Tag Archive for: Huffman

Los Piños Now Selling Lots in Huffman; Saint Tropez Still Clearing, Grading

Several different developments are being carved out of a larger 3738-acre tract once owned by LH Ranch in northern part of Huffman.

Two on the west side of FM2100 have come a long way since I first photographed them seven months ago. Last July, I flew over Los Piños and Saint Tropez. At the time, Los Piños was paving streets. Saint Tropez had just broken ground and started clearing.

On 3/5/23, I flew over both again and drove through Los Piños.

Saint Tropez is in upper portion of map at FM2100 and Meyer Road. Los Piños is south of Saint Tropez.

Los Piños now has a welcome center open that trumpets “owner financing.” And Saint Tropez looks to be in the final stages of clearing and grading. Let’s look at some “then-and-now” photos for both areas.

Los Piños

July 2022
Los Pinos
Los Piños Phase I in July 2022
March 2023
Los Piños Phase I looking west, March 5, 2023
Los Piños Phase I looking east, March 5, 2023

The 130-acre Los Piños Phase I tract represents only 0.34% of the larger LH Ranch Tract from which it is carved. 

Saint Tropez

Looking SW

Megatel, the developer had just broken ground the month before I first flew over St. Tropez in July 2022.

Saint Tropez in July 2022. Looking SW from NE corner.

Here’s how the property looks today from the same angle.

Saint Tropez looking SW from NE corner, March 5, 2023
Looking SE from Over FM2100
Saint Tropez in July 2022, looking SE from NW corner
Same angle seven months later. Saint Tropez in March 2023.

From FM2100 to the far end of the development is about a mile. The owner, Megatel plans to build a 1,000-acre, 4500-home community around a giant manmade lagoon with white sand beaches, a water park with surf simulator, and an entertainment district.

The press release announcing the groundbreaking last year in June stated that Megatel anticipated completion of Phase I sometime in the first quarter of 2023. They have a long way to go in the next three weeks! Rising interest rates and the recession in the housing market may have slowed plans down.

Los Piños Drainage Plans Claim No Adverse Impact

Both developments naturally drain southeast toward tributaries of Luce Bayou. You can see a channel leading toward them in the photo below. But at this writing, I only have drainage plans for Los Piños.

For a more detailed description of the plans including drainage, see the post I wrote about these developments in early August 2022.

Looking SE from Saint Tropez in foreground toward Los Piños (upper right) and Key Gully/Luce Bayou out of sight in background.
Drainage channels from Saint Tropez (upper left) and Los Piños (foreground) come together and veer right toward Key Gully and then Luce Bayou.

Preston Hydrologic developed the drainage plans for Los Piños and claimed the side slopes of the channels would be grass-lined to reduce/prevent erosion.

The developer may have to replant grass to reduce erosion. Los Piños photo taken 3/5/2023.

While the upper portions of channel banks have some grass, it appears that grass on the lower portions has washed away. Significant erosion is visible on channel banks and culverts between these linear stormwater detention basins are filling with silt.

For the complete Los Piños drainage analysis, click here. The engineering company claims it has 25% more stormwater-detention-basin capacity than necessary. That should actually reduce flood risk downstream, assuming the plans are accurate. Preston claims Los Piños will have no adverse impact.

Wetlands are interlaced throughout this area. And wetlands mitigation will be part of the plans for developments on both sides of FM2100, according to the Army Corps.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/5/2023

2014 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.

3738-Acre Property Developing Near Huffman

On 7/22/22, I photographed two new developments at different stages of completion east of Huffman-Cleveland Road and south of the Grand Parkway. Both are being carved out of a 3,738-ac tract owned by LH Ranch LTD.

A third part of that tract, west of Huffman-Cleveland Road, is in the planning stages and submitting plats for approval.

General Location

The first two developments are immediately east of Huffman-Cleveland Road and south of Meyer Road. See red area below.

Red outlined area contains the two new developments. The third area is to the west (left) of the red box.

One of the new developments will become a “lagoon community” called Saint Tropez. Another will become a residential community called Los Pinos. The third will also become a residential community.

Saint Tropez

Megatel Homes has begun clearing land for what it says will become a $2 billion lagoon community spanning 1,000 acres.

