For the past six weeks, I’ve struggled to understand what the Army Corps considers when reviewing a new permit application. I have also struggled to organize everything I learned about the high-rise project, and the applicant. My protest letter re: Public Notice SWG-2016-00384 will be emailed today. It’s too long to include within the body of this post, so I’m going to include a summary here and a link to a PDF of the entire letter.
My main concerns are:
- This development appears to violate legally binding deed restrictions. We can find no documents registered with the county clerk that legally change allowable land use from “single family residential” to commercial, retail and hotel high rises.
- An article in International Appraiser lists these developers among EB-5 regional centers touting fake projects.
- Although the developers claim to have development experience, they have shown none.
- Dunn & Bradstreet lists Romerica Investments, LLC (the applicant) as having no sales, no assets, no working phone, and being out of business. Romerica Investments also does not own the property for which it seeks the permit.
- The developers many websites touting this project appear to violate rules from the SEC, FTC, FINRA, National Association of Realtors, and Texas Real Estate Commission governing real-estate investment advertising. See letter section 15 (e) XX on page 15.
- The developers are foreigners who operate through a maze of companies that makes it hard to understand whom the community is dealing with.
- The developers are being sued by investors for fraud.
- They have provided no market research to demonstrate a need for this kind of development in the Kingwood area. The little market research we found raises serious concerns about their experience, due diligence, the feasibility of this project, and whether it would be economically viable.
- The developers propose to build high-rises in an area that will soon be reclassified as floodway. Moreover, the river is migrating toward this property at a rate that could soon destroy it. This raises significant concerns about public safety, flood risk, evacuation, and the stability of buildings.
- If approved, this development will destroy bald eagle habitat, impair water quality, increase erosion, and worsen flooding.
- Developers have not responded to multiple requests to meet to clear up questions.
Needs and Welfare of the People
Many environmental, wildlife, flooding, and conservation concerns have been expressed in previous letters by the Sierra Club, Galveston Bay Foundation, KSA and others. I recap most of those and add a few. But I also have spent much time researching a category called “Needs and Welfare of the People.”
One huge thing I believe we need: Confidence in the legitimacy of the developers.
Their refusal so far to appear at a public meeting to answer questions about their development raised red flags. I found many others. Four pages worth. See pages 16-19 in the letter. A small sampling:
- Dunn and Bradstreet reports that Romerica Investments, LLC, the applicant is inactive and out of business. They have no working phone and appear to have no sales, assets, or profits.
- The Romerica Group is not registered in Texas even though they say their headquarters is in Houston and that they have been doing business here since 2007.
- The initial contact number listed by the Army Corps for Romerica was a “wrong number.” Contact numbers for several of the developers other companies are not in service.
- The Texas Real Estate commission lists Romerica’s real-estate company as inactive.
- Romerica Investments does not own the land in question.
- International Appraiser highlighted them within an article about “fake EB-5 projects.”
- Investors are suing them for fraud in District Court. (See MARIA DEL CARMEN BORBOLLA AND MARIA DEL CARMEN GOMEZ, CAUSE NO. 2018 – 07276, 157th Judicial Court, Harris County, Tx.)
- The RomericaInvestments.com website was registered in 2013 and still shows a “Future Home of…” home page.
The people of Kingwood don’t need another Gucci outlet as much as they need freedom from flooding. I therefore called for a moratorium on all flood plain permitting until flood mitigation measures can be put in place and safety restored.
Any one of these factors by itself might be sufficient to deny the permit request. Taken together, they leave no doubt; the negatives far outweigh any positives. According to Army Corps guidelines, the permit must therefore be denied. Too many questions remain unanswered about the developers and the development to approve this permit.
Sending Copies to Other Agencies
In addition to the Army Corps, I am copying:
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- Congressman Dan Crenshaw
- Senator John Cornyn
- Senator Ted Cruz
- Houston City Council Member Dave Martin
- Harris County Flood Control
Only 3 Weeks Left to Register Your Objections
Deadline: March 1. If you haven’t yet sent your letter, please do so right away. Only 400 letters have been received so far by the Corps. Time is running out. You can download the full text of my letter. You can review and download other sample letters here. Feel free to copy any portions of the letters that reflect your concerns.
Or send them in their entirety and say, “I agree!” Here’s a customizable word.doc that you can download and send. Remember to insert your name and contact information on the first page and your name again on the last page. You can then send it by clicking on the links in the letter.
I am sending my letter only in a digital format because of all the hyperlinks embedded in it.
Emailed Letters Preferred
The recipients have expressed a desire for electronic versions over paper copies anyway. Electronic makes it easier for them to forward and file the documents; no scanning necessary.
As always, the thoughts in the letter and this post represent my opinions on matters of public interest. They are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.
Posted on February 9, 2019 by Bob Rehak
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