satellite inspections.

Posted by Bob Rehak on February 14, 2019

535 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Milan Saunders

Kingwood Lakes Threatens Legal Action Over Portion of Proposed High-Rise Development

Kingwood’s Kingwood Lakes Community Association has threatened legal action over a portion of the proposed high-rise development between Lake Kingwood and the Barrington. Developers planned multi-family condominium units on stilts for that area. But deed restrictions limit construction to single-family housing compatible with surrounding architecture.

Milan Saunders
View from Milan Saunders home in Kingwood Lakes during Harvey. This is why Kingwood Lakes residents are so concerned about the diversion of drainage from the proposed high-rises and condos towards them.

Single-family usually means “one family in one house on one piece of land.” The developers had planned 65′ high, MULTI-FAMILY condos. That would not look anything like the classic homes in either Kingwood Lakes or the Barrington.

Drainage Issues Compound Deed Restriction Issues

Deed restrictions also prevent diversion of drainage onto the property of others. According to the US Army Corps’ public notice, the developers planned to divert runoff into Lake Kingwood. That lake is owned and maintained by the Kingwood Lakes subdivision. Without the permission of the Association, that would also constitute a deed restriction violation.

The letter warns that if development commences, the association will seek “judicial enforcement of deed restrictions, architectural guidelines and protection of its property. Such action may include claims for injunctive relief as well as relevant damages.”

The letter closes by saying that the Association hopes no further action will be required.

Kingwood Lakes addressed the letter to the Army Corps. However, the homeowners’ association also copied officials at Harris County Flood Control and the City of Houston.

To see the full text of the letter, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/14/2019

534 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Search for Owners of High-Rise Properties Leads to Maze of More Than 30 Companies in Texas Alone

Romerica Investments LLC has filed permit applications with the Army Corps, City of Houston, and Harris County Flood Control. Romerica Investments hopes to build 5,000 mid-rise condos, a series of high-rise towers ranging from 25 to 50 stories, and a marina to hold 800 40-foot boats and 200 jet skis – all on property deed-restricted to “single-family residential” in a bald-eagle habitat protection zone. The property is near River Grove Park in the floodplain and floodway of the San Jacinto’s West Fork.

However, a title search revealed that Romerica Investments does not own the property on which it intends to build. A search for who does own the property led through a maze of more than 30 other entities in Texas. Two individuals run virtually all of them. The individuals sometimes use different names and different spellings of their names when registering their businesses with the Texas Secretary of State. They also list offices that are sometimes vacant; phone numbers that have been disconnected; and an address on a street that does not exist. In the case of the land in question, they even registered the company under the first name of one man and the last name of the other. Innocent mistakes or part of a pattern? You judge.

Maze Haze

I searched websites of the Harris County District Clerk and Appraisal District; the Texas Secretary of State; CorporationWiki; Dun & Bradstreet; and Google. The search revealed at least 32 companies in Texas associated with variations on Fabio M. Covarrubias’ name and 24 under variations of Gabriel M. Haddad’s name. A large degree of overlap exists between the companies controlled by the two men. See below.

Spider diagram courtesy of CorporationWiki showing the maze of relationships between companies and people in this post.

Covarrubias Companies

The name Fabio M. Covarrubias pulls up the following:

  • ARTICA INVESTMENTS LLC
  • B US TOTAL INVESTOR, LLC, aka American Vision Regional Center
  • B US DEVELOPER, LLC
  • Cova Capital Inc.
  • Fama Design Corporation
  • Lake Como Properties LLC
  • MSR INTERNATIONAL, LLC
  • MSR LOTUS AMERICA LLC
  • Pacifica Properties Inc.
  • Pacifica Properties LLC
  • ROMAN ARROW, LLC
  • ROMERICA C.L. 2 LLC
  • ROMERICA ENTERTAINMENT, LLC
  • Romerica Insurance LLC
  • Romerica Investments LLC
  • Romerica Real Estate LLC

The name Fabio M. Covarrubias Piffer (without a hyphen in the last names) is associated with:

  • Cova Assets Inc.
  • FAMA Ranch Company
  • MSR LAND LLC
  • MSR Serials LLC
  • MSR TRAMONTANA AMERICA LLC
  • North American Phosphates and Supplies Co.
  • Romerica Assets LLC
  • Romerica GP, LLC
  • Romerica Investments LLC
  • Romerica CW 3 LLC
  • Romerica E 6 LLC
  • Romerica R 1 LLC
  • Romerica RMR 4 LLC
  • Trio Sports Developments LLC

