High-Rise Meeting Doesn’t Change Many Minds and Raises Big Concern

A standing-room-only crowd of 800-plus people packed the Kingwood Community Center last night for a high-rise meeting. They were there to hear for the first time from Romerica and the people who hope to build high rises in an area deed restricted to single-family residential.

Gabriel M. Haddad, one of Romerica’s partners, seemed decent and sincere. He answered questions directly with a few exceptions, and remained cool in the face of hostile questioning. His main point: he wanted to solve the flooding and sedimentation problems on the river and in Lake Houston to make his project viable.

Haddad even admitted that the property where he wanted to build most of the high rises was deed restricted to single-family residential. He said that his plan was to get a permit and THEN get Friendswood to change the deed restrictions.

No Details, No Plan

However, neither Haddad nor the other speakers provided specific details about the project. Several people commented that the speakers from SWCA and Civil Tech seemed unprofessional, unprepared, not responsive to questions.

Several posters scattered around the room made grandiose claims without any support. For instance, they claim:

  • The high-rise project would generate $135 million of property tax revenue for the City.
  • Up to 70% of the property is planned to be preserved.
  • They will preserve wetlands (while filling them in).

Few Chances for Followup Questions

Upon questioning, Haddad confessed that it might take 30 years to reach property tax revenues of $135 million. That would translate to almost $5 billion in appraised value. That’s more than all the appraised value of all commercial properties in the entire Humble ISD including Deerbrook Mall! But then the meeting format didn’t allow for follow up questions.

Weasel Words

Regarding the “up to” in front of 70%: that includes a lot of territory starting with 1%.

That’s a pretty neat trick with the wetlands. Oops, they forgot to mention the wetlands will be preserved somewhere else.

Omissions, Insufficient Explanations, and Public Meetings for Dummies

I was very concerned about evacuation plans, so I asked. Guess what. There is none. “We’ll have people shelter in place.”

No evacuation plan? I guess someone forgot to consider heart attacks, sewers that back up in floods, and power outages that would leave people sweltering in their vertical footprints for days in August. No evacuation plan needed for high-rises in what soon will become the floodway of the San Jacinto! Seriously?

They also hoped to address traffic problems with a bridge and a Hamblen-Road extension that voters already rejected, thus showing a total lack of understanding of local history and values.

A Civil Tech employee couldn’t tell me where more than 150,000 cubic yards of fill was coming from or going to.

Mr. Haddad felt that his condos were no longer in the Kingwood Lakes Homeowner Association. (They are.)

Mr. Haddad claimed that they were no longer soliciting investments through EB-5 visas because the project had “outgrown” them. (However, they still operate an EB-5 regional center and website.)

Financing for a supposed $5 billion project was never addressed.

They invitation said they would talk about phasing and they didn’t.

Sizzle No Substitute for Substance

The posters seemed to revolve around buzzwords, such as conservation, preservation, sustainability, mobility, and resiliency. However, they used the same support points over and over again for each…without ever explaining how they supported the buzzwords.

For instance, they supported sustainability with “natural water systems, promoting alternative modes of transportation, vertical development and preserving forests.”

To mix it up a little bit, they promote resiliency with “natural water systems, preserving forests, a compact development footprint, and alternative modes of transportation.”

You get the idea. You’ve heard it all before. And that, I think, pretty much sums up the takeaway for most of the people that I talked to. “No substance. No specifics. No plan. No answers. No way.”

Not Buying It

During the Q&A at the end of the meeting, one of the questioners asked people in the audience who were still against the development to stand up. Almost everyone stood.

People standing to show their opposition. Photo and video courtersy of Jim Zura, Zura Productions.

Now that was one message that was clear and unambiguous.

Reinforcing Worst-Nightmare Scenario

At one point, Mr. Haddad said, “We’ll start slowly, and if we see it’s uneconomic, we’ll do something else.” This confirmed the worst fears of many in the audience who saw the developers disturbing the environment and then abandoning the job half finished.

They never did address the vast majority of the questions I posted on Friday. Had they done so, they might have changed some minds. But by ignoring them, many people felt the developers had something to hide or that Kingwood people were easily bluffed.

Little wonder that Manlove chose not to have a public meeting while the Army Corps’ public comment period was still open.

As always, the thoughts herein represent my opinions on matters of public interest. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP laws of the great State of Texas.

Posted by Bob Rehak on March 19, 2019

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