Tag Archive for: Perry homes

Rate of Woodridge Village Excavation Increases 47%

The rate of excavation for another stormwater detention basin on the Woodridge Village property picked up 47% in the last five weeks. That’s compared to the weekly average since Sprint Sand and Clay began excavating last year under the terms of its Excavation and Removal (E&R) contract with Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD).

  • The current weekly rate is the highest since last July.
  • As of:
    • January 30, 2023, Sprint had excavated 80,360 cubic yards (CY)
    • March 6, 2023, Sprint has excavated 93,023 CY, according to HCFCD.
  • Dividing the difference by five weeks, yields an average of 2,532.6 CY per week.
  • The weekly average since the start of excavation 54 weeks ago equals 1722.7 CY.
  • So, the February/early March data is an increase of more than 800 cubic yards per week compared to the long-term average, a 47% increase.

Demand for dirt under E&R contracts varies with housing starts and road construction. Housing starts have slowed greatly in recent months as interest rates have increased to cool inflation. It’s not clear yet whether the increased rate of excavation represents a temporary blip or the beginning of a turnaround in the market for dirt.

Then and Now Photos

Here’s the extent of excavation on the new pond as of January 24, 2023.

Woodridge Village Detention Pond #6
Woodridge Village Detention Basin #6 at the end of January 2023. Contractors have not yet connected the new basin to others.

Here’s how the new basin looks today from approximately the same location – much longer!

Same location at start of March.
Sprint has not yet reached the end of S1, the detention basin on the right.
Looking south toward Kingwood. Sprint has the width of four or five more houses to go before it reaches as far as the end of S1. The tree line in the background is the Harris/Montgomery County line.

Increased Rate is Welcome News

The increase in the excavation rate is welcome news for residents who flooded twice in 2019, thanks in large part to Woodridge Village construction practices. Perry Homes left the aborted development about 40% short of Atlas-14 requirements. Since then HCFCD and the City of Houston bought the site and are working on ways to reduce flood risk.

E&R contracts give HCFCD a low-cost head start on mitigation as engineers finalize plans. Knowing that they will need additional stormwater detention capacity, HCFCD established a flexible contract with Sprint for only $1,000. It lets Sprint remove up 500,000 CY and sell the dirt at market rates. This virtually eliminates a major construction cost and provides major savings to taxpayers.

Sprint is obligated to remove a minimum average of 5,000 CY per month and must place the dirt outside of the 100-year floodplain. The contract lasts three years.

Sprint will excavate within the red line. If they move the total 500,000 cubic yards, they will more than double stormwater detention capacity on the site.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/6/2023

2015 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1264 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.

Mitigation Update: 3rd Anniversary of First Elm Grove Flood

Back in 2019, portions of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest Villages flooded twice. The first time occurred on May 7th. According to Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) report on the storm, “A 30-min rate of 2.9 inches was recorded at US 59 and the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and a 1 hour rate of 4.0 inches.”

“380 structures were flooded in the Elm Grove Village subdivision and other nearby subdivisions in the northern portions of Kingwood.”

Investigation by HCFCD the following day revealed that “… the flooding was potentially caused by development upstream in Montgomery County that sent large volumes of sheetflow into the subdivisions and Taylor Gully.” This video shows the sheetflow pouring out Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village property into homes along Village Springs Drive.

Perry contractors had clearcut 267 acres without installing the required detention ponds when the rain hit.

In the three years that followed, I posted 242 reports about every aspect of that flood and a second one during Imelda. The second flood affected two to three times more homes in the same areas.

The floods triggered multiple lawsuits which Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors finally settled late in 2021.

What It Looked Like

Shady Maple the night of the May 7 2019 flood
Escape. In Elm Grove on Shady Maple the night of the May 7, 2019 flood.
High water rescue
Rustling Elms Bridge in Elm Grove underwater as school bus tries to cross it.
Water in Keith Stewart's home on Shady Maple after May 7th flood in 2019.
Water rising at night in Keith Stewart’s home on Shady Maple after May 7th flood in 2019.

Catalog of Flood Mitigation Efforts

Ever since the Elm Grove floods, Harris County, HCFCD, the City of Houston, Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s team and others have worked diligently to reduce future flood risk.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, it may bring flooded families comfort to understand how far we have come. Much remains to do, but much has already been done, or at least started.

Major Maintenance on Taylor Gully

Even before the second flood, HCFCD undertook a major maintenance project on Taylor Gully to remove accumulated sediment and restore channel conveyance.

The project began in 2019. Work extended downstream to the natural portion of the channel. It finished in 2021.

