Figure Four Partners Denies All Responsibility for Elm Grove Flooding; Blames God

Figure Four Partners, LTD, a subsidiary of Perry Homes and PSWA, Inc., its sole general partner, issued a statement today regarding the flooding in Elm Grove Village. Elm Grove is a part of Kingwood that borders Figure Four’s development, Woodridge Village, in Montgomery County.

In the statement, Figure Four denied any responsibility for the flooding and blamed it on an act of God. Further, they invoked the shield of government approval, saying their plans were approved by the City of Houston and Montgomery County.

Their unsigned statement, which I have reproduced verbatim below, says:


“While our hearts go out to the homeowners that recently flooded in the Elm Grove Subdivision, the flooding there this week had absolutely nothing to do with the Figure Four and Perry Homes project nearby.” 

“As virtually every media outlet in the region has reported this week, and Harris County Flood Control meteorologist Jeff Lindner confirmed, Tuesday’s rainfalls at times matched the intensity of Hurricane Harvey. The Houston Chronicle reported that “The rainfall was particularly severe in suburban areas such as Kingwood …” 

“Though our project is still in the land clearing stage, many of the detention ponds are complete – providing improved drainage to the area that did not previously exist. Additionally, the drainage study and construction plans for the Figure Four project were completed by LJA Engineering, an experienced and highly respected firm and approved by the County. All City and County permits were obtained and all applicable building codes have been followed. 

“Several questions have been asked about a concrete structure on the project. This structure is the outfall control device and part of the permitted and approved drainage plan. The outfall control device functioned as designed on Tuesday night. Similar to the detention ponds, the outflow control structure improved drainage in the area.” 

– End of Statement –

Concrete structure referred to in statement above.

Flaws in Argument

At the risk of clarifying the obvious, I would point out that:

  • Elm Grove didn’t flood during Harvey.
  • The improved drainage did not work as well as the previous natural drainage, which the developer filled in.
  • The “highly respected” LJA Engineering, Inc. was sued by almost 500 homeowners in the Woodlands for flooding there (see below).
  • The “many” completed detention ponds, none of which I could see in drone footage, were not up to the task.
  • If the outflow control structure “improved drainage,” why did 400 homes flood that didn’t flood before?

Summary of Woodlands Case and Court Documents

In the lawsuit against LJA Engineering, Inc., plaintiffs alleged that the engineers failed to prepare for, or consciously ignored, a foreseeable weather event, which resulted in the flooding of homes and caused catastrophic losses.

While never really addressing the merits of the allegations, the defendant denied the allegations and responded with 25 reasons why they should not be held accountable. For instance, the defendant responded that the flooding was an act of God. They also claimed the defendants assumed risk when they bought their homes; that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by unspecified third parties; and that the plaintiffs’ own acts or omissions caused or contributed to their alleged injuries.

Here’s a federal court’s summary of the case, before it was remanded to Harris County District Court.

LJA and co-defendants Woodlands Land Development, L.P. and The Howard Hughes Corporation, pled for abatement of the case, claiming that the plaintiffs failed to provide them with sixty-day advance written notice of the claims. The judge then abated the case on 4/22/19.

Difference Between Woodlands and Elm Grove Cases

The Woodlands and Elm Grove situations are similar in that they both involved extreme weather events and flood damage. However, there are also some major differences. In the Woodlands case, plaintiffs occupied the land developed by the defendants. In Elm Grove, neighboring land owners were damaged during development of adjoining property.

Also, in the Woodlands case, plaintiffs alleged that the property had flooded in 1994, that defendants knew it, and that they failed to raise the property high enough to prevent flooding during Harvey. However, Elm Grove did not flood either in 1994 or during Harvey. It flooded only after clear cutting and the beginning of earthwork on the Figure Four Partner’s property.

It will be interesting to see whether any lawsuits emerge from those damaged in Elm Grove.

In the Figure Four Statement, you can see how the company is already setting up themes for their legal defense if necessary. LJA Engineering invoked the same themes during its defense of the Woodlands allegations.

In Other Developments Saturday…

Yesterday was filled with new developments and discoveries:

  • Elm Grove held a public meeting with a law firm to inform flooded residents of their legal rights.
  • Many residents of Porter came to the meeting to complain of drainage issues on the northern and western sides of the project.
  • It became clear that another 175-acre parcel of land was a part of the project. That parcel has also been clear cut, but no drainage “improvements” were visible.
  • No other precautions were visible to prevent runoff of silt such as berms, sand bags, or silt fences.
  • Water was ponding on neighbors’ property.
  • No stormwater pollution prevention permits were posted at any of the entrances to the job site that I could see. That in itself may be a violation of state regulations.
  • Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo still had not visited Kingwood or declared a disaster. Such a declaration would make residents available for assistance from government agencies.

Additional Parcel Triples Clear-Cut Acreage

Saturday, Porter residents called to my attention the fact that Figure Four Partners was also developing an even larger tract of land not visible from Kingwood.

Location of Woodridge Village, Section 3. MCAD lists it as 161.74 acres, but plat shows it as 175.

This link shows a plat of the northern 175 acres, which Figure Four Partners called “Woodridge Village Section 3.” For those who are interested in contacting the developer or engineering company, the plat shows their addresses and phone numbers.

Here’s what the area looks like. It’s roughly twice the size of the area to the south that directly borders Kingwood.

Elm Grove is on the right out of frame. Note the slope toward Elm Grove.
Another angle on the northern tract shows clear-cutting in progress and the slope toward Elm Grove.
Looking south, directly toward Elm Grove and the area that flooded so badly. Elm Grove and another giant clear-cut tract belonging to Figure Four Partners are beyond the tree line.
Flooded Porter residence that backs up to Figure Four development. Residents in both Sherwood Trails and Porter who border the development complain of the build up of stagnant, stinking water because of altered drainage.

Meanwhile, Clean-Up Continues in Elm Grove

Debris washed into Elm Grove from developer’s property shows how high water flowed in down Village Springs Drive.
Home after home along Village Springs Drive had debris piled head high as residents mucked out their homes.
Oh, that low, down-in-the-dumpster feeling...
Since the flood on Tuesday, Houston City Council Member Dave Martin has been inspecting the clear cut area adjacent to Elm Grove, coordinating City clean-up efforts, and meeting with affected residents.
Houston Mayoral Candidate Bill King (l) consults with flooded resident Abel Vera (r) about events that unfolded during the flood. Piles of dirt in the background are roughly sitting on top of the original stream on the property that was filled in by the developer. Vera’s home is directly behind him. This is one of at least a half dozen trips King has made to Kingwood in the last year to understand flooding issues in the area.
Flooded Elm Grove and Porter residents attending a meeting at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church to learn about their legal options. Shot shows approximately half of the crowd.

Posted by Bob Rehak on May 12, 2019

621 Days After Hurricane Harvey

Thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy. They are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the great state of Texas.