I have made two major changes to ReduceFlooding.com by adding a new page dedicated to “Funding” and removing the “High Rise” page from the menu.
High-Rise Issue No Longer Topical, Funding Is
Funding is a hot topic at the moment and the high-rise battle is over…at least for now. Even though I removed the high-rise page from the menu, I did not delete it. Historical researchers can still find it by searching for “High Rise.” If the topic becomes active in the future, I will restore it to the menu again.
The Funding page is broken into two parts. The left contains a summary of the equity debate and how it has evolved in the last three years. It also contains links to the volumes of data obtained from Harris County via Freedom-of-Information-Act requests, as well as statistical analysis of the data. The right part contains links to every related post published since the equity debate started.
Collecting all information related to funding in one place should make it easy for people to find information about their watersheds and where their money is going.
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.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Screen-Shot-2021-07-29-at-5.57.05-PM.png?fit=762%2C404&ssl=1404762adminadmin2021-07-29 17:58:302021-07-29 18:00:29Changes to ReduceFlooding: New “Funding” Page
This morning, local videographer Jim Zura took his drone down to River Grove Park and photographed the Romerica property flooding for the seventh time in 14 months. It proves that there’s a developer born every minute!
The history of this land involves half a dozen different developers, each with big dreams, determined to get rich in that promised land between buying low and selling high. Ultimately, though, they end up selling to another starry-eyed developer after reality sets in.
Investing $5 billion in a floodway that carries 240,000 cubic feet per second! That’s Brooklyn-Bridge smart. Expecting 15,000 condo buyers to wade into the wacky dream with you? It would be easier to sell high rises at the end of an airport runway.
Might be time to cut your losses, Mr. Haddad. Just sayin’. All those high priced consultants will be happy to keep selling you hope as long as you’re paying them.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/8/19
617 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post are my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Screen-Shot-2019-05-08-at-9.54.33-PM-copy.jpg?fit=1500%2C870&ssl=18701500adminadmin2019-05-08 21:59:412019-05-08 22:11:20There’s a Developer Born Every Minute!
After receiving 727 public comments, Kingwood Marina developer, Romerica Investments, LLC, asked Corps regulators on April 24, to “temporarily suspend an Individual Permit Application (SWG-2016-00384).”
Romercia’s environmental consultants said in a letter to Corps regulators, they made the request based on the large volume of comments provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on March 28.
The request acknowledged, “It will take several months to conduct the surveys and studies needed to respond fully to these comments.”
Rehak: “Romerica requested a suspension of their permit application. The Army Corps withdrew it. What’s the difference? Is there any legal significance?”
Botello: “The correct wording in this case is “withdrawal.” There IS a legal difference. There is a provision within our regulations for suspending a permit. But that only occurs when a permit has actually been issued. In this case, the permit was not issued; there was only an application. We never made a final decision. So the pending application was withdrawn.”
Another Public Comment Period Likely
Rehak: “If they reapply, would there be another public comment period during the evaluation of new application?”
Botello: “I am comfortable in saying that there probably will be another public comment period based on the number of public interest factors and concerns that were raised and potential changes that could occur. But we won’t know for sure until we get the revised packet of information.”
Rehak: “How frequently does this happen?”
Botello: “It’s common. If a significant number of comments are raised during the public comment period and applicants aren’t prepared to address them within 30 days, we withdraw it. Then they go back and try to answer the concerns that were raised or revise their plans. Conversely, if they can answer and fully address concerns within 30 days, we keep evaluating the permit and we go ahead with the next step. If not, we withdraw it and give them time on their own to address the public concerns.”
Next Steps If Romerica Reapplies
Rehak: “What will be the next steps if Romerica reapplies?”
Botello: “First, we will evaluate the new submittal internally for a review of the Corps’ concerns. Then we will draft a public notice for public review – to gather public concerns. Then typically, we gather up the comments and concerns raised after that 30-day period, and forward them again to the applicant. They will have to respond within 30 days and then we will gather their responses and determine what steps are appropriate.”