Taylor Gully maintenance
HCFCD working to remove sediment buildup in Taylor Gully near the Maple Bend Bridge in January of 2021. The work began upstream near Rustling Elms in July 2019.

Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis and Taylor Gully Study

In 2019-20, HCFCD, Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (TIRZ 10), and City of Houston teamed up to conduct a drainage analysis for all streams in the Kingwood area. A recommendation to prioritize engineering of drainage improvements along Taylor Gully (including Woodridge) came out of that study.

The Flood Control District began preliminary engineering study on the Taylor Gully improvements in 2021. HCFCD anticipates presenting results during late summer or early fall this year.

Purchase of Woodridge Village By County and City

In early 2021, the Flood Control District and the City of Houston partnered to acquire the 267.35-acre Woodridge Village property for approximately $14 million.

They closed on the purchase of Woodridge Village in March 2021.

Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin lobbied the City to purchase about 70 acres of the property.

HCFCD will use the remaining 194.35 acres of the Woodridge site for stormwater detention. That will help reduce flood risk.

Crenshaw Earmarks

Congressman Dan Crenshaw secured an earmark for $1.6 million for engineering of flood mitigation improvements along Taylor Gully. The engineering should shrink the floodplain. That will effectively remove 387 structures from the floodplain and has the potential to remove another 62.

Crenshaw also has another earmark pending for $10 million to actually construct the improvements recommended by the study.

Local groups must spend earmarks during the fiscal year in which Congress approves them. So funding can’t get too far ahead of the engineering.

Taylor Gully Preliminary Engineering Study

The Taylor Gully study will look at Woodridge in conjunction with other potential Taylor Gully improvements. However, HCFCD must perform additional preliminary engineering to further evaluate specific alternatives for Woodridge and determine the best. 

During each study, HCFCD will hold Community Engagement Meetings to present alternatives and gather feedback.

Excavation & Removal Contract

In January 2022, HCFCD began work on a Woodridge Excavation and Removal (E&R) project.

Start of the new floodwater detention basin that could double the capacity on Woodridge Village.This pond should ultimately expand beyond the lone trees in the middle of the frame near the top. Photo taken 4/30/22.

E&R projects provide a head start on the excavation process and risk reduction. They can start before the design of a stormwater detention basin. Contractors excavate a set amount of material within an agreed-upon timeframe and general area.

The excavation can also potentially provide interim stormwater storage while awaiting the design and construction of the final stormwater detention basin.

As of April 30, 2022, 36,421 cubic yards of material has already been removed from the site. See photo above taken that day. The project will remove as much as 500,000 cubic yards of soil and other material.

Woodridge will remain an active construction zone for up to three years.

Have a Happy Mother’s Day this weekend.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/6/2022

1711 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1096 Days since May 7, 2019

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.

Woodridge Village Detention Ponds Passed Sunday Test, But…

On Sunday morning, Jeff Miller, an Elm Grove resident who lives near Woodridge Village, reported 5.5 inches in his rain gage. That compares to a 6.24 inch rain that fell on Woodridge on May 7, 2019, when hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest flooded. Also, Woodridge falls about 40% short of current Atlas-14 standards required to hold back floodwater from a 100-year storm.

So you can understand how nervous Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents felt, especially considering that excavation of additional detention ponds on Woodridge Village has not yet started. Regardless, Woodridge did not flood homes across the county line this time. Here’s why.

Important Factors to Consider

Other important factors came into play last weekend that should relieve some of residents’ anxiety and help explain what happened.

First, remember that on May 7, 2019, Perry Homes’ contractors had clearcut 268 acres, but had barely begun work on detention ponds. Only one of five was complete.

Second, the intensity of the May 7, 2019 rain was higher than last weekend’s. On May 7, 6.24 inches fell in 5 hours. Last weekend, 5.5 inches fell in 9 hours.

Third, in 2019, the S2 detention area had been partially excavated but didn’t have any outflow control restrictions installed yet. So it didn’t really function as a detention pond.

Fourth, contractors had destroyed a berm between Elm Grove and Woodridge, and filled in a natural stream on Woodridge. Both have since been replaced.

Fifth, by current standards, last weekend we had a 5-year storm. But the detention ponds were designed to hold what today would be classified as a 25-year storm.

Photos Taken Sunday Morning

I took the photos below Sunday morning between periodic sprinkles, several hours after heavy rain stopped. They show how the current Woodridge Village detention handled the storm. All ponds were well within their banks. One was empty.

