Tag Archive for: RV Park

Centerpoint Utility Corridor Flooding Below RV Resort

Since development of the Laurel Springs RV Resort started last October, the Centerpoint easement below the development has turned into a small lake. It’s not clear at this point what caused the lake to develop. Several theories come time mind: increased runoff; sediment blocking drains; heavy January rains; poorly drained soils; illegal discharges; or some combination of the above. Regardless, this raises the most common question I encounter these days. “What happens when a developer builds its land up and sends water onto my property?”

Before Development

Here’s how the Centerpoint easement looked on October 25 last year when contractors started clearing land. Note the power lines in the small corridor left of the bigger one for railroad tracks. Also notice the tiny little ponds in the distance toward Hamblen Road at the top of the frame.

Looking SSE along the utility corridor and railroad tracks to the west of the RV resort shortly after clearing started on October 25, 2021.
In the month before that picture was taken, the gage at the 59 bridge recorded 6.68 inches of rain. Source: Harris County Flood Warning System.

According to Weather.gov, the 30 year average for October is 5.46 inches. So we got a little more than an inch above normal. Yet the corridor had only tiny amounts of ponding water.

January Photo Shows Ponds Expanding

On January 9, we had a large rainfall event and a photo that day shows the ponds expanded.

After heavy rains on 1/9/2022. Note small stream of water running down middle of utility corridor and two large ponds.

But also note how the larger pond in the distance stops well short of Hamblen Road in top right of frame.

We had 7.88 inches in January, more than 5″ of which fell on January 8th and 9th. Source: Harris County Flood Warning System.

February Rainfall One Third of Normal, But Ponds Continue to Grow

But since January 8/9, we’ve had very little rain. Nevertheless, the ponds have expanded into what one resident called a “lake” that blocked her hike down the utility corridor. See below.

Looking S toward Hamblen Road at top of frame. Pond now extends almost all the way to Hamblen.

The amazing thing is that the “lake” grew despite very little rain in February. As the chart below shows, we got 1 inch which is one third of the monthly average of 2.97 inches. Moreover, we got no significant rain for the 7 weeks before I took the picture above.

Gage at 59/West Fork San Jacinto shows 1 inch of rain for whole month of February. Source: Harris County Flood Warning System.

Yet the lake now stretches almost all the way to Hamblen! It’s getting bigger! So where’s the water coming from?

Water Not Coming West, East or South

It didn’t come from west of the railroad tracks. Union Pacific elevated those several feet above ground level.

Laurel Springs Lane has storm sewers that would have intercepted water from the east.

And water doesn’t usually flow uphill, so it didn’t come from the south either.

Much of it probably came from the north and the detention pond below which the developers drained into Edgewater Park on January 29.

stormwater runoff discharge
Contractors drained detention pond into Edgewater Park on January 29.

Prior to that, they also pumped water over the wall of the pond.

Laurel Springs RV Resort
Laurel Springs RV Resort pumping stormwater into Edgewater Park on 1/18/2022.
Contractors laying pipe under wall of detention pond to send stormwater into Edgewater Park
Then on January 31, contractors even tried to lay pipe through the wall of the detention pond to create a permanent conduit for stormwater into Edgewater Park.

Addition of Fill

They’re also bringing in fill to build up the RV Resort higher than the property around them. As they do so, they have been pushing standing water toward the utility corridor.

Looking west toward Centerpoint corridor just beyond tree line. Photo taken 2/10/22.

Lake Expands on One-Third Average Rainfall!

The bottom line is this.

Standing water in the Centerpoint utility corridor has increased as rainfall has fallen well below normal.

When you look around, there’s only one place this water could have come from.

I don’t want to beat this horse to death. But I get emails every day from people across northern Harris and southern Montgomery Counties. They worry about comparable issues. In essence, the emails say something like this: “A developer is building up land and flooding my property.”

