Tag Archive for: New York Post

At Least Seven Investigations Launched into Colony Ridge

Today, Harris County joined the growing list of governmental agencies looking into Colony Ridge.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have already concluded their investigations and filed Federal lawsuits against the troubled developer.

On December 29, 2023, the New York Post reported that the Internal Revenue Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have all launched their own Colony Ridge investigations. Word on the street has it that even more investigations by other Federal agencies are underway.

Then on January 5, 2024, the Daily Wire reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened an investigation into Colony Ridge.

Finally, just today (1/9/24), Harris County Commissioners Court discussed investigating the flooding, housing and environmental impacts of Colony Ridge on Harris County. The County Administrators Office and Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey agreed to discuss forming a task force. They would then return to Commissioners Court for final approval of their task force recommendations.

Thrust of Many Investigations Still Uncertain

However, with the exception of the DOJ and CFPB, the direction of many of these investigations remains unknown.

For instance, the EPA could be investigating any of several different allegations, including wetlands, endangered species, and pollution violations.

Colony Ridge, which has grown at least 50% larger than Manhattan in a decade, has filled in ponds and wetlands. While the Army Corps bears initial responsibility for investigating wetlands violations, ultimately the EPA reviews permit applications under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Recently, the developer has been pushing into wetlands near Tarkington Bayou. I took the three photos below during in October 2023 while flying over the bayou. Despite a punishing drought, you can still see evidence of ponding.

A University of Waterloo (Ontario) study found that small isolated wetlands that are full for only part of the year are often the first to be removed for development. They enjoy fewer legal protections due to their apparent isolation from jurisdictional waters.

However, the study found that they can be twice as effective in protecting downstream lake or river ecosystems than those directly connected to them. The study labeled them “pollution-catching powerhouses.” Their disconnectedness makes them more effective pollution traps.

Previously, I reported that the TCEQ found raw sewage leaking from a lift station and sewers in Colony Ridge. TCEQ estimated that 48,000 gallons escaped into the Lake Houston watershed, which supplies drinking water for two million people.

To report environmental violations to the EPA, see this page.

Another possibility: EPA may also be looking into whether Colony Ridge displaced any threatened or endangered species. Texas Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say twelve threatened and endangered species live in Liberty County. Some reportedly live in the Colony Ridge Area.

For More Information

Since 2020, I have created more than 75 posts about different aspects of Colony Ridge – from missing drainage studies to sewage spills, rivers of mud, and more. To see links to all the posts, visit this page.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/9/2024

2324 Days since Hurricane Harvey

New York Post Publishes Gripping Exposé on Colony Ridge

Dana Kennedy of the New York Post published a 2,500-word exposé on Colony Ridge titled “Murders, cartels, squalor: Inside ‘colony’ near Houston accused of being ‘haven for illegal aliens.’”

Kennedy spent weeks researching and writing the article. She interviewed the developer as well as residents, neighbors, local officials and law enforcement. Her story includes 27 photos and a 10-minute video – rare for a daily newspaper. If you really want to get a feeling for Colony Ridge and its impact on surrounding areas, Kennedy’s article is a great place to start.

Summary Of Exposé

She delves into the development’s housing, population, criminal activity, drug cartels, roving dogs, gang activity, access issues and how it has become a magnet for illegal immigration.

In short, she covers why Governor Greg Abbott is making it part of a special legislative session that he called for next Monday. And why Texas’s 25 House Republicans have unanimously called for an investigation.

Kennedy then segues into how the developer markets the property to Hispanics, i.e., with owner financing, small down payments, and interest rates up to 15%. She also details the high foreclosure rates and the revolving door at the county courthouse that allows the developer to resell the same property multiple times.

From there, she turns her attention to the impacts on surrounding communities – homes flooded, FM1010 washed out, endless traffic snarls, a severed human hand that a dog dragged home, and plummeting property values. She lets disenchanted purchasers and neighbors tell their stories in their own words.

Developers Claim of Racism Disputed

The developer blames the criticism on racism among the locals. Former Plum Grove Mayor Lee Ann Penton-Walker disputes that. “We don’t have the infrastructure to take on all these new people. Hell, Houston doesn’t. New York doesn’t. Look what your mayor’s been saying lately. Is Eric Adams a racist?”

The developer’s claim of racism belies the fact that most of the criticism in the story came from Hispanics.

Kennedy ends her expose with some quotes from me about conditions “hazardous to human health.” They referred to TCEQ reports documenting sewage spills and poorly mitigated drainage.

How the Other Half Lives

All told, it’s a gripping story and a solid piece of journalism. It reminded me of the work done by a pioneering photojournalist in New York named Jacob Riis. He documented living conditions in New York City slums during the 1880s. Riis published a book called “How the Other Half Lives.” It served as a basis for future muckraking journalism by exposing the slums in New York to the City’s upper and middle classes.

I hope Kennedy’s work for the Post has a similar impact and brings Colony Ridge to national attention. Even more, I hope it brings about some much needed change.

Just hours after the Post published Kennedy’s story, the developers launched a PR counter-offensive. They hosted a tour of Colony Ridge for state legislators who will begin their investigation into the controversial development next week during their special session.

The address below probably won’t be on the PR tour.

Remnants of an American dream, thanks in part to the scarcity of fire hydrants in Colony Ridge.

For more about Colony Ridge drainage and related infrastructure issues, see these posts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/5/2023

2228 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.