Last Remaining Townhomes on Timberline Drive in Forest Cove Demolished

Late yesterday (1.22.21), Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) contractors scraped the last remains of the townhomes on Timberline Drive in Forest Cove off the ground. Harvey destroyed the townhomes when more than 20 feet of water rushed through them. It rendered them structurally unfit for habitation. Since then, they have been an eyesore and the gathering place for drug dealers, arsonists, graffiti artists and illegal dumpers.

Cleanup Just in Time for New Projects

The demolition is welcome and will open the door to reclaiming the area as park and green space. Last month, both Harris County Precinct 4 announced plans to begin construction of its new Edgewater park and boat launch on the West Fork just east of US59. And the Houston Parks board announced plans to begin building a hike-and-bike trail connecting the new park with KSA’s River Grove Park and the Kingwood trail network.

The Texas Railroad Commission also cleaned up the first portion of the Noxxe Oil & Gas lease near the townhomes this week.

Removing the remains of the townhomes and oil-production assets will help restore the natural beauty of area. The added recreational amenities will also help attract new residents.

The townhomes demolished this week include those in the large red circle. The flood-damaged oil storage tanks in the small circle were also removed this week by the Texas Railroad Commission. They also plan to plug the two remaining wells in this area within weeks.
Site of the now-gone townhomes at 4PM on 1.22.21.
Before demolition in February 2020. Note: buildings in background had burned in 2019 and building in foreground had been partially demolished by Harvey.
After the first building to burn had been demolished, the second one burned, too, in September 2020. This is the area that HCFCD cleaned up this week.

Status of Remaining Townhomes

Beth Walters, a spokesperson for HCFCD, said, “All remaining townhomes have been assigned to the agent to be appraised. The timeframe to purchase depends on the owners’ willingness to sell. If the owners refuse to sell and take the case to litigation, it is possible for the acquisition to take a year or more. If the owners are willing to sell, we could purchase by the end of February.”

On January 5, 2021, Harris County Commissioners Court approved a declaration deeming the acquisition of the remaining townhomes a public necessity. This is the first step in possible condemnation of the any remaining properties. Here is the a document by the Texas Attorney General that explains a landowner’s bill of rights.

The Problem with Building Multi-Owner Units near Rivers

Multi-owner units, such as the Forest Cove townhomes, present special challenges for buyouts. Before a building with eight townhomes, for instance, can be torn down, HCFCD must buy out every unit in the complex. But many owners simply abandoned their properties after Harvey. Locating them became a time consuming task. Some cannot be found. For instance, a company in the Bahamas owned one unit. The company has gone bankrupt since Harvey, leaving the ownership in limbo. Hence, the demolition delays.

As you can see in the Google Earth image above, four structures remain to be demolished. The one closed to the river appears to have collapsed already on its own, but the debris remains.

The two structures removed on Timberline Drive had previously burned: one on the 4th of July in 2019 and the other last year. So the HCFCD work this week was really more rubble removal than demolition. Regardless of what you call it, it’s an improvement.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1.23.21 with thanks to Harris County Flood Control and Beth Walters

1123 Days after Hurricane Harvey