High-Rise Development Overview
This page is dedicated to raising awareness of issues surrounding the proposed high-rise development in Kingwood’s floodplain and floodway.
Where It Started
The Army Corps’ Public Notice, contains a good description, maps and plans of the proposed development. It contains multiple high rises in the 25 to 50 story range.
This link contains conceptual drawings by the architect.
YouTube offers several videos of the project also.
An article in SwampPlot contains a good description of it.
This post contains a discussion of concerns that the Army Corps and TCEQ considered in the permit application process.
The developers hoped to build the high-rises in an old meander of the San Jacinto West Fork. Harris County Flood Control found during Harvey that locating development in old stream beds typically leads to flooding.
The developers also planned to build the high rises with underground parking even though they are just a few feet from the floodway which carried 250,000 CFS during Harvey.
The Romerica Group’s American Vision company sought to raise money from foreign investors to help fund this project though EB-5 visas. Those who wish to learn about the EB-5 visas can see find more information on this US Government web site.
The high-rise development would wrap around the Barrington, fill in wetlands (which would be mitigated elsewhere), block natural drainage features, and add 12 or more feet of fill to the flood plain. The engineering studies were completed before Harvey and are based on old data and flood maps that are no longer valid.
NOAA and USGS are revising all the flood maps. The area now considered floodplain (where they plan to build many of the high rises) could soon be reclassified as floodway.
River Grove Park (shown above) has seen a 12X increase in the frequency of flooding since Harvey. Instead of flooding once every other year as it did, on average, for the previous 80 years, River Grove flooded six times in one twelve month period starting in February of 2018. Three of those floods happened in one 12-month period starting in December of 2018. The proposed high-rise marina resort is immediately adjacent to River Grove Park.
Army Corps Withdrew Permit After Public Comment Period
After receiving 727 letters of objection regarding Permit Application SWG-2016-00384, the US Army Corps of Engineers withdrew Romerica’s permit at the request of SWCA, Romerica’s environmental consultant. The withdrawal, which was without prejudice allows Romerica to refile the application AFTER they address all of the concerns raised by the public and other regulatory agencies.
In addition to concerned citizens, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also filed letters of objection. The USFWS went so far as to urge the Corps to deny the permit.
The developer has said that intends to refile the application after completing additional studies. Residents should stay alert.
Summary of Community Meeting
Here is a text-based summary of the presentation given at the community center that described how the Corps and TCEQ evaluated permits.
Rebecca Rucka compiled this two-page flier that summarized the issues and explained who to contact about concerns.
When the Army Corps and TCEQ requested public comments, the people and groups below submitted letters which many residents adapted and amplified with their own concerns.
Bayou Land Conservancy An extremely well documented and educational letter. Focuses in large part on all the shortcomings in the studies supplied (or not supplied) by the developers.
Galveston Bay Foundation An in-depth look at problems with the high-rise proposal by one of the most influential environmental groups in the region. They raised very compelling objections to the project.
Kingwood Lakes – Threatened legal action over drainage and deed restriction issues.
Kingwood Service Association (KSA) – Represents more than 30 community associations and approximately 70,000 people. This letter provided an excellent overview of many different concerns for both the Army Corps and TCEQ to address. KSA also voted to request a public meeting with the developer and a public hearing with the Corps.
Sierra Club Letter – 3000 words, very technical, included content for both Corps and TCEQ.
Lake Houston Area Grass Roots Flood Prevention Initiative Letter requested a public hearing.
Barrington Letter – by the community association most affected.
Trailwood Letter – by an adjacent community association that also had many flooded homes.
Aldridge Letter – from a very knowledgeable Forest Cove resident who works in construction litigation.
Brett Bercher Letter –from a Kingwood resident and licensed professional civil engineer specializing in hydrology and hydraulics.
Benvegnu Letter – impassioned plea from a long time Kingwood Barrington resident and nature lover.
Blackburn Letter – from a Barrington resident
Coulter Letter – by a City planner
Eisenach Letter – by a project manager familiar with Corps permit requirements for building in floodplains
Kissling, Garfield Letter – technical perspective from two top geologists, recently retired from one of the world’s largest oil companies.
Rehak Letter (PDF) – Website host’s take on this whole controversy. 40 pages long and filled with hyperlinks that help document points.
Teague Letter – by someone who worked at the EPA for almost three decades.
Vogl Letter – by the Barrington’s KSA rep
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