Tag Archive for: Humble

A Townsen Bridge Across Spring Creek?

Developers are working toward building a bridge over Spring Creek and a road that would connect Townsen Boulevard in Humble with the Grand Parkway in Montgomery County. However, City and County authorities on both sides of the county line say they know nothing tangible about the bridge yet.

I’ve talked to several engineers about this property. One said that if the bridge gets built, it will open thousands of acres to development. A second said that if the property gets developed, it would be like “aiming a firehose at Kingwood and Humble.” A third cautioned that when the developer sees the new floodway and floodplain maps, a bridge will likely become cost prohibitive.

The developers in question have not returned calls, but here’s what we know so far based on publicly available information and several Freedom-of-Information-Act Requests.

Bridge Rumored for More than a Decade

The Army Corps of Engineers first issued a permit for a bridge in 2009. Last year, it issued an extension of the permit that requires completion of the work by 12/31/2026.

Map shown on Page 25 of Corps Permit Extension shows a 100-foot-wide right of way with twin bridges north- and southbound.

However, the Montgomery County Engineer’s Office and Harris County Flood Control say no one has applied for any permits with them yet to actually build a bridge. Regardless…

Company Purchases Land, Sets Up Mitigation Companies

The landowner on the north side of Spring Creek has purchased a small parcel of land on the south side of the creek at the current terminus of the Townsen Blvd. extension. Thus they would control the land needed for a bridge.

Pacific Indio owns thousands of acres north of the creek and one little parcel south of the creek where a bridge would terminate. From HCAD.org.

Pacific Indio controls another company called the Townsen Road Association and has also set up two mitigation companies. The latter are significant because the Army Corps permit contains an extensive discussion of mitigation needs.

MoCo Transportation Plan and Developers Promotional Material Show Bridge, Road

The Montgomery County Transportation Plan shows the extension of Townsen north to the Grand Parkway from where Townsen currently ends at Spring Creek.

Detail from Montgomery County Transportation Plan posted on MoCo Engineer’s website.

Also, a sign on westbound Grand Parkway indicates an exit for Townsen, but the road does not go through yet. Does TxDOT know something we don’t?

Ryko, the developer associated with the Pacific Indio land has announced its intentions to build the connecting road and 7,000 lots.

Subsidiaries Formed

Another company, Skymark, also has considerable floodplain holdings in Montgomery County under a variety of corporate shells, such as Hannover Estates, Headway Estates and the CFW Family Limited Partnership. The Secretary of State SOS Direct database shows that Skymark principal Clinton F. Wong controls 231 companies including Townsen Holdings and Townsen Landing.

From Texas SOS Direct. Note notation in lower right. This is page 7 of 24 containing a total of 231 companies.

The Montgomery County Appraisal District website shows that many of Wong’s holdings border Pacific Indio’s. And Skymark owns most of the land south of Spring Creek where the bridge would be built. See more below.

References in Intercontinental MUD Minutes

June 2022 minutes of the Intercontinental MUD board meeting reference Townsen Mitigation, one of Pacific Indio’s subsidiaries.

The minutes also reference a settlement between the EPA and Skymark.

Purchase Offer Reportedly Turned Down

Harris County Flood Control reportedly offered to buy this land several years ago, but Ryko wanted “an insane amount of money.” This could have been an indication that the owner felt confident in its ability to develop the land and profit from it.

…But Project Would be Very Difficult to Develop

FEMA shows large floodways and floodplains on both sides of the creek that any road would have to go over or through. Keep in mind that the map below does not yet show the new Post-Harvey flood hazards. They will reportedly expand by 50- to 100%.

From FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer. Note: the image shows Pre-Harvey flood hazards. Post-Harvey maps have not yet been released, but should be soon.

Permit plans also show at least 9 other stream crossings along the way north. Those would expand, too, with the new floodplain maps.

Finally, the project would cross numerous wetlands.

Wetlands on Pacific Indio Property near the confluence of three major waterways: West Fork San Jacinto, Spring Creek, Cypress Creek. From from National Wetlands Inventory,

Legal History

The Bender Estate, which previously owned approximately 800 acres of undeveloped land in the northwest quadrant of Humble, granted a Right-Of-Way easement to Ryko Development to construct a road that would ultimately cross Spring Creek and service the planned development between Spring Creek and 99 on the Pacific-Indio Property.  

Skymark Development later purchased those 800 acres from the Bender Estate and started to develop them.

According to Jason Stuebe, Humble City Manager, after Humble began to re-construct Townsen, Ryko presented the easement to Humble and stated they intended to connect into Townsen Blvd.

This caused consternation as it didn’t fit with the city’s plans for reconstructing Townsend. All parties (including Ryko and Skymark) went to court. They reached a settlement sometime in 2018 that gave Ryko two years to begin constructing the roadway. 

