Woodridge Village Update: More Dirt, Denials, Delays

Twenty-three days ago, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner read a letter to a packed town hall meeting at the Kingwood Community Center. The letter was from a lawyer named J. Carey Gray. Mr. Gray laid out a timetable for accelerating completion of the detention ponds on the troubled Perry Homes’ development, Woodridge Village, just north of Elm Grove. The first deliverable: completing the S2 pond in 30-45 days – even though it was already largely completed.

As of early this week, contractors have performed no new excavation work on the site since early August. See pictures below.

One Piece of Equipment Moves Closer to S2 Pond

This piece of Rebel Construction equipment moved from the site entrance to north of the S2 pond last Thursday. It looks as though its in danger of actually doing some work. Photo by Jeff Miller on 11/7/2019.

Dirt Continues to Flow From Construction Site

Construction has slowed to a virtual standstill for three months. Between that time and the time the photos below were taken, we had Imelda and a 2.12-inch rain on October 29.

On the 29th, yet more mud washed out of the development into the City’s storm drains, despite the City’s Cease and Desist Letter.

This and photos immediately below were taken on 10/29/2019 near Woodridge Village Construction entrance on Fair Grove Drive and Creek Manor Drive in Kingwood.
Dropping back a little farther, you can see the silty runoff from the construction site. Notice the contrast between that and the clear water coming from a resident’s lawn through the curb break.
Contrast appears a little clearer in this closeup.
You can see the contrast even better where the water enters this storm drain. Muddy water is coming from the construction site. Clear water from the neighborhood to the south.
These sand waves covered Fair Grove Drive just outside the construction site entrance...despite silt fencing.
Here’s a picture of water going into the S2 Detention pond at the north end of Village Springs Drive.
And here it is coming out of S2 into Taylor Gully. S2 is behind the trees on the left. This shot is looking north.

Of course, flooding, not sediment is the real issue in Elm Grove. However, sediment can block storm drains and contribute to flooding. That’s why the City has an ordinance prohibiting discharges of sediment into the City’s sewer system. It’s one area where the City has real leverage with the Perry gang. That’s why so much emphasis has been placed on sediment in this controversy.

City Inspectors Visit Site

Thursday and again Friday, City inspectors checked the construction site for discharges. We dodged a huge bullet Thursday. Parts of Houston received five inches of rain. But the Lake Houston Area received less than one inch.

Photo taken 11/7/2019 by Jeff Miller of a City Inspector photographing Woodridge S2 detention pond.
Photo taken 11/7/2019 by Jeff Miller shows same City Inspector walking along Taylor Gully just south of Woodridge.

Denials, Finger Pointing, Objections on Legal Front

Webster and Spurlock, lawyers for hundreds of Elm Grove flood victims, have brought another defendant into the suit. It is Texasite LLC of Montgomery, Texas. Legal filings do not describe exactly what the new defendant did on site. The company has no web site that I can find. Even the Texas Secretary of State can’t shed much light on the matter; the company’s Certificate of Formation simply says it is organized to “conduct lawful business.”

That said, whatever they allegedly did, they aren’t accepting responsibility for it. Texasite:

  • Denies they harmed anyone
  • Asserts that plaintiffs caused their own injuries through negligence
  • Asserts that third parties caused the damage. Those third parties include God.

In other legal news, Webster and Spurlock filed a notice of intent to take a deposition by written questions from LJA Engineering. The list of information they seek is two pages long.

PSWA and Figure Four Partners, two Perry Homes subsidiaries being sued, objected to items #2 and #3 on the list. They included “letters, emails, and other correspondence/communications between LJA Engineering & Surveying” and the defendants “with regard to the Woodridge Village Development.” The defendants argued in their objection that the request was overly broad because it didn’t limit the time period or subject matter. So sayeth Counselor J. Carey Gray, who wrote the overly vague letter to the City of Houston re: completion of the detention ponds. According to documents on file with the Harris County District Clerk, the judge has not yet ruled on Perry’s objection to production of the evidence.

Delays Also Continue on Construction of More Detention

I flew over the Woodridge Village construction site on Monday, 11/4 and saw no evidence of construction activity, despite the assurances made by Counselor Gray. The images below show the lack of activity from several different angles.

Looking N at the extreme western tail of the construction site that borders Woodland Hills Drive (left). This and all photos below taken on 11/4/2019.
Looking NE across the north and south sections of the site. Detention pond S1 runs along the diagonal tree line from the lower left. Detention Pond N2 is in the upper right. These two ponds comprise 23% of the total detention capacity by volume.
Detention pond N3 is supposed to go along the trees in the background to the left of the S2 pond. It has not been started yet. Notice the one piece of yellow equipment at work clearcutting more land on the middle left.
Close up of where the N3 pond will eventually go. It will start in the bottom left and curl around the upper right.
Looking west. No construction activity on the northeast corner of the site in the foreground.
From this angle, looking SW, it’s easy to see all the standing water on the site. We received two inches of rain SIX days before. So much for LJA’s assumption that this site contained sandy loam. The ponding water after such a long period suggests a high clay content. That in turn explains the rapid and huge runoff rates that flooded Elm Grove.
More ponding water indicating high clay content.
Looking west at the NW corner of the site. This is where the non-existent N1 pond should be.
Looking North. The largest detention pond on the site, N2, will go in that triangular green area (center). Contractors were supposed to deepen and enlarge it. The partial detention capacity you see here now was developed by Montgomery County in 2006 as mitigation for another site. So the detention capacity you see in this image, by itself, would not reduce Elm Grove flooding potential. Saying it did would be like trying to sell a ticket that someone else already bought.

I’m Shocked, Shocked I Tell You

So what are we to make of the continued lack of construction activity? To paraphrase the exchange between Strasser and Renault in the movie Casablanca, I am shocked – SHOCKED – Perry would promise the Mayor of Houston that it would accelerate construction of new detention ponds and then not do it.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/9/2019, with photos an updates from Jeff Miller.

802 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 50 Days since Imelda

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.