I can understand the desire to build up land to avoid flooding on your own property. But we need to agree on ways to avoid flooding neighbors in the process. The answer probably lies in:

  • Higher detention pond requirements – The pond on this property holds half the current requirement.
  • Better construction practices and training, i.e., sloping all land toward detention ponds.
  • Meaningful inspections and penalties by authorities.
  • Publication of the penalties.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/28/2022

1644 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 Resort Pumping Stormwater Into Edgewater Park, Bringing in Fill

Lakewood Cove residents reported yesterday and today that contractors at the Laurel Springs RV Resort are pumping stormwater from their detention pond into Precinct 4’s Edgewater Park. The reports are true. And it’s a permit violation.

I also found contractors bringing in fill from the outside that I thought was going to be “cut” from the detention pond. All photos below were taken on 1/18/22.

Pumping From Pond onto Neighboring Property

The approved permit plans clearly state that “Stormwater runoff shall not cross property lines.”

Stamp on many pages of approved Laurel Springs RV Resort plans.

I guess at some point the water in the pond ceased being runoff. Now it’s just a nuisance. The plans said pond water would be pumped into the City storm sewers. Hmmmm.

Photographed from Laurel Springs Lane looking west.
Here’s an aerial photo looking toward Laurel Springs Lane.
Check out all the muck being washed into the woods. Those woods belong to Harris County Pct. 4. That’s part of new Edgewater Park.

Note the lack of silt fences in the two photos above. Plans clearly state that silt fences will be installed to keep silt from escaping the property. Double Hmmmm!

Bringing in Fill instead of Moving It From Within the Site

As I photographed the pumping, I noticed a parade of dump trucks bringing in fill, dumping it, and leaving as a bulldozer spread it out and another machine quickly compacted it.

Looking NW toward Lowes in top center. Note dump truck depositing fill – one of many that I watched.
The area where they deposited fill just north of the pond corresponds to the plans. See below.
Detail from mitigation plan showing NW corner of pond and fill area. For full plan, click here.

From text on the image above, I assumed that the job was to be a routine “cut and fill” operation. Maybe I shouldn’t have assumed.

Cut and Fill is an industry standard in floodplains. It means you move dirt from one part of the site to another. So, there is no additional fill brought into the floodplain. The fill area above appears to be in the .2% annual chance floodplain, according to the old FEMA map below. However, the developer did not mark the .2% chance floodplain on plans.

FEMA floodplain map. Aqua = 1% annual chance. Brown = .2% annual chance. It appears the northern part of the detention pond (not shown on this old satellite image) cuts between the aqua and brown areas.

For the record, Chapter 19 of Houston’s Code of Ordinances currently does not prohibit bringing fill into the .2% annual chance floodplain. See Section 19.34.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/18/2022

1603 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.

In One Week, More Questions than Trees Remain at Site of First Kingwood RV Park

Last week, I started getting barraged by emails from stunned Lakewood Cove residents waking up to the sound of bulldozers and chainsaws. Someone was cutting down 22 acres of trees between them and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks that parallel Loop 494 – for an RV park – without any public notice.

I went to the site on Monday and started investigating. On Wednesday, I posted what I had learned. Then I kept researching. Half a day on Thursday. All day Friday. And all day Saturday. It’s like digging into a House of Mirrors. But it’s no funhouse. There are so many legal entities with so many similar names that it’s easy to confuse them. That may be the intention.

For instance, you might think that Higbie Ventures LP is the same as Higbie Ventures GP LLC or Higbie Ventures of Texas, Inc. Likewise, you might think Laurel Springs RV is the same as LS RV Resort. But it’s not an abbreviation. They play different roles. But what are they?

So Many Questions, So Little Time

The deeper I dig into the shadowy web of contractors, managers, and investors behind this venture, the more questions I had.