The triangular pond on the left is N2. N1 is out of sight above it. The two ponds on the right are S1 (foreground) and S2 beyond it. N3 is out of sight at the top of the frame.
S2 was about halfway to two-thirds full.
The tail of S2 is already silting in but had plenty of room to spare.
N3 Pond on eastern edge of property was supposed to have had an outflow control device but never got one.
The Junction where water from all five ponds comes together before flowing into Taylor Gully. N3 is at top of frame.
Reverse angle shot of the Junction with Taylor Gully in the background. Note how high the detention ponds are compared to the gully. The areas that flooded so badly in 2019 are just beyond the ponds.
Water coming from the big trianglar N2 pond now has to go through these twin culverts which were almost completely inundated.
Wider shot shows volume of water backed up in N2.
Only N1 in the NW corner of Woodridge was totally dry. The outflow capacity is much greater than the inflow. So this pond provides no detention benefit whatsoever. Local resident Jeff Miller says he has NEVER seen standing water in this pond.

Big Test and Additional Excavation Yet to Come

So the Perry-installed detention passed another test. But it was far from what college students would call a final exam.

Flood Control purchased this site last year and plans to turn it into a regional detention basin by more than doubling the detention capacity. However, the excavation contract lets the contractor take the dirt when it can be sold, while only meeting minimum monthly requirements which have not yet kicked in.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/11/2022

1596 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.

Porter Residents File Lawsuit Against Perry Homes, Its Subsidiaries, Contractors

In the continuing saga of the Woodridge Village fiasco, lawyers Jason Webster and Kimberley Spurlock have filed a new lawsuit on behalf of approximately 50 Porter residents who flooded on May 7th and/or September 19th in 2019. Webster and Spurlock previously filed lawsuits on behalf of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents who flooded on those same days.

Beating Statute of Limitations

Webster and Spurlock filed the new suit on May 5th, 2021. Normally, a two-year statute of limitations applies in such cases, according to one lawyer I talked to. So these plaintiffs just beat the deadline.

Documents filed yesterday with the District Clerk of Harris County make many of the same allegations made in the Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest flooding cases, with one crucial addition. These residents, who live on the west side of Woodridge Village, also claim that the defendants blocked drainage coming out of their neighborhoods, thus backing water up.

Contractors built Woodridge Village (right) up about 3 feet relative neighbors (left) without providing a path for water to drain. Note ponding water on left where plaintiff Chris Yates lives. Photo courtesy of Yates.

Legal Basis for Claims

Defendants allege that the proximate cause of flooding to their homes was an illegal impoundment of surface water caused by defective construction practices. They cite Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code. It states that “No person may divert or impound the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion or impounding by him to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another by the overflow of the water diverted or impounded.”

In relation to the alleged “defective construction practices, plaintiffs claim “Negligence, Negligent Retention, Negligent Supervision, Negligence Per Se, and Gross Negligence for the May 7, 2019 floods.” Pages 14 and 15 of their complaint claim 34 separate failures.

Plaintiffs also claim Negligence, Negligence Per Se and Gross Negligence against the developer defendants for the September 19th flood. In regard to those claims, they list 29 separate failures relating to inadequate construction.

Plaintiffs further allege defendants created a nuisance and “trespassed” on their property. From a legal point of view, trespass includes “causing something to enter another’s property.” In this case, the something was water.

List of Defendants

Defendants in the lawsuit include the developers, engineering company and contractors. They include:

  • Perry Homes, LLC (developer)
  • Figure Four Partners, LTD (a Perry Subsidiary)
  • PSWA, Inc. (another Perry Subsidiary)
  • LJA Engineering Inc.
  • Rebel Contractors, Inc.
  • Double Oak Construction, Inc.
  • Texasite, LLC
  • Concourse Development, LLC

LJA Played Central Role

LJA played a central role in the flooding. Perry and its subsidiaries hired LJA to engineer the development and help supervise contractors to ensure they were working to plan. Plaintiffs allege LJA:

  • Failed to follow the correct drainage guidelines for Montgomery County
  • Failed to enforce the construction schedule
  • Failed to provide adequate drainage
  • Failed to adequately model the development
  • Removed drainage channels
  • Caused water elevations to increase downstream
  • Failed to design adequate detention ponds
  • Failed to use the correct hydrology method
  • Failed to design emergency overflows
  • Failed to comply with the soil report produced by Terracon Consultants, Inc.
  • Failed to protect water runoff from flooding Plaintiff’s homes
  • Violated the contractors duty and standard of care.

Plaintiffs Seeking Compensation For…

Plaintiffs seek compensation for damages including:

  • Cost of repairs
  • Cost of replacement or fair market value of personal property lost, damaged, or destroyed
  • Loss of use of personal property
  • Loss of income and business income
  • Consequential costs incurred such as hotel accommodations and replacement costs
  • Mental anguish and/or emotional distress
  • Prejudgment interest
  • Post judgment interest
  • Attorneys’ fees
  • Court costs
  • Exemplary and punitive damages

Finally, the plaintiffs seek a jury trial to decide issues of fact in the case.

