High-Rise Property May Be Deed Restricted to Single-Family Residential

A search for deed restrictions on property proposed for high-rise development turned up some huge surprises today. I had previously posted about height restrictions within Friendswood Commercial Development Guidelines. It turns out that the Friendswood Commercial Development Guidelines do not apply in this case – because the property was restricted to single-family residential. Specifically, I’m talking about the section of land circled below. It’s just south of the Barrington subdivision in Kingwood.

This post deals only with the section in red where most of the high rises will go, but deed restrictions also exist on other related parcels of land in the proposed development.

Relevant Property History Starts in 1994

Some concerned residents and I conducted a title search with the help of the County Clerk’s website and a friendly title company. The land in the circle has changed hands twice since 1994. Friendswood Development company sold it to Holley-Strother Kingwood Lake Estates, Ltd. on December 30, 1994. Holley and Strother sold it to the current owners in 2012. The land has actually been sold more than twice, but only among companies controlled by the same individuals. It’s also been the subject of an eight year law suit related to flood plain issues. More on those items in subsequent posts.

Key Elements of Deed Restrictions

Deed restrictions in the first sale specify four key elements:

  • Single-family residential
  • Compatible architecture in harmony with structures on adjoining land.
  • No alteration of drainage for surrounding areas
  • Applies to all subsequent buyers for a period of at least 40 years (until 2036)

Here’s actual language for the first two:

Screen capture of paragraph 5 from the deed.

What Developer Wants to Build

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers Public Notice, Romerica Investments, LLC has applied for a permit to construct commercial, condominium and hotel towers up to 500 feet high on a 25 acre parcel. Here’s a scale drawing that shows what this would like compared to the Barrington if permitted. You can see examples of what they plan in this video posted on an architect’s website.

That hardly looks like single-family residential housing. I talked to experts in city planning, real estate and sales. They all agreed that “single family residential” usually means “one family in one structure on one lot.”  

Drainage Deed Restrictions, Too.

Hindering or obstructing existing drainage channels or ditches, which serve adjoining property owners – without the written consent of the owners – is also prohibited. (See Paragraph 8.)

The Corps’ public notice also states that the developer plans to put “285 cubic yards of fill into 771 linear feet of streams adjacent to the West Fork of the San Jacinto.” That would seem to be another deed restriction violation.

I’m not sure about you, but I moved to Kingwood, a master-planned community, because deed restrictions ensured these kinds of things did not happen.

To my knowledge, the developers have not even attempted to gain permission to disrupt drainage from other villages, such as Kingwood Lakes, Deer Cove, Trailwood and Barrington.

Deed Restrictions Binding on Successors

Another key clause in the deed restrictions reads:

Deed restrictions normally “run” with the land. Said another way, when the first buyer sells the land to a second buyer, the second buyer must abide by the same restrictions that the first buyer had, and so forth in perpetuity. Subsequent buyers may add restrictions, but not remove them without the consent of the ORIGINAL grantor. The original grantor in this case was Friendswood Development Company.

Click here to download the complete deed restrictions.

No Documents Found Removing Restrictions

We could find no recorded documents on the County Clerk’s web site or in a title search that removed deed restrictions on this property. A former Friendswood executive told me, “If there is not a recorded document removing the restrictions, then they have not been removed.” So…

The Burden of Proof is on the Developers

I am requesting the developers to show the legally recorded document that removes the deed restrictions. However, so far they have not responded to my certified mail or phone calls requesting a public meeting.

The Corps informed me yesterday that the developer has designated Leah Manlove Howard of Manlove Advertising and PR as their new point of contact. Her contact information is:

Romerica Investments, LLC
One Performance Drive
Angleton, TX 77515
Telephone: 281-487-6767
POC: Ms. Leah Manlove Howard

This raises so many questions that I hope the Corps extends the public comment period yet again. The community needs to understand who we are dealing with.

As always, these are my opinions on matters of public interest. They 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 6, 2019

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