Why You Never Want to Buy a Home Built Over Wetlands

The pictures below show why you should never, ever buy a home built over wetlands.

Standing water after one month with only an inch of rain. Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village in Montgomery County, Texas.

Standing Water One Inch of Rain A Month Before

I took these shots while circling Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village construction site in Montgomery County, Texas, on 12/3/2019. At that point, the nearest USGS rain gage (at US59 and the San Jacinto West Fork) indicated we had only had one inch of rain in the previous month. The most recent rain at the time was a quarter inch three weeks prior!

That’s far below the normal 4.3 inches of rainfall for November in Houston. So it was less than one quarter of the normal rainfall. Still, the land held standing water in numerous places, despite having been cleared and graded for months.

Soupy soil on the northeast portion of Perry Homes Woodridge Village.

Standing water should have soaked in long before I took these shots. But when you build a development on wetlands, that’s not always true.

This article by the National Wildlife Federation details the problems of building homes over wetlands: shifting slabs, damp basements, cracked driveways, mold, erosion, clogged storm drains, downstream flooding and more.

These pictures vividly illustrate how unstable wetlands soil can be.

Looking west over the northern portion of Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village
Southwestern portion of Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village fronting Woodland Hills Drive.

They remind me of the famous saying the Bible.

Matthew 7:24-27: Build Your House on the Rock

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Area classified as wetlands in the USGS National Wetlands Inventory within Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village.
Perry Homes’ contractors mired in more muck on the northern portion of Woodridge Village where wetlands once stood.

Five Previous Developers Passed on This Property

When Perry Homes bought this property, five other developers had previously bought and sold it without developing anything. Perhaps they realized the dangers once they investigated it more thoroughly. Regardless, one of Perry Homes’ subsidiaries bought the land and the company wound up in a literal quagmire.

That sinking feeling you get when you try to build over wetlands

Environmental Survey Not on File with Montgomery County

Perry Homes claims to have done an environmental survey. But if they did, they did not file it with Montgomery County. A FOIA request with the county turned up no such document. A survey, performed by a private consultant, cleared the way for developing this property.

Normally, the Army Corps would investigate wetlands and determine whether they fell under their jurisdiction. If so, developing them would have required permitting and possible mitigation.

That process would have taken much longer and Perry Homes was trying to beat the clock. They were trying to start development before new, stricter Atlas-14 regulations took effect that would have required 40% more detention.

The Corps is currently investigating this case but has not yet issued a decision as to whether Perry Homes’ consultant erred.

Regardless of what the Army Corps decides, these pictures should be a sobering reminder of the dangers of building over wetlands.

Beware of Dry-Season Sales

Wetlands do not necessarily remain wet year around. Unscrupulous developers often sell homes in the dry season without revealing the presence of former wetlands. But water naturally drains to these low-lying areas. Buying a home in one could turn into a perpetual headache.

If you are concerned about investing your life savings in such an area, both the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service keep national databases of wetlands.

USGS National Wetlands Inventory showing Perry Homes Woodridge Village

Be a wise man or woman. Consult these databases before you buy a home to determine whether your property was once wetlands.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/15/2019

838 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 87 since Imelda

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