For Text of the Full Case and Expert Witness Report

For the full 32-page complaint, click here.

For the 253-page certificate of merit in the case, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/6/2021

1346 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 595 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.

Kathy Perry Britton Fights Being Deposed on Elm Grove Flooding

Lawyers for Perry Homes CEO, Kathy Perry Britton, have filed a motion for a protective order to quash a request for her deposition. The motion involves lawsuits against her company and its subsidiaries for two 2019 floods that affected hundreds of homeowners in Kingwood’s Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest. Ms. Britton’s basic argument: it’s beneath her.

Catch-22: Claims No Unique or Personal Knowledge

Ms. Britton’s attorneys claim she is an “apex-level” official and cannot be deposed without showing that she has “unique or personal knowledge” of discoverable information. This puts hundreds of plaintiffs in a Catch-22 situation – a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules or limitations.

In essence, Ms. Britton says defendants can’t depose her because she doesn’t have anything worth knowing. But without deposing her, how could they know that?

Talking Is Too Intrusive

Ironically, her lawyers assert that plaintiffs must learn what she knows through “less intrusive methods” than talking to her. Her lawyers maintain that CEOs live by different rules than the rest of us, and cite seven pages of legal precedents to support their opinion.

Duh!!!!!!!! Making the Case for Negligence?

To reinforce her argument, Ms. Britton personally claims:

  • “I have no first-hand, personal knowledge of any relevant facts…”
  • “I have no first-hand, personal knowledge of the flooding events…”
  • “I have no first-hand, personal knowledge of the construction or engineering practices followed by Perry Homes, Figure Four Partners, Ltd., PSWA, Inc., or any of the subcontractors hired to work on the Woodridge Village Development.”
  • “I have no first-hand, personal knowledge of the selection, hiring, retention, training, or supervision of any of the subcontractors on the Woodridge Village Development.”
  • “I have no first-hand, personal knowledge of any engineering or design requirements for the Woodridge Village Development.”
  • “I have no first-hand, personal knowledge of the engineering design or plans implemented or created for the Woodridge Village Development, including whether and how such plans were approved or followed.”
  • “I have no first-hand, personal knowledge as to whether the work performed at the Woodridge Village Development was properly supervised.”
  • “I have no first-hand, personal knowledge as to what work was performed (or not performed) at the Woodridge Village Development…”

Perhaps this is why so many people flooded! In my opinion, it seems Ms. Britton just admitted negligence.

What’s Proper Response for CEO?

One might think that after approximately 200 homes flooded in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest on May 7, 2019, that any competent CEO would have been all over this situation to make sure it didn’t happen again. After all, hundreds of lives were disrupted and the damages could involve tens of millions of dollars. It doesn’t seem like a good time to stick your head in the sand.

If I were the CEO, I would at least investigate to see if my companies had any liability.

Bob Rehak

But no! Ms. Britton now lays bare the problem. The CEO kept her distance. It wasn’t her problem. And then it happened again.

Two to three times as many homes flooded during Imelda – only five months later. For the same reasons. And, if we take her at her word, she still kept her distance.

The floods were important enough for the Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo; Dave Martin, the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Houston; and US Congressman Dan Crenshaw to visit Elm Grove. But not Kathy Perry Britton.

Talk About Intrusiveness!

Sitting for a deposition in a comfortable conference room seems far “less intrusive” than having several feet of muddy floodwater invade your home, destroy your belongings, and ruin your vehicles. (Ms. Britton, if you want to know what “intrusive” is, see below.)

Abel and Nancy Vera live next to Woodridge Village (in the background beyond the trees). They burned out two power washers trying to get several inches muck off their driveway after Imelda.
Vehicle destroyed in Imelda flood. Vera neighbor on Village Springs in Elm Grove.
Water in Keith Stewart's home on Shady Maple after May 7th flood in 2019.
Water in Keith Stewart’s home on Shady Maple after May 7th flood in 2019.
The hopes and dreams of children were dragged to the curb for the second time in five months after the September 19th flood in Elm Grove.
US Congressman Dan Crenshaw talking with Elm Grove residents whose homes were destroyed in the September 2019 flood.

It’s curious that a US Congressman took the time to get personal, first-hand knowledge of the floods in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. But Kathy Perry Britton could not. Perhaps picking wallpaper for her new model homes was more important.