The name Fabio M. Covarrubias-Piffer (with a hyphen) is associated with:

  • FAMA PROPERTIES LIMITED PARTNERSHIP

Fabio Massimo Covarrubias-Piffer (full middle name with hyphen) is associated with:

  • Romerica Title, LLC

Haddad Companies

Gabriel Miguel Haddad’s name appears with:

  • B US TOTAL INVESTOR, LLC, aka American Vision Regional Center
  • DOSEVARE, LLC
  • Fama Design Corporation
  • MSR INTERNATIONAL, LLC
  • MSR LOTUS AMERICA LLC
  • Paban Corporate Services Inc.
  • ROMAN ARROW, LLC
  • Romerica Assets LLC
  • ROMERICA ENTERTAINMENT, LLC
  • Romerica Insurance, LLC
  • Romerica Investments, LLC
  • Romerica Real Estate, LLC

The name Gabriel M. Haddad Giorgi appears with nine more LLCs in Texas:

  • Emprende Management, LLC
  • MSR LAND, LLC
  • MSR TRAMONTANA AMERICA, LLC
  • Romerica C.L. 2, LLC
  • Romerica CW 3, LLC
  • Romerica E 6, LLC
  • Romerica GP, LLC
  • Romerica RMR 4, LLC
  • Romerica M 5, LLC
  • Romerica R 1, LLC
  • Romerica Team, LLC

Gabriel Miguel (middle name spelled out) Haddad Giorgi is listed as the manager of:

  • Romerica Title, LLC

And finally, in a class all its own, the name Fabio M. Haddad Giorgi appears on the Certificate of Formation of:

In case you’re doing a double take, that’s the first name of one man with the last name of another. They amended that filing last year so that their names now appear as Fabio M. Covarrubias Piffer and Gabriel M. Haddad Giorgi.

Filing for Permit to Develop

Whew! Got all that? Now get this. Romerica Investments, the company that filed the permit application with the Corps, lists Mr. Covarrubias as both manager and director under two different names. Also note that the address on “Nuntucket” for Mr. Haddad does not exist; there is no such street. (Many of their filings use this misspelling. A Nantucket street does exist in Houston.)

Romerica Investments’ management information. Note the different names, addresses and positions for Mr. Covarrubias. Also note the different positions for Mr. Haddad and the misspelling of his street name. Google Maps street view shows rather expensive homes at this address, so “Suite C” seems odd.

Gabriel Miguel Haddad even registered Romerica Investments under the name Miguel Gabriel Haddad, flipping his first and middle names.

Company with Disconnected Phone Number Now Developing Multi-Billion Dollar Project

Dun & Bradstreet shows Romerica Investments as out of business. The company’s web site home page has shown “Future Home of…” for the last six years. After I pointed out some of these problems in previous posts, Manlove Advertising created a website suggesting that the Romerica Group will now develop the Kingwood Marina Project. See below.

Kingwood Marina website suggests that Romerica Group, not Romerica Investments will develop property. It also states that developers believe in “dialog with stakeholders,” but they have refused to meet publicly.

Here’s where the plot thickens. The Romerica Group does not legally exist in Texas. The Texas Secretary of State lists no such company. Romerica Group’s phone has been disconnected. The Group’s website contains broken links to other supposedly related companies, such as Romerica Real Estate. The Texas Real Estate Commission lists Romerica Real Estate as inactive. And their American Vision site as been linked by International Appraiser to fake projects seeking investments from foreigners in exchange for visas.

So Many Questions, So Little Time; Developers Refuse to Meet

These observations raise many questions. Despite the developers’ claimed “commitment to dialog with stakeholders at every level,” they have refused to meet publicly to answer questions before the end of the Army Corps’ comment period. I have personally requested a meeting by phone, email, or certified mail seven times in the last seven weeks – all to no avail.

Developers commonly use different companies to acquire, sell, or subdivide land. That doesn’t bother me. The fact that registrations for so many of these companies contain inconsistencies, inaccuracies, misspellings, wrong addresses, aliases, broken links, dead ends and disconnected phone numbers does concern me.

None of the companies shows projects they have completed. Sometimes one company lists another as the owner, but the companies may be incorporated in different states or different countries. Plus they’re selling:

My advice: Buyers beware. I use the term “buyers” in a global sense to include officials granting permits. I’m not buying any of this.

As always, these posts contain my opinions on matters of public policy which are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.

Posted by Bob Rehak on February 14, 2019

534 Days since Hurricane Harvey