“The Developers Are Coming! The Developers Are Coming!”
Actually, the developers are already here and licking their chops over the extension of the Grand Parkway (SH 99).
My riff on Paul Revere’s famous line is not meant so much as a statement of impending doom as about the need for caution.
Certainly, there are many honorable developers who try to build high-quality communities for people without adversely affecting downstream residents. I don’t wish to malign a whole profession. Nor do I want to fail to acknowledge the many wonderful communities they have built in this area.
But there are also some developers who put profit before people. They try to cut corners wherever they can and hope that nobody will notice. Especially regarding flood control. It’s expensive and easy because most people don’t understand it.
Grand Parkway Coming Soon To Wetlands Near You
The construction of State Highway 99, aka the Grand Parkway, has opened up vast new areas on the outskirts of Houston to developers. Many of those areas consist of wetlands and forests.
Visible Difference in Development Density Where SH99 Completed
The map below shows permit applications in the north Houston area. Compare the density of projects around sections of the Grand Parkway that have already been completed (left) with the areas on the east where the concrete has not yet reached.
Developers have even more projects underway outside the City’s ETJ (not shown on the map above).
How Development Can Affect Flooding
Kingwood residents have seen how one developer can contribute to flooding hundreds of homes. Last year, Perry Homes clearcut 268 acres north of Elm Grove before installing detention ponds. Hundreds of Elm Grove homes then flooded on May 7 and again on September 19, during Tropical Storm Imelda.
Below are recent photos of a massive 10,000 acre development in Liberty County near Plum Grove. It is about to become a 15,000 development now, thanks in part to Grand Parkway access. And yet it has only one small traditional detention pond.
Detention ponds slow down the rate of runoff to compensate for the loss of trees, wetlands and ground cover that have been replaced by streets and rooftops.
Their goal: to prevent downstream flooding.
Colony Ridge Accounts for All Growth in Liberty County In Last Decade
Colony Ridge can account for all the growth in Liberty County in the last decade. Below are some photos of Colony Ridge and its expansion near Plum Grove. The approach of SH99 will make it more accessible and therefore more attractive (at least from one point of view).
All aerial photos below were taken on 6/126/2020.
Developer’s Marketing Strategy
The developer tries to pass as many costs along to lot buyers as he can to maximize profit. He targets Hispanics. Residents tell me that sometimes two or three families may live in one of the homes you see here.
Nobody knows the real population of Colony Ridge because many residents are reportedly undocumented and uncounted.
Site work before parking a home is the responsibility of site buyers, many of whom openly burn brush to clear their lots. Like the developer, they’re trying to cut costs.
Land of Fire and the Forgotten
If this were Houston, hydrants would be spaced at a minimum of every 500 feet. A firefighter told me that the spacing often depends of home values and population. Based on population alone, he believes this area should have hydrants.
One Small Detention Pond for 15,000 Acres
Endless Loop of Construction and Destruction
State Highway 99 represents more than just a third loop around the City of Houston.
Tapayer funded roads such as these create endless loops of construction and destruction. They are like a perpetual motion machine. Building one area floods another, causing people to move farther out and the cycle to repeat itself.
No one will admit it’s intentional, of course. The flooding is just a byproduct of greed. Cut a detention pond here. Substitute in-line detention there. Don’t bother planting grass to reduce erosion. Send your problems downstream. Let someone else worry about them.
Do all developers think that way? Of course not. Many have principles and wonderful communities to show for them.
That notwithstanding, as one Splendora resident said, “They really only have one chance to get this right. If they screw this up, it will be almost impossible to fix and they will argue over who is going to pay for it for centuries.”
We are at that inflection point now.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/19/2020
1025 Days since Hurricane Harvey
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.