Looking SW from over Meyer Road at the first part of what will become Saint Tropez.

According to Megatel, the development will eventually feature 4,500 homes, an enormous manmade lagoon with white sand beaches, paddle-boarding, kayaking, a swim-up bar, surf simulator, a water slide tower, a playground, cabanas, soundstage, splash park, and more.

An entertainment district will offer a restaurant, bar, teen arcade, bowling alley, and a children’s immersive indoor play area. That will certainly change the character of the rural Huffman area.

The development will feature both single and multi-family housing. Single-family homes will range in size from 1,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet and sell for between $350,000 to $700,000 each.

Full construction plans and a drainage analysis are not yet available. At this time, the Harris County Engineering Department has only issued a permit for clearing the land, but it shows a general layout.

Plan submitted to Harris County Engineering to obtain clearing permit. Intersection of Meyer Rd. and FM2100 in upper left.

Los Pinos

South of Saint Tropez, the second development is much further along. For it, I have obtained both construction plans and a drainage analysis via a FOIA Request.

Looking SE from over FM 2100. Note the large, linear detention basin in the foreground running diagonally through the frame.
Drainage Features

Phase One of the 130-acre Los Pinos Project will have approximately 250 single-family residential lots. The 1/3rd-acre lots will have about 30% impervious cover.

Plans claim that the total detention storage will exceed Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) minimum storage requirements. They require 270.4 acre feet, but the developer will provide 366.3 – 26% more.

Phase One sits in the FEMA’s unshaded X zone (higher than the 500-year flood plain). So there is no requirement for floodplain mitigation.

Preston Hydrologic, Inc., which conducted the drainage analysis, says, “The proposed detention basin will reduce the maximum sheet flow depths downstream of the development, for storm events up to and including the 1% AEP storm.” AEP means annual exceedance probability. And 1% refers to a 100-year storm.

The tract drains to Key Gully and two unnamed tributaries within the Luce Bayou watershed. This development falls outside Houston’s city limits in unincorporated Harris County.

Looking east from over FM 2100. Note a second large linear detention pond on the right bracketing the development.

Water in this area naturally flows toward the southeast where it enters Luce Bayou. The detention ponds that bracket the development are designed to contain rain falling on the development and water trying to flow across it.

Map from Preston Hydrologic’s drainage analysis shows layout of detention basins.

Six interconnected, dry-bottom detention basins will mitigate the impacts of development, according to hydrologists. The lots in proposed Phase 1 will drain into Ponds 2 and 6. Ponds 1, 3, 4, and 5 will intercept runoff from undeveloped land.

Peak flow estimate indicates ponds should hold a 100-year rainfall and cut peak outflow roughly in half (red vs. blue curve)
Claims No Adverse Impact

Hydrologists claim the development will cause “no adverse impacts” compared to the pre-project drainage conditions of the receiving streams in the Luce Bayou watershed. That includes downstream properties within the City of Houston.

They also estimate that overland sheet flow will not cause any adverse impacts downstream of the project site. In fact, the hydrologists claim that the proposed project will reduce peak flow rates and runoff volumes to areas downstream. That, they say, will result in reduced ponding depths in the Huffman Hills subdivision and adjacent properties.

Small Part of Future Development

The 130-acre Los Pinos Phase One tract represents only 0.34% of the larger LH Ranch Tract from which it is carved. The hydrologists caution that future phases will require future studies of their own. They indicate that future uses of the LH Ranch tract may include additional single-family residential development, commercial development, and a wetlands mitigation bank.

Wetlands Mitigation

Plans considered by the Army Corps in January of 2021 show wetland mitigation areas on both the west and east.

The mitigation bank proposal showed that 25% of the LH Ranch tract would be set aside for mitigation.

The LH Ranch tract bridges two watersheds. The western portion drains to the East Fork. The eastern portion drains to Luce Bayou. Both eventually drain into Lake Houston. Much of the land was originally wetlands.

Image from same general area taken on January 2021 when tree canopy did not obscure ground. Note standing water.
Will Increased Runoff Increase Erosion?

The side slopes of the ponds will be grass lined and have backslope interceptor swales to reduce erosion.

