Tag Archive for: Higbie Ventures of Texas

TCEQ Issues Notice of Enforcement to Laurel Springs RV Resort

After an unannounced investigation of the Laurel Springs RV Resort construction site on February 2, 2022, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued a Notice of Enforcement (NOE) Letter to the contractor, Higbie Ventures of Texas, Inc. The TCEQ investigation found Higbie:

  • Failed to maintain Best Management Practices in effective operation condition
  • Had not maintained the construction site entrance
  • Did not protect stormwater inlets
  • Damaged erosion controls
  • Improperly installed erosion controls
  • Did not install erosion controls as prescribed in the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan along the southern and western perimeters
  • Let sediment accumulations travel offsite unimpeded onto neighboring property for approximately 158 yards
  • Trenched the southern berm of its detention pond, letting stormwater escape onto neighboring property, a non-compliant discharge
  • Violated requirements of their Construction General Permit
  • Failed to remove sediment accumulations often enough to minimize further negative effect

The investigator felt the non-compliant discharge in late January warranted enforcement action. The TCEQ then issued a Notice of Enforcement Letter (NOE) to “facilitate” compliance.

64-Page Report Brims With Photos Showing Violations

The 64-page TCEQ report meticulously documents the complaints with time-stamped photographs.

The TCEQ investigator, Kyle Linville, required documentation showing the contractor had remedied all violations by February 7. But on February 14, Linville noted that several violations remained outstanding, including failure to:

  • Maintain Best Management Practices in effective operating condition
  • Install sediment controls on the southern boundary of the site
  • Remove sediment accumulations often enough to minimize further negative effects.

Linville’s observations largely match mine and those of nearby residents who have communicated with me re: issues at the controversial construction site. Strangely, a City of Houston investigation found no problem, triggering two more investigations, but the City has not yet released the results of those.

Contractor Apparently Still Not Fully in Compliance

Since the TCEQ issued its notice of enforcement letter, most but not all of the violations have been corrected. However, Higbie still has not installed silt fencing along the western perimeter. And when I went by there today, trucks had once again turned Laurel Springs Lane into a muddy mess.

Photo taken on 2/2/22 from TCEQ report showing erosion of southern wall of detention pond.
Sediment eroded into Edgewater Park for approximately 158 yards. Another photo from TCEQ report.
More sediment farther into park. Another photo from TCEQ report.
Note lack of silt fencing along western perimeter (right), which had been mentioned in TCEQ complaint dated 2/2/22. Photo taken 3/24/22, six weeks after compliance deadline.

Contractor Claims Re: Unauthorized Discharge

The contractor admitted that he discharged stormwater into Edgewater Park without authorization. However, he claimed that it was necessary to begin installing pumps that would discharge stormwater into the Lakewood Cove Storm Sewer System. The contractor claimed that standing water in the detention pond had infiltrated the soil in the pond wall. That made the pond wall so unstable that heavy equipment could not operate safely on the wall, said the contractor, in his response to the TCEQ.

However, photos taken on the day of the trenching, 1/29/22, show heavy equipment already operating on the wall and the pump housing already partially installed.

Photo taken 1/29/22 shows contractor draining pond as heavy equipment operates elsewhere on pond wall.

On page 54 of the report, the contractor claims he dug the trench on 1/30/22, not 1/29.

He also admits that he placed 8″ pipe in the wall, but claims he removed it “the next day” on “1/31/21.” That would have been 10 months before the site was even cleared. But assuming he meant 1/31/22, the claim doesn’t match what I photographed that day. I photographed the contractor covering up pipe, not removing it. See below.

One photo from a sequence taken on 1/31/2022 that shows contractor pulling dirt into trench and spreading it over pipes.

Is he claiming that he filled in the whole trench only to redig it on the same day and remove the pipe? That would have been amazingly inefficient. However, it would help explain some of the contractor’s failures. In the last 20 years, eight of Higbie’s 13 entities in Texas have gone out of business. He lost six of the eight to tax forfeitures.

Trust But Verify

Mr. Linville produced an excellent and thorough report of his investigation. But I hope he explores some of Higbie’s claims further without just taking Higbie’s word that he complied. As auditors say, “Trust but verify.” Did the contractor really remove the pipe? Did he install invisible silt fence on the western perimeter? Why is Higbie still pumping water out of the pond with portable pumps almost two months after installing the housing for permanent pumps.

We should never forget how excess sedimentation contributed to the flooding of thousands of homes along the West Fork during Harvey.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/26/22

1670 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.

Contractor Behind Kingwood’s First RV Park Has Six Tax Forfeitures In His Past

The primary contractor responsible for building the Kingwood area’s first RV Park has six tax forfeitures in his past. And the Secretary of State indicates that he has not filed public information reports (PIRs) associated with Texas franchise tax since 2019 for two more of his companies involved in developing the RV park. They are Higbie Ventures LP and Higbie Ventures of Texas, Inc.

The most recent PIRs on file with the Texas Secretary of State are dated April and September of 2019, more than two years ago.

Filing PIR reports is an annual requirement in Texas for business entities.

Below are the roles played by Higbie Ventures LP and Higbie Ventures of Texas, Inc. in the RV park next to Lakewood Cove.

Higbie Ventures LP Obtained COH Permits

Higbie Ventures LP obtained many, but not all, of the construction permits for the project from the City of Houston. They include permits for construction, clearing, grading, sitework, utilities, concrete and more. (For the full list, search by JOB ADDRESS on the Houston Permitting Center Website. Use 1355 LAUREL SPRINGS LN 77339).

