MoCo Commissioners Leave Loophole Open that Lets Developers Avoid Detention Pond Requirements

Three weeks ago, I posted about a loophole in Montgomery County regulations that lets developers substitute a flood routing study for detention pond requirements. Basically, if developers can show, using outdated and inaccurate information that runoff from their properties can “beat the peak” of a flood, they can avoid detention pond requirements. Fourteen developments currently underway in Montgomery County have used this loophole, according to Montgomery County Engineer Jeff Johnson.

Northpark Woods development in flood plain in Montgomery County

Yesterday, commissioners voted to leave the loophole open…at least until they receive the results of two studies…which have little to do with the loophole.

Here’s a link to a video of the discussion. Click on item 21.

Community Impact Flips Meaning of Testimony

For those short on time, Community Impact summarized the meeting. However, please note, the author of the story misquoted Kingwood resident Jeff Miller. The misquote made it appear as though he spoke AGAINST closing the loophole when he spoke FOR.

Specifically, the article quotes him as saying, “I’ve come to the conclusion lack of retention REDUCES flooding.” He actually said, if you refer to the video, that, “…lack of retention CONTRIBUTES to flooding.” See 5:40 into the video. That one misquote changes the impression you would get of the meeting if you watched the entire video.

She also quotes an engineer as speaking against the loophole when he was actually noncommittal.

Commissioner Claims No Flooding Problem in MoCo

If you watch the entire video, you will see that one commissioner claims Montgomery County doesn’t have a flooding problem.

Toward the end of the 35-minute discussion, the talk turned to where the idea to close the loophole came from. Someone mentions Harris County. At that point, the discussion turned openly hostile.

The Judge and several commissioners felt that Harris County and the City of Houston could have solved their own problems had they added more gates to the Lake Houston Dam and started dredging after the 1994 flood.

One even blamed the lack of action downstream backed water up into Montgomery County.

New Studies Likely Won’t Affect Loophole

Both the County Engineer and the Montgomery County Flood Plain Administrator, Diane Cooper, pointed out that waiting on the results of the two studies would not likely alter the recommendation to close the loophole. For one thing, storm patterns, not just drainage characteristics, affect when peak flows hit an area. Drainage studies do not predict storms.

Commissioners Vote to Wait on Studies

In the end, the commissioners decided to wait for the results of the studies and leave the loophole open. The prevailing sentiment: that closing it now could affect investments in new developments.

Sometimes postponing a decision is a way of affirming the status quo. This was one of those times. I wouldn’t expect any action on closing this loophole for a long time. Maybe until spit freezes in August.

At a minimum, the San Jacinto River Basin Study will take another year. By then, this item will be long forgotten and MoCo developers will be counting their change.

Posted by Bob Rehak on August 28, 2019

729 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the great State of Texas.