Preston Hydrologic believes that the increased runoff from Los Pinos Phase One will not increase erosion in Key Gully. They base that opinion on three factors: a USGS estimate of soil-erosion potential in the area, reduced peak flow, and slower water velocity at the peak.

Potential Problems

Section 5.3 of the drainage analysis cites an inventory of potential problems. Among them: Colony Ridge. Preston’s report says, “Currently, a large developing area adjacent to the Harris-Liberty County line may create problems for water quantity and quality. This development is large-lot rural and uses underground septic systems located in the effective floodplain area of Luce Bayou. Additionally, it is possible that inadequate drainage infrastructure is being provided in the area, which could lead to a possible increase of floodwater peak flow rates downstream in Harris County.”

For the complete drainage analysis, click here.

Other LH Ranch Property West of FM 2100

West of FM 2100, LH Ranch LTD and Friendswood Development applied to the Houston Planning Commission for plat approval of a 927-acre parcel on 8/4/22. This parcel is immediately west of the two projects discussed above. It drains into the East Fork on the left edge of the map below.

No further details are available at this time. I will watch it closely in the future months. One thing is clear: Huffman will never be the same.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/9/22

1806 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.

RV Park Being Built in Luce Bayou Floodway, Floodplain

An angry Houstonian wrote me earlier this week about a new RV park. It lies mostly in the floodway of Luce Bayou next to Huffman/Cleveland Road – near rotting shells of abandoned homes, repeatedly flooded. This is inside the City of Houston. So the City permitted it, not Harris County.

“The Retreat” Will Debut This Year

The developer bills it as an RV and camping resort called The Retreat. Copy says, “The premier destination is planned to include RV camping sites, cabins, tiny homes, wagons, and elevated yurts. Families, couples, and groups of all ages can enjoy fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, walking trails, boating, outdoor games, lounging at the pool, and more!” Sounds idyllic until you drive around in the surrounding neighborhoods and see all the flood wreckage.

Is This Type of Development Safe for This Location?

I’m sure the developer will argue that:

  1. The RVs are technically vehicles that can be moved out of harm’s way when floods come up.
  2. Any permanent structures are built on higher ground in the 500-year floodplain.
  3. A retention pond will offset any increase in runoff.

But do these arguments really hold water?

  1. Will owners have time to evacuate everyone?
  2. Will the ground be high enough after floodplain maps are redrawn?
  3. How much water will the detention pond hold back if the river exceeds its banks?

See more below.

Enough Evacuation Time?

Imelda dumped 6.4 inches of rain in ONE HOUR. And 3.8 inches in 30 minutes. Upstream at FM1485, water came out of the East Fork by two miles. It moved so fast, it washed homes off foundations and swept cows into ditches where they died.

During Harvey, people up and down the West Fork woke up in the middle of the night with water coming into their homes.

An architect who designs RV resorts told me it can easily take a novice half an hour to lower the trailer; disconnect electricity, water and septic lines; and hitch up a truck – in ideal conditions.

Now imagine you’re doing it during an intense rainfall and moving to the exit with a hundred other campers…at night…onto a two lane blacktop road…as the bridge goes under water…and the kids are crying.

How High is High Enough?

According to the Weather Channel, just two feet of water is enough to carry away most vehicles. They also say that water levels in flash floods can rise a foot in just five minutes. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and potential stalling. Finally, they say that water flowing at just 7 mph has as much force per unit area as wind in an EF5 tornado.

During Imelda, Archie Savage and Rosemary Fain, who live upstream, documented water bridging from the East Fork San Jacinto to Luce Bayou. If that happened again, campers could find themselves potentially cut off from escape routes.

Worse, flood maps have not yet been updated from Harvey and Imelda. The new 100-year flood is based on roughly 30-40% more rainfall. So floodways and floodplains in updated maps will soon expand beyond those shown below.

Moreover, thousands of acres upstream in Liberty County are being clearcut and developed without detention ponds. That will almost certainly increase the speed and level of floods, which can already be bad at this location. And even when flood maps ARE updated, they won’t reflect the impact of all the clearcutting at Colony Ridge.

The following images tell the story.