  • According to residents who have tried to contact them, they refuse to answer questions or meet with the affected community. Why?
  • The City of Houston Planning Commission, Public Works Department and District E office have not returned phone calls or emails. Why?
  • The Harris County Appraisal District website contains incomplete and dated records about the land. Why?
  • The Harris County Flood Control District said they were not given an opportunity to review the plans even though part of the property is in the flood plain of the San Jacinto West Fork.
  • The City permits for the work show a different legal entity than the TCEQ stormwater permit. Why?
  • According to the Secretary of State’s website, the two organizations supposedly responsible for the clearing haven’t filed franchise-tax public-information reports in more than two years – but are somehow still doing business in the State of Texas. Why?
  • Could that affect the validity of the building permits?
  • The contractor responsible for the clearing (according to the TCEQ permit) has NO website, and has apparently subcontracted the work to another company. Why?
  • The man behind the primary contractor has started at least 11 companies or partnerships in Texas. None have websites. Most operate out of a PO Box. Most use the same phone number. He’s lost four of the entities to tax forfeitures and dissolved two others. What’s going on there?
  • And the people who own the property operate a maze of more than 100 other partnerships and corporations. Will they keep and manage the property or sell it to investors?
  • How will:
    • The property be managed and marketed? Who will it cater to?
    • The RV park affect drainage in Lakewood Cove next door?
    • Heavy vehicles affect the streets?
    • The absence of trees affect train noise?

Trees Mostly Gone

Just before sundown tonight, I went back to see how many trees remained. And the answer was, “not many.” They seem to have cleared virtually the entire site with the exception of the southern end where the detention pond will go. There’s also a strip of trees about two trees wide next to the utility corridor that parallels the railroad tracks. Next to Laurel Springs, that narrows to one tree in some places and zero in others.

At this point, the battle to save the trees is over. They will all disappear faster than you can say “injunction.”

The developer has executed a perfect blitzkrieg attack that would make Hitler jealous.

Below are pictures taken on Saturday, 10/30/2021.

Looking SSE. Lakewood Cove on left. UP tracks run from bottom to top on right.
Detention pond will go approximately where red box is.

At this rate, clearing could be completed in a week or two.

Location of Project

For those of you who don’t know where Lakewood Cove is, see below. It’s the area immediately to the right of the red. Friendswood Development Company never owned this land, so it’s not technically a part of “Kingwood,” which is a Friendswood trademark. Therefore, it doesn’t legally enjoy the protection of Kingwood’s deed restrictions. However, in every other sense, it is very much a part of the Kingwood community.

Location of land being cleared for new RV Park is in red. Land between the red and the river will become Harris County Precinct 4’s new Edgewater Park.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/30/2021 and revised on 10/31/2021 to include the “Location of Project” information immediately above.

1523 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 Developer Clearing Land Near Site of Precinct 4’s New Edgewater Park

Higbie Ventures LP, a construction company headquartered at 3733 Westheimer, has started clearing more than 20 acres immediately north of Harris County Precinct 4’s new Edgewater Park at US59 and the San Jacinto West Fork for a recreational vehicle park that would hold 182 RVs. The land sits between the Union Pacific Railroad Tracks and Lakewood Cove just west of Laurel Springs Drive.

Looking S from over Union Pacific tracks on right. Lakewood Cove on left. Edgewater Park is the big treed area to the left of the railroad tracks in the distance. Photo taken 10/26/2021.

Goodbye Towering Pines, Hello Oleander

Landscaping plans indicate that the company will clear all the trees that buffer neighbors to the east from the noise of freight trains. Oleander would replace the towering pines. Oleander is pretty but poisonous. It’s toxic to humans and pets if even small amounts are ingested.

Neighbors’ Fears

Neighbors worry about how a nearby RV park could impact their home values, safety and quiet neighborhood traffic patterns. They generate a lot of heavy vehicle traffic that streets weren’t designed for. And the RV owners sometimes also decide to become permanent residents.

Neighbors also fear that changes in elevation could flood them. Dirt excavated from a large detention pond will be used to build up part of the site. The detention pond, which will have a dry bottom will occupy the southern end of the site and intercept all stormwater draining toward the cypress ponds in Edgewater Park to the south. The site’s grading plan states that “Stormwater runoff shall not cross property line.”