Where We Are At
Romerica has not returned phone calls to discuss their intentions. If other agencies had concerns as serious as the TCEQ’s, this project could die quietly. If Romerica reapplies, which they have said they will do, the developer will likely have to significantly revise plans, and start over with a lengthy permitting process including a new public comment period.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/6/2019
615 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/HighRiseHell.jpg?fit=1500%2C936&ssl=19361500adminadmin2019-05-06 16:40:492019-05-06 16:41:17Interview with Corps’ Chief of Evaluation: What’s Next for Romerica?
In a letter dated April 24, SWCA, Romerica’s environmental consultant, requested a “suspension” of the permit application. They said they needed more time to answer issues raised in 727 letters of protest. SWCA also said they would have to conduct additional surveys and field work requiring more than the 30 days allowed for them to respond. The official deadline for filing responses was April 27.
Withdrawal “Without Prejudice”
Instead of suspending the permit, the Corps “withdrew it without prejudice.” The Corps invited SWCA and Romerica to reapply at some future time when they had completed answers to the issues raised by concerned residents and environmental groups.
Leah Howard of Manlove Marketing and Communications, Romerica’s official point of contact for the application, was not available for comment at press time. However, a third party who talked to her earlier in the day said that their team wanted “to do a good and complete job with citizens’ questions, and that 30 days just wasn’t enough time.”
Another third party source quoted her as saying, “Due to Harvey, Romerica will complete several new studies and surveys for due diligence which will shed more light on the larger issue Lake Houston faces. After completion of the necessary work, Romerica and the USACE will reactivate the permit and more information will be provided at that time.”
Issues Still to Be Clarified
It is unclear at this time whether a new application would obligate Romerica to go through an additional public comment period. However the letter sent from the Corps to the developer states, “Resultant project modifications may require additional coordination.”
The Corps is ruling on a permit application for a 3.2 million square foot development near the floodway of the San Jacinto West Fork. The proposed development would surround the Barrington, and be adjacent to Kingwood Lakes, Trailwood, King’s Cove Deer Ridge Estates, Deer Ridge Park and River Grove Park.
It will be interesting to see how Romerica responds to all these concerns. They can change their plans for the future. But they can’t change their past.
At a public meeting held AFTER the public comment period, Gabriel M. Haddad, co-owner, of a maze of related companies, partnerships, LLPs and LLCs in different countries and states, said it could take up to two years for the Corps to rule on his permit application.
I have a call in to the Corps to discuss next steps and how long they will take. Stay tuned.
Note: Ideas expressed in the post represent my opinions on matters of public interest. They are protected by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/27/2019
606 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Woodland-hills-map.png?fit=1061%2C1024&ssl=110241061adminadmin2019-04-27 20:56:202019-04-27 21:14:43Answer Day for High-Rise Developer
Neither did Manlove return telephone calls or emails to discuss the meeting format and whether they would take questions from the audience. Manlove also has not responded to inquiries from local videographer Jim Zura and the Lake Houston Area Grass Roots Flood Prevention Initiative about taping the meeting.
Manlove originally tried to give themselves the most generous disclaimer in the history of words and websites when they printed this in small type at the bottom of TheHeronsKingwood.com: “DISCLAIMER: Users agree that John Manlove Marketing & Communications and parties involved have no responsibility for any deficiencies, inaccuracies, errors and/or omissions contained in this site or the data and/or information contained therein.”
I then pointed out that as the official point of contact for the permit, they would be held to a slightly higher standard of truth. 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 states that: “Whoever, in any manner within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up any trick, scheme, or disguises a material fact or makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or entry, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years or both.” That’s when the lights went out.
So Many Questions Remain
I’m suspect the panel will do its best to avoid the real questions surrounding this development Monday night. For instance:
Why did Manlove list the “Romerica Group” and then plain “Romerica” as the developer in their website when neither is registered with the Texas Secretary of State and “Romerica Investments” filed the permit application?
How will the Developer provide the mitigation (i.e., Detention ponds) for fill and impervious cover that is required to obtain the City of Houston and/or Harris County Development permits?
Kingwood Community Center, 6:30 PM
I’m guessing that they won’t allow real questions tomorrow night. They’ll probably make people submit questions in writing before hand and then cherry pick those they want to answer. I hope I’m wrong on that point, but we’ll know for sure when its over.