Photos and Maps

This image shows the location of the developer’s property between Luce Bayou and Huffman-Cleveland Road. The inter-basin transfer canal cuts across the bottom of the frame and FM2100 cuts diagonally through the upper right. Lake Houston is out of frame at the bottom.
FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer shows the extent to which the floodway and floodplains of Luce Bayou infringe on the property. All but the northwest corner near the letter “I’ is currently in a floodplain or floodway. That could soon change when flood maps are updated from Harvey.
FEMA’s base flood elevation viewer shows that in a 100-year flood, about three quarters of the property would go under 5 or more feet of water. Another 10-20% would go under 1-4 feet. Again, these maps are based on pre-Atlas 14 data.
The Retreat RV Resort and Campground
The lower part of the property is just a few feet about the river level.
Looking south toward the Huffman-Cleveland Road Bridge over Luce Bayou.
The detention pond actually appears to be several feet lower than the bayou. That won’t hold back much water in a flood. Note the green color.

No Prohibition, But Plenty of Warnings

Evidently, no laws or regulations prohibit this type of development. Chapter 19 of the City Code of Ordinances contains floodplain regulations but does not address recreational vehicles. Chapter 29 addresses recreational vehicles but does not address floodplains.

However, a website called RVParkUniversity.com which advises RV Park investors says, “RVs do float – but they’re not designed to. Floodplain and RVs do not get along well. So if you’re looking at buying an RV park that has “floodplain” shown on the survey, it cannot be taken lightly. Flood plains destroy your ability to obtain a loan, find a future buyer, and create huge liability for you with your customers.”

Also, the Texas Water Development Board advises people camping near water to ask the park operator about flood warnings and evacuation plans. The State does have regs that govern RV parks in floodplains. The problem is, the rules are easily circumvented. For instance, people can not leave campers in the same location for more than 180 days. But nothing prevents owners from getting around that by moving them to the next pad. In this way, temporary recreational amenities become permanent residences.

Up and down the East Fork, developers are building more such facilities.

Yesterday, I posted about how we often sow the seeds of our own disasters. This could be one of those cases in the making. Are we putting people in harm’s way without anticipating the speed or magnitude of the next big flood?

Posted by Bob Rehak on February 26, 2021

1277 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 526 since Imelda

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.

Mobile Hurricane Harvey Recovery Center Coming to Huffman April 15

Houston City Council Member Dave Martin reminds residents of an upcoming Mobile Hurricane Harvey Recovery Center event taking place in Huffman tonight. Intake specialists will be available to assist families with guidance on recovery programs and resources under the City of Houston Homeowner Assistance Program. 

Melissa Sturgis #1
Harvey Damage. Photo courtesy of Melissa Sturgis.

The event will take place on/at:

  • Monday, April 15
  • 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.,
  • May Community Center
  • 2100 Wolf Road, Huffman, TX 77336

Take Survey First: Online, By Phone or In Person

If you were affected by Hurricane Harvey, please take the Harvey Recovery Survey before the upcoming event:

The Recovery Survey directs residents to the appropriate recovery program and helps prioritize those with urgent needs. The survey requires no documentation and takes less than 15 minutes to complete. While priority will be given to low- and moderate-income homeowners, assistance is available to homeowners of all income levels. An Intake Specialist will contact you after you complete the Survey regarding next steps. 

If you need assistance filling out the Survey, please call 832-393-0550 or visit one of the stationary HRC’s. The closest is at: Northeast: 9551 N. Wayside, Houston, Texas 77028.

It is open Monday and Tuesday, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday from 9:00 to 3:00 p.m. These centers are closed on Sundays. For a map, please click here

$1.17 Billion in Assistance Available

The City received the $1.17 billion for housing recovery through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State of Texas General Land Office. The recovery funds include the HoAP, which offers five program options including: 

  • Reimbursement for completed repairs
  • Homeowner-managed rehabilitation
  • City-managed rehabilitation and reconstruction
  • Buyouts
  • Interim mortgage assistance.

For more information, regarding this project please contact the Houston Recovery Center by calling 832-393-0550. 

Posted by Bob Rehak on April 15, 2019

594 Days since Hurricane Harvey