I hope the judge in this case quashes the protective order. Read the full text of Ms. Britton’s Motion for a Protective Order here.

Read Plaintiff’s latest amended petition here.

For more about the history of the Woodridge Village fiasco see:

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/24/2021

1334 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 583 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.

Harris County, City of Houston Finally Close on Purchase of Woodridge Village Property

Today, almost two years after Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village development first contributed to flooding Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest in Kingwood, Harris County and the City of Houston finally purchased the aborted, ill-conceived development.

Current plans are for the City of Houston to build a wastewater treatment plant on the northern portion. Harris County Flood Control District will use the southern portion to build a regional floodwater detention center. The latter should alleviate flooding problems adjacent to the development as well as other areas farther downstream on Taylor Gully.

Exact Plans for Additional Detention Capacity Not Yet Developed

It is not immediately clear how much additional detention pond capacity HCFCD will build on the property or where. However, on February 9, 2021, HCFCD hired an engineering company to develop preliminary plans.

A press release issued today by Harris County Flood Control said, “The next step is to undergo an engineering analysis to maximize stormwater detention volume, quantify the benefit to the community and determine project cost and funding. Additional community engagement will be scheduled to gather input from area residents on the proposed project and to present project alternatives.”

History of Flooding

The flooding problems began on May 7, 2019 when approximately 200 homes flooded from sheet flow coming from the development. Two to three times that number of homes flooded on September 19th, 2019 during Imelda.

Contributing factors included:

Eventually, Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors managed to build five detention ponds, but their capacity still fell about 40% short of Atlas-14 requirements. Thus, the development would have posed a risk forever after had Harris County and the City not stepped in.

Photos of Property Just Purchased

Here are pictures of Woodridge Village taken on 3/3/2021 from several different angles.

Woodridge Village looking SW from the NE corner of the property in Montgomery County. The diagonal near the top of the frame and the detention pond is the Harris/Montgomery County line. Ford Road is on left.
Looking SE from the NW corner over Webb Street in Porter. The land slopes from the corner in the foreground to the detention pond in the background. Taylor Gully starts just beyond the detention pond.
Looking west along the northern boundary. The City portion of the property will border the tree line on the left and extend into the small area at the top.
Looking east along the southern border. Camera position was over Kingwood Park High School.
Looking NE from the southern border over Sherwood Trails Village in Kingwood.
Looking north up Village Springs Drive in Elm Grove. Taylor Gully starts on the right at the county line just below the concrete junction.
Looking NW from over North Kingwood Forest. Taylor Gully is on bottom right. The land slopes toward the camera position.

More About the Sale

All of the 267.35 cleared acres fall within Montgomery County. But a provision within the 2018 Flood Bond allows Harris County to purchase land in other counties if it helps control flooding in Harris.

The Harris County Flood Control District and the City of Houston jointly purchased the property for approximately $14 million. The Flood Control District is using funds from the 2018 Bond Program (Bond ID Z-02) to acquire the land. The City of Houston contributed approximately $3.8 million dollars for the use and ownership of 73 acres on the northern part of the property.

Reaction from Government Officials

“This is a great example of government doing what government is supposed to do – listening to the people who live in those neighborhoods and working to protect them from future flooding,” said Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, who pushed this project through against opposition in Commissioner’s Court.

Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin also worked tirelessly to make the deal happen. It involved trading City land to the County for flood control projects and getting the City to adopt the County’s flood control standards. “This purchase is integral for investment in the future of the Kingwood area as well as many homes along the county line. Collaboration like this is essential in providing a sense of security to residents who have endured so much uncertainty these last few years,” said Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw lauded Cagle, Martin, and community support. “This is an important step forward in building a more resilient community,” he said.

State Senator Brandon Creighton said, “This type of partnership and investment will make Kingwood and surrounding areas better protected.”

State Representative Dan Huberty complimented the City and County for working together. “This is a great example of different areas of government working together to achieve the best outcomes for local residents,” he said.

Additional detention ponds are not yet built, but this is a huge step forward. A big “thank you” and “whew” to all involved.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/3/2021

1283 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 532 since Imelda

Webster, Spurlock Add Storm Water Solutions to Lawsuit for Elm Grove Plaintiffs

On December 17, 2020, Jason Webster and Kimberley Spurlock, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the 2019 Elm Grove lawsuits, added a ninth defendant in their eighth amended petition. The defendant is Storm Water Solutions, LLC at 16110 Hollister Street in Houston.

