City Decides Not to Participate in Elm Grove Rescue; Says County Should Pay 100%

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin shocked a meeting of Kingwood residents at a town hall meeting on February 25, 2020. He he said the City would not participate in a much-rumored buyout of the Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village property that contributed to the flooding of Elm Grove Village twice last year. The rumors first went public in a Houston Chronicle story on January 27th this year. In that story the Chronicle characterized the plan as a bailout, not a buyout, but later retracted that in an editorial board statement.

The plan was to purchase all or part of the land and build a giant detention pond on it that would prevent Elm Grove from flooding again.

Silence After Executive Session in Commissioner’s Court Meeting

The Chronicle story appeared one day before a Harris County Commissioner’s Court meeting. Commissioners were to consider the purchase of the property at that meeting in executive session. But there was no public announcement after the meeting of what they decided. We later learned the reason why.

County Asked City to Pay for Half of Purchase

Harris County, according to Martin at the town hall meeting, decided to ask the City to put up half the money for the purchase of the land. Martin initially supported the purchase “at the right price,” according to the Chronicle story.

However, something happened between the Commissioner’s Court Meeting and the Town Hall Meeting to make Martin change his mind about participating in the deal. At the Town Hall meeting, Martin never mentioned the purchase price as an objection.

Martin Claims We Pay Taxes to County So County Should Pay 100%

Instead, Martin launched into a discussion of his tax bill. He said that out of his total tax bill he paid:

  • 56.4% to Humble ISD
  • 18.8% to the City of Houston (of course, that didn’t include fees, such as those for drainage)
  • 14.4% to Harris County.

That adds up to 89.6%, but Mr. Martin did not explain what happened to the missing 10.4%.

Who Is Doing What

He simply said that dramatized the need to get “… Harris County to do more work in Kingwood.” (Editor’s note: at a previous town hall meeting Martin explained that the county was already taking over all work on ditches and streams in Kingwood, but then he quickly added that if the County purchased the Woodridge property, it would let the CITY do more work on ditches and streams. Martin never addressed that apparent contradiction).

Why City Refuses to Participate

Martin then explained that Kingwood overwhelmingly supported the $2.5 billion Harris County Flood Bond in 2018. He also pointed out that the language in the flood bond lets Harris County purchase land in other upstream counties for the purpose of floodwater detention – exactly like the proposal for Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village property.

According to Martin, County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle wants the City of Houston to contribute half of the money.

“Quite frankly,” said Martin, “I’m not going to ask the Mayor to contribute half. Because they (Harris County) should contribute 100% of it because we gave them our tax dollars and they specified what these tax dollars are to be used for. So they need to come up with 100%.”

Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin

(Another editor’s note: neither the bond language, nor the associated project list that was published before the vote specifically mentions Elm Grove or the Perry Homes land. The bond language mentions upstream detention only in a generic sense, and the majority of projects identified before the election involved partnerships.)

Martin then talked about berating Harris County Judge Lina Hildago on the subject before urging residents to contact their county officials. He closed by demanding that the County should put up 100% of the money for Perry Homes’ land because “WE are that close to making this happen.” (Emphasis NOT added.) Martin also asserted that if the County took sole responsibility for the deal, it would somehow help flooding problems in other unrelated areas such as North Woodland Hills.

Listen to Audio Clip of Discussion at Town Hall

To listen to a four-minute audio recording of this segment of the meeting, click the key frame of Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin below.

Segment of 2/25/2020 Kingwood Town Hall Meeting in which Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin discusses the buyout of Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village land to construct a detention pond and why Harris County Should Pay for 100% of the deal.

Mr. Martin never explained why the taxing entity we pay the least to should assume exclusive responsibility for the entire project. Nor did he address why drainage fees paid to the City, could not be used for the project.

Meanwhile, the county has been silent on whether it will pick up 100% of the tab for the detention work. And Elm Grove residents still spend sleepless nights every time it rains.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/1/2020

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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.