As always, these thoughts represent my opinions on matters of public interest. They are protected under the first amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the great State of Texas.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/17/19
365 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Woodland-hills-map.png?fit=1061%2C1024&ssl=110241061adminadmin2019-03-17 23:26:332019-03-18 14:46:07Reminder: High-Rise Developers’ Meeting Monday Night at 6:30
Only five more days remain to protest the proposed high-rise development near River Grove Park. The deadline for public comments? Friday, March 1.
About the High-Rise Development
Two developers from Mexico have bought up land east of Woodland Hills between Kingwood Lakes and the San Jacinto River. They hope to build 5000 condos, a retail mail, parking for 8,800 vehicles (some below ground), commercial high-rises, residential high-rises, a 50-story hotel, and a marina for 640 boats and 200 jet-skis.
Altogether, they plan to build more than 3 million square feet of residential, commercial and retail space around the Barrington. To put that in perspective, it’s roughly three times the size of Deerbrook Mall … at the end of a dead end street … four miles from the nearest highway. On the edge of the floodway. In an old meander of the San Jacinto. Without any consideration for the traffic it would add to Kingwood Drive. Or dedicating any land for additional school facilities.
What Corps and TCEQ are Considering
The Army Corps of Engineers and TCEQ are currently reviewing the developer’s proposal. The Corps is evaluating the impact of adding up to 12 feet of fill to wetlands and streams in the area against the need for the project. They also review more than a dozen other “public interest” factors, such as safety, environmental impact, navigation on the San Jacinto, sedimentation, and potential to worsen flooding. The TCEQ is evaluating water-quality issues only.
Please send this post to all your friends, neighbors, relatives, kids, etc. Have them write letters, too. If you have already submitted a letter and have thought of new concerns, you may submit an additional letter.
Email Preferred to Snail Mail
Make sure you include the project number in the subject line of your email. It’s the same for either group: SWG-2016-00384.
As always, the thoughts in these posts represent my opinions on matters of public policy. They are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the great State of Texas.
Posted by Bob Rehak on February 25, 2019
545 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Slide2-e1551063488977.jpeg?fit=305%2C540&ssl=1540305adminadmin2019-02-24 20:51:262019-02-24 21:03:27Now or Never: Friday is Last Day to Protest High-Rise Development in Floodplain Near River Grove Park
Kingwood’s Kingwood Lakes Community Association has threatened legal action over a portion of the proposed high-rise development between Lake Kingwood and the Barrington. Developers planned multi-family condominium units on stilts for that area. But deed restrictions limit construction to single-family housing compatible with surrounding architecture.
Single-family usually means “one family in one house on one piece of land.” The developers had planned 65′ high, MULTI-FAMILY condos. That would not look anything like the classic homes in either Kingwood Lakes or the Barrington.
Drainage Issues Compound Deed Restriction Issues
Deed restrictions also prevent diversion of drainage onto the property of others. According to the US Army Corps’ public notice, the developers planned to divert runoff into Lake Kingwood. That lake is owned and maintained by the Kingwood Lakes subdivision. Without the permission of the Association, that would also constitute a deed restriction violation.
The letter warns that if development commences, the association will seek “judicial enforcement of deed restrictions, architectural guidelines and protection of its property. Such action may include claims for injunctive relief as well as relevant damages.”
The letter closes by saying that the Association hopes no further action will be required.
Kingwood Lakes addressed the letter to the Army Corps. However, the homeowners’ association also copied officials at Harris County Flood Control and the City of Houston.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Deck-1-e1532494854628.jpg?fit=900%2C1200&ssl=11200900adminadmin2019-02-14 15:11:042019-02-14 15:11:10Kingwood Lakes Threatens Legal Action Over Portion of Proposed High-Rise Development
Romerica Investments LLC has filed permit applications with the Army Corps, City of Houston, and Harris County Flood Control. Romerica Investments hopes to build 5,000 mid-rise condos, a series of high-rise towers ranging from 25 to 50 stories, and a marina to hold 800 40-foot boats and 200 jet skis – all on property deed-restricted to “single-family residential” in a bald-eagle habitat protection zone. The property is near River Grove Park in the floodplain and floodway of the San Jacinto’s West Fork.