Complete List of Defendants

Defendants now include:

  • Developers:
    • Perry Homes, LLC
    • Figure Four Partners, LTD
    • PSWA, Inc.
    • Concourse Development, LLC
  • Contractors:
    • Rebel Contractors, Inc.
    • Double Oak Construction, Inc.
    • Texasite LLC
  • LJA Engineering, Inc.
  • Storm Water Solutions, LLC

Who Was Responsible for What and When

The eighth amended petition provides an overview of who allegedly did what and when, before Elm Grove flooded on May 7th and September 19th last year when water from Woodridge Village invaded Elm Grove and flooded up to 600 homes.

The developer defendants hired LJA, which had prepared the drainage plans for Woodridge Village, to prepare bid documents, plans and specifications, all of which required a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) for all potential contractors. The developer defendants and LJA, through the municipal utility district, hired Rebel, Double Oak, and Texasite. Rebel and Double Oak then obtained the necessary permits for the SWPPP.

Bombshell Allegations

Here’s where it gets interesting. Sometime after that, the developers hired Storm Water Solutions to implement the SWPPP. However, they allegedly told Rebel and Double Oak that they did not have to comply with the specifications in the SWPPP.

The southern part of Woodridge Village on May 9 from a drone. Elm Grove is on left. Note lack of any perimeter sediment controls. Screen capture from Jim Zura video.

One day after the May 7th flood, the developers hired Concourse to inspect the detention ponds on the development. Plaintiffs allege that Concourse did not advise the developer defendants to makes any changes. The plaintiffs also contend that ALL defendants failed to comply with the SWPPP. The TCEQ cited both Rebel and Double Oak for violations of their permits after the May 7th flood for failure to install sediment controls.

The suit alleges that the developer defendants failed to supervise and ensure Storm Water Solutions complied with the SWPPP.

Twin culverts at the county line were severely constricted by sediment after the May 7th flood. Note lack of sediment controls such as gabions (wire baskets filled with rock).

Specific Allegations against Storm Water Solutions in Lawsuit

Storm Water Solutions website claims the company provides “complete storm water regulatory compliance to land developers, commercial and residential builders, general contractors, and utility districts.”

But in Count 10, Paragraph 76, the suit charges Storm Water Solutions with Negligence, Negligence Per Se and Gross Negligence for both the May and September floods. Specifically, the alleged negligence includes failing to:

  1. Create an adequate storm water pollution prevention plan;
  2. Implement a storm water pollution prevention plan;
  3. Comply or follow the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan;
  4. Install reinforced filter fabric fences around the Development;
  5. Install adequate reinforced filter fabric fences around the Development;
  6. Comply with Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Construction General Permit No. TXR150000;
  7. Supervise the Contractor Defendants’ compliance with the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan;
  8. Enforce the provisions of the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan;
  9. Enforce and/or implement the best management practices under the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan for the Development;
  10. Implement the proper control measures on the Development;
  11. Ensure a sedimentation basin was constructed at the Development;
  12. Inspect the Development for failure to comply with the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan;
  13. Modify the best management practices after the May 7, 2019 occurrence;
  14. Comply with the plans and specifications for the Development;
  15. Pay proper attention;
  16. Provide notice or warning; and,
  17. Coordinate activities and/or conduct.

It also alleges they allowed:

  1. Storm water runoff into Plaintiffs’ properties;
  2. Discharge of storm water from the Development.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan Requirements, Objectives

The EPA provides this easy to follow document about what a SWPPP should include. SWPPP requirements include a site map, description of pollutant sources, controls to reduce pollutants, and maintenance and inspection procedures. Plans should also describe who:

  • Is on the stormwater pollution prevention team?
  • Will install structural stormwater controls?
  • Will supervise and implement good housekeeping programs, such as site cleanup and disposal of trash and debris, hazardous material management and disposal, vehicle and equipment maintenance, and so on?
  • Will conduct routine inspections of the site to ensure all BMPs are being implemented and maintained?
  • Will maintain the BMPs?
  • Is responsible for documenting changes to the SWPPP?
  • Is responsible for communicating changes in the SWPPP to people working on the site?
State of the S2 detention pond on May 9, 2019.

Plan objectives typically include:

  • Site stabilization ASAP
  • Protecting slopes and channels
  • Promoting infiltration of stormwater
  • Controlling the perimeter of the site
  • Protecting receiving waters adjacent to the site (Taylor Gully)
  • Following pollution prevention measures.
  • Minimizing the area and duration of exposed soils.
The southern part of Woodridge Village on May 9 from the ground.

For the complete text of the Eighth Amended Petition, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/25/2020 with thanks to Jim Zura

1214 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 461 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.

Harris County Approves Interlocal Agreement with City Concerning Woodridge Village

Today, Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Houston concerning the purchase of Woodridge Village from Perry Homes. On December 9, the City of Houston approved the same interlocal agreement. Today’s approval by the County brings both sides closer to a deal. But several details still remain to be worked out before closing the sale.

