Rodney Ellis

Harris County Commissioners Approve Negotiation of Earnest Money Contract for Woodridge Village

Harris County Commissioners Court just approved a motion authorizing negotiation of an earnest money contract with Figure Four Partners, Ltd. (Item 14G on today’s agenda). The contract will lock in the purchase price of 267.35 acres in Montgomery County for the Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin. The amount: $14,019,316 – $5,100,770 below the appraised value.

However, this is not yet a decision to purchase the property.

Conditions Must Still Be Met Before Purchase

The City of Houston still must meet certain conditions and commitments before the actual purchase comes up for a vote. Within 120 days, the City must:

  • Enter into an inter-local agreement with the County to purchase the property.
  • Contribute half the purchase price in cash or land
  • Agree to share equally in the cost of development and maintenance
  • Adopt Atlas 14 and update fill mitigation requirements at least as stringent as the County’s.

Ellis Tried to Add More Conditions

In at least five previous meetings, Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis successfully delayed the vote by adding new conditions to the motion.

True to form, he tried again today. He wanted to use the purchase as leverage to get the City to adopt his “equity” guidelines. Those guidelines rank flood bond projects in his district above those in others.

Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis

Garcia Also Wanted to Add New Condition

Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia also wanted to add a new condition. He wanted to get the City to give Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) a place on the City’s planning commission. At this point in the meeting, it looked like the motion could die again.

However, Houston Mayor Pro Tem DAVE MARTIN assured Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia that he would fight to get HCFCD a place on the Planning Commission. Garcia then decided to vote for the motion. Earlier this month, the two jointly requested the Planning Commission to consider higher flood mitigation standards in their planning decisions.

How Vote Went Down

Garcia emphasized that he didn’t like the Woodridge Village motion per se, but that he trusted Martin to get the County a seat on the planning commission. Thus, he would vote for the Woodridge earnest money proposal.

Veteran observers of Commissioners Court say this was the first time Ellis, Hidalgo and Garcia contemplated splitting their vote. Previously, they have always voted as a block.

Commissioners Jack Cagle and Steve Radack had already voted for the motion. When Garcia flipped, Ellis and Judge Lina Hidalgo read the handwriting on the wall. They also voted for the Woodridge earnest money contract at that point. The final vote: 5-0.

What Comes Next

At this point, final language of the Inter-Local Agreement with the City must be hammered out in the next 120 days. The City must also agree to the conditions listed above by:

  • Identifying land worth half the purchase price
  • Contributing assets or cash equal to half the purchase and development costs
  • Updating certain regulations affecting flood plain development

It also seems to me that the County must develop plans for Woodridge so that it can estimate costs and how much the City will have to contribute.

Finally, Perry Homes and its subsidiary, Figure Four Partners, must agree to all the conditions and sign the earnest money contract.

There is still a long road ahead for this deal. But today was a great step forward. At least we’re on the road now, thanks in large part to Commissioner Jack Cagle and Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin who refused to let this deal die.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/15/2020

1113 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 362 since Imelda