Romerica Investments proposed high-rise marina property has a long history of flooding. In fact, the flooding which has gotten progressively worse through the years, has stymied one developer after another.
The property flooded 52 times since Lake Houston was built in 1955. That means it floods almost every year. And in the last year (February ’18 to January ’19). it flooded SIX times.
Timeline Shows Link Between Flooding, Sales, Lawsuit
As you review this chronology, clicking on the links will take you to the actual deeds. Here’s a timeline that shows how sales of the property relate to water and flooding. As you review it, remember all deed restrictions run with the land. That means they carry forward from one buyer to the next…unless the original entity imposing the restrictions consents to removing them.
Notice how subsequent transfers summarize restrictions in the earlier transfers: “This conveyance…is made and accepted subject to any and all … restrictions … relating to the property, but only to the extent that they are … shown of record in the herein above mentioned County…”
We could find no documents in county records removing the single-family residential restriction that Friendswood Development Company placed on the property. The developer has provided none to date.
Title and Flood History
- 1950 – Foster Lumber Company sells 3200 acres to City of Houston for the purpose of creating Lake Houston.
- 1955 – Lake Houston created.
- 1973 – City of Houston sells two tracts of land not inundated by Lake Houston to Friendswood Development Company and King Ranch. City puts several deed restrictions on property. The significant ones: 1) No use that could alter the reservoir capacity of Lake Houston through fill or erosion. 2) Any fill must be compensated with excavation immediately adjacent to the fill. 3) City reserved the right to enforce pollution controls on activities up to the 51 foot contour elevation line. This is significant because it would include marina operations. The Lake and river normally pool at 42.5 feet back to the US59 bridge.
- 1994 – In October, historic flooding hits area. Crest at US59 = 67.30 feet.
- 1994 – On December 30, Friendswood and King Ranch sell property to Holley-Strother Kingwood Lakes Estates, LTD. Deed restrictions limit property use to “single family residential homes with accompanying greenbelt, park, pool, recreational facilities and for no other purpose or purposes” for a period of 40 years. Also, drainage cannot be altered in a way that affects surrounding property. Finally, before the developers could begin construction, they had to get a declaration of use restrictions affecting all the property approved in writing by the grantor. This would force homebuyers to abide by the deed restrictions, too.
- 1998 – West Fork crests at 60.1 feet at US59 on 11/15.
- 2001 – 2007 – River crests above 50 feet inundating Holley-Strother property seven times in seven years.
- 2006 – Holley Strother Kingwood Lakes Estates, LTD sells land to Holley-Strother, LTD, a Texas Limited Partnership.
- 2007 – June 18, FEMA approves new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMS). This put a large part of the Holley Strother property in the floodway for the first time. City of Houston also adopted a new ordinance that prohibited the City Engineer from permitting any buildings in a floodway.
- 2007 – On July 3, two weeks later, Holly and Strother, now operating as HS Tejas Partners – get restrictive covenants approved by Friendswood so they can move forward with the development of a new subdivision called The Kingwood Polo Club. This document affirms previous restrictions, i.e., single family residential homes only. It also establishes cause for upcoming lawsuit with City when permit is denied.
- 2008 – West Fork floods and crests at 62.8 feet at US59 on September 18. Holley and Strother excavate a lake on the southern portion of their land to help build up the level of the Barrington, which is still under construction. On September 30, Holley and Strother sue the City. They claim that the City Ordinance against building in the floodway constitutes “illegal taking” of their land under the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
- 2009 – 2012 – Floods above 50 feet inundate the property three more times.
- 2012 – October 17, HS Tejas sells the property to FAMA Properties Limited Partnership of Alberta, Canada. FAMA agrees to previous deed restrictions.
- 2015 – 2016 – Property floods SIX more times between March, 2015 and May, 2016. Highest crest at US59 is 61.95 feet on 5/29/16.
- 2016 – HS Tejas settles its lawsuit against the City of Houston on 6/28/2016 for $45,000.
- 2017 – On August 29, Hurricane Harvey sets new record for highest crest on the West Fork – 69.18 feet.
- 2017 – On September 15, FAMA Properties Limited Partnership of Alberta sells the property to Romerica Landco, LP, a Delaware Limited Liability Company. Fabio Covarrubias Piffer, a partner in both companies signs the transaction.
- 2017 – On October 9, Romerica Landco LP sells the part of the property INSIDE the current floodway to Romerica M5, a Texas Limited Liability Company. Fabio M. Covarrubias Piffer and Gabriel Miguel Haddad Giorgi, both sign as managers of Romerica GP, LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company, which is the General Partner of Romerica Landco.
- 2017 – Also on October 9, the same Romerica Landco LP of Delaware sells the 23.6337 acres OUTSIDE of the floodway to Romerica RMR4 LLC, a Texas Limited Liability Company. The same two men sign as managers of Romerica GP, the general partner of Romerica Landco, both of Delaware.
- 2018 – Property floods three more times this year. USGS issues its Peak Stream Flow report that reclassifies Harvey at Highway 99 as a 42-year storm. (US59 and Country Club gages were knocked out by storm so no similar calculation was available for Kingwood area.) NOAA issues new rainfall maps showing the old 100-year storm is now almost a 25-year storm. Also, in September, Matt Zeve of Harris County Flood Control addressed an audience at the Kingwood Community Center and discussed how Flood Insurance Rate Maps would soon be updated again.
- CivilTech, a contractor for Romerica, obtains a permit to begin excavation and expansion of the lakes that will form the marina in front of the high rises. Flood Control approved the permits after CivilTech stated that the excavated material would be REMOVED from the site. Then plans changed. On December 27, the Army Corps issued a Public Notice that Romerica Investments had applied for permit to develop 25-50 story high rises on the smaller property touching the floodway as defined in 2007 (see map above). The Public Notice also discloses that it will USE material excavated from lakes to RAISE the level of their properties. Concerned residents note that since the excavations will immediately fill with water, the fill material will reduce the storage capacity of the floodplain.
And so history repeats itself. The current rush to beat redrawing of the flood maps reminds one of the events in 2007 and 2008.
I have numerous questions about this project. About the safety of building high rises in an old meander of the San Jacinto. About the wisdom of approving a permit to build such immense structures on the edge of the floodway – when we know the flood maps will soon be revised again. About expanding a marina toward the river when the river is migrating toward the marina at the rate of 20 feet per year.
Who are These People?
Meanwhile, I’m also struggling with questions about the developers. I’m struggling to understand the maze of companies, partnerships, addresses, and registrations in other states and countries. These two men have 19 entities here in Texas alone.
This raises so many questions that I hope the Corps extends the public comment period yet again until we can learn who these men are and where their money comes from. The community needs to understand who we are dealing with. But they have not yet consented to a public meeting despite numerous requests.
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
531 Days since Hurricane Harvey