EPA Delays Road

However, a cease-and-desist order from the EPA delayed the work; Skymark inappropriately filled in some wetlands elsewhere on its property. Once the EPA recognized that Ryko’s road was not affiliated with the wetlands issue, EPA allowed Ryko to proceed with constructing the road. 

In 2019, Humble City Council approved the plat dedicating the roadway as a public Right-Of-Way once completed. Then COVID delayed the road again. An exception to the settlement was made. Construction has since resumed, albeit slowly. 

New Townsen Landing development
Extension to Townsen Boulevard under construction where it stops at Spring Creek. Photo taken 9/26/2022.

Stuebe stated, “Because the road actually leads out of our jurisdiction, I have no further information on the status of its permitting with either Harris County or the state with regard to crossing Spring Creek. Once the roadway is completed, inspected and approved by the City Engineer and Public Works, it will become a right of way of Humble.”

I suspect that the bridge is more of a dream than a done deal at this point. Despite obstacles, attempts are being made to put all the pieces of the puzzle into place. But high hurdles remain.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/19/22

1908 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.


New Development on Townsend in Humble Almost Finished Clearing

Developers have virtually finished clearing approximately 70 acres on Townsend Blvd. West in Humble. The land is immediately north of Sam’s Club and east of Walmart and Aldine ISD’s Jones Middle School. The image below from Google Earth shows the location of the land and the extent of clearing as of last April. At that time, about a quarter of the property had not been cleared. See red oval.

Trees in red oval are now gone. See pictures below.

The two photos below show the land in the red oval as of 9/24/22.

Looking west at newly cleared area toward Townsend and Aldine ISD’s Jones Middle School.
Looking East toward Costco (upper left) and Deerbrook Mall (upper right).

Two Large Detention Basins Already Built

Since my original post on this property, the developers have also built two large stormwater detention basins that comprise most of the eastern boundary.

Two large detention basins sit between the development to the east and the land that developers will build on.
A second basin lies between the larger one above and the drainage ditch to the north.

The basins are a bit hard to see in photograph above because everything is so monochromatic. But if you look closely, you can see backslope interceptor swales around them and drainpipes that lead down to the bottom of the basins. The purpose: to prevent erosion on the sides of the basins that could accelerate siltation in drainage ditches and reduce their conveyance. Such swales represent a best practice.

Leaving the stand of trees on the left above also represents a best practice. Why? The land slopes toward the trees. Had a heavy rain hit the site before the basins were built, the trees would have intercepted runoff and prevented silt from entering the ditch in the background by the power lines.

Three residential developers appear to own all parcels that comprise this cleared area. They include Hannover Estates, Townsen Landing LLC, and Headway Estates LTD. A three-year-old article in Community Impact quoting Saratoga Homes suggests that 357 single-family homes and townhomes are planned for this location.

Here’s what the site looked like in April 2022.

Near Floodplain

The site is near the commercial center of northeast Harris County. But unfortunately, it’s also near the floodplain of the San Jacinto West Fork and Spring Creek. So flood risk is high. And will be going higher.

From FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer. Red oval indicates location of development.

Note the dates on the map above. One portion is 2014 and the other 2007. Both predate Harvey and NOAA’s new Atlas 14 rainfall statistics. These floodplains could soon expand and take in portions of the new development.

Harris County Flood Control (HCFCD) has submitted preliminary flood maps to FEMA for review. FEMA could release the preliminary maps as early as next year. Preliminary guidance from HCFCD is that floodplains will likely expand by 50%.

If that happens, these developers could be caught between rising interest rates and widening floodplains. That will squeeze profits. I talked to one developer last week who is choosing to retire now rather than ride out another recession.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/24/22

1852 Days since Hurricane Harvey

All Clear: New Development in Humble Near Floodplain

While driving home from Humble this afternoon along Townsend Blvd. north of FM1960, I passed near a clearing so large and with trees piled so high that my jaw dropped into my lap.

I pulled over into the Aldine ISD school’s parking lot and put up a drone. The piles of downed trees looked about 30 to 40 feet tall. According to HCAD, several residential developers own the property in question. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the property contained wetlands. And according to FEMA, the property sits right on the edge of the 500-year floodplain. But FEMA’s map dates to 2014. This sits just west of Costco where Harris County Flood Control District took all those signature shots of Harvey flooding.

Photos Taken 4/3/2022

I took the pictures below this afternoon.

Looking NW from over Sam’s rear parking lot for trucks.
Panning left from first shot. Looking W toward Townsend Blvd. That’s Walmart in the upper left and Aldine ISD’s Jones Middle School in the upper right.
Looking SE from over Townsend toward Humble Deerbrook Mall in upper left and Sam’s in upper right. FM1960 is out of sight beyond Sams. Note wet area above leftmost trees and see Wetlands Map below.
Drone was at about 35 feet for this photo. Note how you cannot see roof of middle school. And some points in log piles appear higher than camera.
Fallen trees on cleared land in Humble.
Trees are almost as tall lying down as they were standing up.