Screen capture of sitework permit from City of Houston Permitting Center on 11/4/2021.

According to the Secretary of State’s database, Higbie Ventures, LP has not filed a PIR beyond 2019. Note also that the partnership previously forfeited its right to do business in Texas for seven years due to non-filing of reports (see below). However, it was later reinstated.

Note gap between 2009 and 2016. Screen capture from TX SOS Direct on 10/28/21.

I called the Texas Secretary of State (SOS) to confirm that the department’s records for Higbie were current. The lady I talked to said they were, but urged me to call the State Comptroller’s office to see if a new batch of updates was coming soon.

The State Controller’s office could not tell me when new updates were being sent to the Secretary of State. She also refused to discuss the company’s filing history except to say that their status was currently “active.”

The Comptroller’s office, however, did confirm that companies and partnerships had to file PIRs every year. No one could explain the contradiction between active status and apparent non-filing.

Higbie Ventures of Texas, Inc. the Primary Operator At Construction Site

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Stormwater Pollution Prevention Permit at the Laurel Springs RV Park construction site shows Higbie Ventures of Texas, Inc. as the primary operator of the construction site.

Permit posted on Construction Site as of 10/29/21.

Yet this company’s most recent PIR was filed in September 2019 according to the Secretary of State.

Screen Capture from Texas SOS Direct website on 10/30/2021 shows no reports filed for 2020 or 2021. Reports are due by May 15.

It’s unclear why Higbie or the owners needed more than one Higbie entity involved in this job.

13 Higbie Companies, Six Tax Forfeitures, One PO Box

Texas Secretary of State records show that William S. Higbie has started at least 13 companies or partnerships in Texas. Five are still active. They include:

  • Higbie Ventures, LP (formed 2003)
  • Higbie Ventures GP, LLC (formed 2003)
  • Higbie Ventures of Texas, Inc. (formed 2010)
  • Cherry Branch Enterprises LLC (formed 2006)
  • Higbie Residential Ventures of Texas, Inc. (formed 2014)

Higbie lost six in tax forfeitures and voluntarily dissolved two others. They include:

  • Higbie Builders GP, LLC (Tax Forfeiture 2006, later reinstated)
  • Zentrum Construction Company (Tax Forfeiture – 2007 )
  • WM-GP, Inc. (Tax Forfeiture –2007)
  • 1318 GP, Inc. (Tax Forfeiture – 2007)
  • 1318 Birdsall LTD (Tax Forfeiture – 2009)
  • Birdbath GP, Inc. (Tax Forfeiture – 2009)
  • Higbie Roth, Inc. (Voluntarily dissolved – 2002)
  • Higbie Roth Construction Company (Voluntarily Dissolved – 2013)

Higbie may have other business interests in Florida that are not shown here.

No Offices Currently Listed for Higbie

Eight of the 13 Higbie entities above are or were registered to PMB 1007 (Private Mail Box 1007) at 3733 Westheimer. Google Street View shows a Post & Parcel store there.

Higbie uses that same box for ALL of his active companies or partnerships in Texas.

This may indicate that none of Higbie’s Texas companies has a regular office.

Apparently, No Websites Either

At this time, Higbie does not appear to have a website of his own or for any of his ventures. I cannot find one.

A website called HigbiePlans.com DOES exist, but Higbie has no company by that name. Nor is one registered in the State of Texas.

A footnote on the HigbiePlans website says, “Online planroom powered by ReproConnect and Best Blue Print.” WhoIs.com shows that Best Blue Print actually owns the domain called “HigbiePlans.com.” To boost its own business, Best Blue Print appears to host websites like HigbiePlans as a courtesy to architects, builders, contractors, and others who may require prints of oversized files.

The HigbiePlans.com pages for Higbie Ventures shows one phone number that has been handed down from one Higbie company to another over the years, according to Google searches.

Very little information can be found about William S. Higbie or his organizations online.

Primary Operator?

The TCEQ permit posted at the RV park job site shows that Higbie Ventures of Texas, Inc. is the primary operator.

According to the TCEQ, a primary operator has operational control of a construction site. However, I have yet to see a Higbie logo on a truck out there. Or a Higbie logo anywhere!

Another company, A&M Contractors, appears to be doing the actual work which the TCEQ thinks Higbie is doing and which Higbie purchased the permits for.

Signs on construction equipment at the site show that A&M Contractors appears to be doing the work that Higbie’s companies obtained permits for.

While it is not unusual for companies in the construction business to hire subcontractors, it is unusual for an owner of a site to hire two (or three) companies to do the same thing. That runs up costs without adding value. And RV Parks are among the most cost-sensitive types of construction, according to developers I interviewed for this post.

Low Profile, High Failure Rates

I’m not alleging anything illegal or even unethical about Higbie or his organizations.

He just keeps an exceedingly low profile for a business man. And he has an exceedingly high failure rate. His Texas business ventures have failed at an alarming 62% rate.

Eight of his 13 entities in Texas have gone out of business, and six of the eight were lost to tax forfeitures.

In construction, when large dollars are at risk, that’s not the kind of track record that inspires confidence among lenders and investors.

Several Lakewood residents say they have tried to meet with Higbie about the RV park, but that Higbie doesn’t answer his phone. No wonder he’s so successful.

Will the real William S. Higbie please stand up?

Next, more on the owners of the RV Park. They operate more than 100 different companies.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/4/2021

1529 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.