Remaining Details to Work Out Before Closing

Approval by both the City and County does NOT mean the purchase is automatically a done deal. Multiple surveys and appraisals must still be completed.

Any real-estate purchase is complicated, but this one is especially so because it involves three parties. Two of them want to split up the property and use it in different ways. They also want to pay for it in different ways.

  • As part of the deal, the City wants to purchase 77 acres out of the total 268 acres for itself to use as a wastewater treatment facility. The City wants to pay cash for that.
  • The remainder of the property, 191 acres, will be jointly owned, developed, operated and maintained by the City and Flood Control.
  • Flood Control’s agreement with the City says that the City will pay for its half of jointly owned acreage by donating other property that Flood Control can use to reduce the cost of other mitigation projects. 

The City and County must now get surveys and appraisals of all assets involved and agree on how to transfer them before closing. The clock is ticking.

The County’s separate purchase agreement with Figure Four gives the County until approximately March 1 to close the deal.

At Stake: Future of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest

Woodridge twice contributed to flooding Elm Grove Village in Kingwood last year. The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) hopes to build a regional flood detention facility there that would reduce flooding in Kingwood and along the San Jacinto East Fork.

Car submerged during Imelda at the end of Village Springs adjacent to Woodridge. Note the sediment laden water from the development. Photo courtesy of Allyssa Harris.

While Perry has completed detention ponds on the Woodridge site that were not present at the time of the flooding, the volume of detention still falls approximately 40% short of what Perry needs to meet Atlas 14 rainfall requirements.

How the Debate Went

County Judge Lina Hidalgo kicked off the discussion by stating she favored the proposal. Among her reasons:

  • Flood reduction in the Kingwood Area
  • Land that the County would get for other flood mitigation projects, especially along Halls and Greens Bayous.
  • Updating of the City’s drainage regulations to meet Atlas 14 requirements, even in the City’s ETJ

Russ Poppe, executive director of HCFCD noted that Perry had sunk $24 million into buying and clearing the property, and excavating detention ponds on it. He also said the property appraised at $19 million and that the County’s share of acquisition would be $5 million.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said that he initially had “grave concerns” about the acquisition but that Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s work had allayed them.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis raised concerns about the County getting stuck with the land if the City backed out of the deal.

But Robert Soard of the County Attorney’s office reassured him that if the City did not deliver, the deal was off BEFORE the County had to write a check.

Russ Poppe reassured everyone that when all conditions of the interlocal agreement were met, the commissioners would get a chance to approve the money before the deal was final.

In the end, the four commissioners and Judge Hidalgo all voted FOR the interlocal agreement. Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle thanked them all on behalf of 600 flood victims.

Video of the debate has not yet been posted.

Posted by Bob Rehak on December 15, 2020

1204 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 453 since Imelda

Houston City Council Unanimously Approves Motion to Purchase Woodridge Village from Perry Homes

This morning, Houston City Council unanimously approved the purchase of Perry Homes’ 268-acre Woodridge Village tract in Montgomery County.

The 268 acres of Woodridge Village could soon become public property to be used for stormwater detention, parks and wastewater treatment.

The ordinance that passed also included approval of an Interlocal Agreement between the City and Harris County Flood Control (HCFCD) that will govern the use and maintenance of the property as well as the terms of its purchase and development. See below.

As this deal wound its way through city and county political systems for the last 20 months, it morphed several times.

Terms of Deal that City Approved This Morning

Here’s what the City Council approved this morning:

  • Total purchase price = $14,019,316.00.
  • Of that, the City will contribute $4,021,500.00 in cash.
  • And of that, $3,830,000.00 will go toward sole ownership of 73 acres within the 268 acres that the City will use to build a new wastewater treatment plant.
  • The two parties will co-own, co-develop and co-maintain the rest of the property to be used for stormwater detention and parks.
  • The parties will split the cost of the remaining property 50:50 which will be jointly owned, developed, operated and maintained.
  • For its portion of the remaining cost, the City will donate property worth approximately $5,150,000 to HCFCD that the County can then use for flood control projects in areas of the City that flood.
  • The City will also, at a minimum, match Harris County’s detention and fill mitigation requirements.
  • The City will adopt and enforce NOAA’s new higher Atlas-14 Precipitation Frequency standards within the City and in the City’s extra-territorial jurisdiction.
  • The City agreed to require a minimum detention rate of 0.55 acre-feet per acre.
  • All this must happen within 120 days.
  • If the sale falls through, nothing in the terms of the agreement obligates the seller to perform additional flood mitigation.