However, a title search revealed that Romerica Investments does not own the property on which it intends to build. A search for who does own the property led through a maze of more than 30 other entities in Texas. Two individuals run virtually all of them. The individuals sometimes use different names and different spellings of their names when registering their businesses with the Texas Secretary of State. They also list offices that are sometimes vacant; phone numbers that have been disconnected; and an address on a street that does not exist. In the case of the land in question, they even registered the company under the first name of one man and the last name of the other. Innocent mistakes or part of a pattern? You judge.
In case you’re doing a double take, that’s the first name of one man with the last name of another. They amended that filing last year so that their names now appear as Fabio M. Covarrubias Piffer and Gabriel M. Haddad Giorgi.
Filing for Permit to Develop
Whew! Got all that? Now get this. Romerica Investments, the company that filed the permit application with the Corps, lists Mr. Covarrubias as both manager and director under two different names. Also note that the address on “Nuntucket” for Mr. Haddad does not exist; there is no such street. (Many of their filings use this misspelling. A Nantucket street does exist in Houston.)
So Many Questions, So Little Time; Developers Refuse to Meet
These observations raise many questions. Despite the developers’ claimed “commitment to dialog with stakeholders at every level,” they have refused to meet publicly to answer questions before the end of the Army Corps’ comment period. I have personally requested a meeting by phone, email, or certified mail seven times in the last seven weeks – all to no avail.
Developers commonly use different companies to acquire, sell, or subdivide land. That doesn’t bother me. The fact that registrations for so many of these companies contain inconsistencies, inaccuracies, misspellings, wrong addresses, aliases, broken links, dead ends and disconnected phone numbers does concern me.
None of the companies shows projects they have completed. Sometimes one company lists another as the owner, but the companies may be incorporated in different states or different countries. Plus they’re selling:
Swampland dressed up as investments in a luxurious lifestyle
My advice: Buyers beware. I use the term “buyers” in a global sense to include officials granting permits. I’m not buying any of this.
As always, these posts contain my opinions on matters of public policy which are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.
Posted by Bob Rehak on February 14, 2019
534 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/RomericaGroup2.jpg?fit=1479%2C1096&ssl=110961479adminadmin2019-02-14 12:56:452019-02-17 19:43:14Search for Owners of High-Rise Properties Leads to Maze of More Than 30 Companies in Texas Alone
Last night, I posted about some problems with the copy in the new website for the high-rise Kingwood Marina project. This morning, The Manlove Agency started changing the copy in many of the FAQs without explanation. Their disclaimer did not change, however.
I have screen captures of the original text. If anyone wants to see it, please email me.
Rather than do an hourly critique of the website, I’m going to give them a day or two to vet their facts. Then I will revisit it. Use extreme caution in the meantime. For instance,:
Their video still says they will have slips for 800 boats. But the Army Corps’ public notice states 640. A huge “disconnect”!
The copy still states that Romerica Group will now develop the property. The Texas Secretary of State has no listing for a Romerica Group. The phone number listed in their website is disconnected. And their name appears nowhere on the permit application.
The copy still says the development will be 364 acres although the Corps Public Notice states 331.
Fixing One Problem Creates Another
Yesterday, I pointed out that raising the property to 57 feet would not make them flood safe. Manlove revised yesterday’s copy to suggest that the buildings will now have an additional five feet of fill beneath them. The developer will now raise them 17 feet above their current elevation, not 12 as stated in the original permit application. This would result in the loss of more than 1800 acre-feet of floodplain storage capacity and could impact surrounding communities.
Offending Copy About Permit Approval Removed
Manlove removed the copy about the City, County and Corps permitting the site for construction after finding no impact on surrounding communities. I confirmed with Harris County Flood Control that they never issued a permit for the property. The Corps is currently evaluating a permit. Hence, this public comment period. I’m confirming whether the City issued a permit to begin excavation.
No Public Meeting
The developers have refused to meet with the community to address the many concerns surrounding this project. I have personally tried SIX times to set up such a meeting. They agreed to have a private meeting with me. I said I would agree if I could videotape it. They refused. So the private meeting was cancelled, too.
As always, the content of this post represents my opinions on matters of public policy. Those opinions are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.
Posted on February 13, 2019, by Bob Rehak
533 Days after Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Woodland-hills-map.png?fit=1061%2C1024&ssl=110241061adminadmin2019-02-13 11:44:352019-02-13 12:52:35Manlove Changing High-Rise Website, but Problems Remain