This could disrupt replenishment cycles of the cypress ponds in Edgewater Park which will be one of the signature attractions of the park.

Moreover, even though part of the property sits in the floodplain, Harris County Flood Control says it was not given an opportunity to review the plans. And the floodplains shown on the plans correspond to a pre-Atlas 14 era with rainfall amounts roughly 28% lower than today’s.

The contractor did not post a drainage analysis for the project but seems to be complying with Harris County Flood Control District guidelines of .65 acre-feet of floodwater detention capacity per acre.

Neighbors Claim No Public Notice Given

It’s unclear how Higbie got permits without a public notice. But at a meeting of 150 Lakewood Cove residents last week, not one could remember receiving a notice about the RV Park development.

However, the City of Houston Permitting site shows eight permits issued to the developer for the RV Park.

From Houston Permitting Center as of 5PM on 10/28/2021

Permits Seem to Apply Only to Sitework

The plan documents posted on the contractor’s website claim that ALL have received permits from the City of Houston, though they do not show permit stamps, only that they have been reviewed for compliance.

The permits above apply to site work only, not the construction of buildings on the site. These permits relate to site clearing, paving, sidewalks and utilities. However, there don’t appear to be any permits related to actual buildings shown on their plans.

Even though one of the permits shown in a database search is labeled “Building Pmt,” the actual permit says it is for “Structures Other than Buildings.” See below.

The “building permit” associated with the Higbie site says its for structures other than buildings.

Planned Buildings Not Yet Shown on COH Permit Site

But the site clearly contains buildings. They include a recreation center, comfort stations, dog wash facility, shop, cart storage buildings, outdoor fire pits, restrooms, laundry, showers.

Even though the contractor’s web site shows these structures as approved, the City of Houston Permitting Center does not.

Another possible permitting issue: Permits allow 182 pads for RVs but the site plan calls for 226!

The City of Houston District E office has not responded to enquires about whether the site is fully permitted or why the plans do not show permit stamps by city engineers.

Drone Photos Show Extent of Clearing To Date

Drone photos show the contractor has already cleared a large area on the northern portion of the site and is working south. These show the extent of clearing as of 10/26/2021.

Looking NW at site. Lakewood Cove in lower right. RV Park in Center. Lowes in upper right. US59 cuts across top of frame.
Looking S again. Site clearing is moving south. The southern edge of the RV Park will roughly parallel the southern extent of homes in this photo.
Looking N. The northern end of the site also roughly parallels the northern end of Lakewood Cove. So all homes in the subdivision would be affected.
Contractor is leaving trees around the perimeter for now, but the landscaping plan calls for them to eventually be replaced by oleander.

Park Plan Update

Dennis Johnston, Harris County Precinct 4 Parks Director was kind enough to supply these most recent plans for Edgewater Park. The RV park would be above the black line at the top of the frame below. This first image shows trails within and around the park as well as an alternate route to connect Hamblen Road with the bridge over US59 leading to the Sorters-McClellan bridge. The alternate route would provide a way for traffic to avoid blind turns onto 494.

The most recent plans for Precinct 4’s new Edgewwater Park. Even though the Park was announced long before the RV facility, the park is still in permitting according to Johnston. For a high-res printable pdf of this plan, click here.
Edgewater Park Plans
Edgewater Park Plans. Blue areas indicate wetlands. For a high-res printable pdf of this plan, click here.

Petition Circulating

More than 160 Lakewood Cove residents have already signed a petition protesting the RV park. But it’s not clear whether anything can be done at this point to affect the developer’s plan. Neither the developer, Laurel Springs RV, LLC nor contractor have responded to pleas for meetings with residents according to one community leader that I have talked to.

Accordingly, Lakewood Cove is circulating a petition on Change.org targeted at community leaders and elected officials, pleading for help.

This development raises many questions. I sincerely hope the developer choses to engage with the community to answer neighbor’s questions.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/28/2021 and updated 10/29/2021 to reflect a difference between the contractor and developer.

1520 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.