County Must Now Approve on December 15

Harris County Commissioners Court must still approve the Interlocal Agreement in its December 15 meeting before it becomes effective.

Woodridge Village contributed to flooding hundreds of homes in Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest twice last year, because of insufficient detention.

No Mention of Lawsuits

Nothing in the terms of the sale or interlocal agreement mentions the hundreds of lawsuits that arose out of that flooding. They should not be affected.

Pace of Development To Depend on Speed of Funding

The Parties (City and County) agreed to jointly fund the cost of designing and constructing flood mitigation facilities on the Land and to work cooperatively to secure funding. They targeted completion of the project within five years.

Both Parties agree the Land can stay in its current condition until funds are jointly secured to build the project, which may be built in phases based upon available funding.

Any Project on the Land will involve gravity detention. In other words, no pumps will be involved. Perry Homes has already constructed approximately 60% of the required detention.

Stormwater Detention To Be Based on Current Needs

The amount of the Stormwater Detention allotted to each Party will be based on its pro rata share of costs contributed to the Project. The Parties agree that the Stormwater Detention shall only be used for mitigation of existing flood risks, and not to mitigate the flooding risks of any new developments that arise after the execution of this Agreement.

Martin Thanks Turner for Being Mayor for “All the People”

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin sponsored the ordinance that council approved this morning and worked to align support. Mayor Turner supported the agreement despite the fact that the majority of Kingwood voted for his opponent in the last mayoral election. In his presentation, Martin specifically commented on that and thanked the Mayor. He said that Turner promised after the election that he wanted to be mayor for all the people. Martin said this was proof that he was good to his word.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/9/2020

1198 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 447 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.

Woodridge Village Purchase on Wednesday’s Houston City Council Agenda

Houston City Council will consider two items Wednesday that could ultimately pave the way for the purchase of Woodridge Village from Perry Homes. Woodridge Village twice contributed to the flooding of hundreds of homes in Kingwood’s Elm Grove Village last year. For more than a year, the City, Harris County Flood Control and Perry Homes’ subsidiary Figure Four Partners, LTD have discussed purchasing the property and turning it into a regional flood-control detention basin.

268 acres currently owned by Perry Homes could be turned into a regional floodwater detention basin if the purchase is approved by Houston City Council tomorrow and Harris County Commissioners Court on December 15.

If successful, the City and HCFCD would work together to reduce the volume of water flowing out of the headwaters of Taylor Gully.

$4 Million in Cash from City Plus Land

The two agenda items are #59 and #65. They call for an interlocal agreement between the City and HCFCD to jointly purchase the property. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, the purchase price would total approximately $14 million. The City would pay approximately $4 million of that in cash. However, in the past, the City has also discussed the contribution of land to make up its 50% of the purchase price.

The City has also said in the past that it hopes to acquire a portion of the site outright in order to consolidate several wastewater treatment facilities in Kingwood outside of the San Jacinto floodplain. Presumably, the City’s cash would go toward the purchase of that part of the site. Both sides previously agreed to share equally in the purchase, operation, development, and maintenance of the rest of the 268 acres.

Requirements Imposed by Draft ILA from May

Earlier this year, I obtained a draft copy of the interlocal agreement by a FOIA request, which the State Attorney General partially redacted. In May, the City provisionally agreed to:

  • Adopt Atlas-14 precipitation frequency tables
  • Require a minimum detention rate of 0.55 acre-feet per acre of detention for any new development on tracts one acre or larger in size
  • Prohibit the use of hydrographic timing (flood-routing studies) as a substitute for any detention requirements, unless the project emptied directly into Galveston Bay.
  • Enforce these provisions both within the City and its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The volume of detention ponds currently on Woodridge Village is about 40% short of what the new higher Atlas-14 requirements dictate. The current detention was approved and construction started before Atlas 14 became effective in Montgomery County.

The use of flood-routing studies in Montgomery County to avoid building detention ponds has long been a controversial practice that downstream residents have fought.

Next Steps in Terms of Flood Mitigation

If Council approves the money and ILA tomorrow for the Woodridge Village purchase, Harris County Commissioners would take up the issue at their next meeting on December 15. Approval by both bodies certainly would make Christmas much merrier and more hopeful for hundreds of Kingwood families devastated by flooding last year.

Kudos to Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin for pushing this forward.

The outcome of the votes could affect projects considered in the Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis. If the purchase goes through, it could reduce or eliminate the need for widening and deepening Taylor Gully itself. It is not immediately clear whether the City and County have set deadlines for the design and construction of the detention basin.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/8/2020

1197 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 446 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.