Location Relative to Floodplains

Location of floodplains relative to property circled in red. Background map is from FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer. Note the flood map is based on 2014, pre-Harvey data and is currently being revised. Floodplains may expand.

Because no one lived on these parcels during Harvey, I’m not sure whether they flooded. Perhaps someone who lives nearby can tell me.

Property Had Some Wetlands

The large green spot in the center of the red circle appears to roughly correspond to the wet spot in the third photo from the top. From USFWS National Wetlands Inventory.

Plans for Property Not Yet Clear

The parcels of land in Harris County Appraisal District’s Map don’t exactly match what you see cleared in the photos above. Three residential developers appear to own all parcels in the vicinity. They include Hannover Estates, Townsen Landing LLC, and Headway Estates LTD. I saw no signage on the site indicating a name for a future development.

Altogether the parcels of land total more than 3.1 million square feet or about 71 acres.

I have not yet obtained construction plans or a drainage analysis for this land.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/3/2022

1678 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.

April 7 Meeting on Spring Creek Flood Control Dams

Spring Creek Flood Control Dams are back in the news. The San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) recently announced the first of three meetings related to a feasibility study. So save the date – April 7.

According to Matt Barrett of the SJRA, this feasibility study is a continuation of the Spring Creek Siting Study which came out of the San Jacinto Regional Watershed Master Drainage Plan project (SJMDP). The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and multiple partner agencies including SJRA developed the Master Drainage Plan. 

Overview of Feasibility Study 

The Spring Creek Siting Study from December 2020 explored multiple alternative locations that could provide flood-mitigation benefits to the Spring Creek watershed. Two of the more cost-effective were dams on Walnut and Birch Creeks.   

The Spring Creek Flood Control Dams Feasibility Study will include:

  • A conceptual design for each dam
  • Benefits and costs for each dam and a combination of the two dams.  

The goal: to determine the most feasible and economical alternative(s) for possible future design and construction. 

The cost of the study is estimated at $1 million. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) grant program will provide half.  City of Humble, HCFCD, and five (5) Municipal Utility Districts will fund the other half.  SJRA is performing in-kind services to reduce the local match amount to be funded by the Partners. 

One Crucial Step of Many

This project is currently only in the feasibility phase. Construction of one or both dams, if feasible, would likely not occur for several years. Partners still need to identify a project sponsor and funding. They also need to perform final design, obtain environmental permits, and acquire land.

Details of Public Input Meeting

Public input and participation are critical components of this study, and SJRA wants to hear from you.  A public meeting related to the study will be held on/at the following date and location:

Thursday, April 7, 2022 

6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

Fields Store Community Center 

26098 FM 362 

Waller, Texas  77484 

The meeting will be in an open-house format, allowing members of the public to come and go at their convenience at any time between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.  A five-minute, high-level, project-summary presentation will be given at 6:00 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.  

Between these presentations, project team members will answer questions and collect input.  If you can’t attend in person, you can view the summary presentation on SJRA’s Facebook page following the meeting. You may also submit questions via email and the project team will answer them. 

Project Location

Below, see preliminary maps.  These project areas could change based on the results of study efforts. 

The proposed Spring Creek Flood Control Dams would lie in far northeastern Waller County, a few miles west of Magnolia in Montgomery County.

The next map shows parcels of land that partners would need to acquire to develop the project(s).

Preliminary map of Birch and Walnut Creeks flood control dams. Extent of inundation limits subject to change during study.
One more public engagement meeting will be held this summer. The third will happen after partners release the draft report in February, next year.

Projected Benefits of Projects

As presently conceived, the Birch Creek dam could reduce water surface elevations by a half foot in a 100-year storm for almost 26 miles downstream. The larger Walnut Creek dam could produce a similar benefit for 41 miles downstream.

Each would cut the annual chance of exceedance (ACE) in half for the people in the affected areas. Thus, a hundred year storm would only have the impact of a 50-year storm.

Barrett currently estimates that the Birch Creek Dam could remove 815 structures from the 100-year floodplain and the Walnut Creek Dam could remove 1205. However, he also points out that those numbers will likely change as a result of updated modeling in the current study now underway.

How much would these dams benefit people in the Lake Houston Area? Barrett admits the impact would be small that far downstream. But he also points out that these represent the first two of 16 similar projects proposed in the Master Drainage Plan, and that they could have a major cumulative impact.

Every little bit helps. Even if you can’t attend the meeting, I hope you submit a public comment via email in support of the project.

How to Learn More and Provide Public Comment

For a fact sheet on each of the two proposed dams, click here.

For more information about the Spring Creek Flood Control Dams Feasibility Study, please visit www.SpringCreekStudy.com.

You can submit comments at the public meeting and throughout the duration of the study. Email comments to floodmanagementdivision@sjra.net, or submitted online at www.SpringCreekStudy.com

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/18/2022

1662 Days since Hurricane Harvey