This page, the Annexation Base Option, can be found on the TIRZ 17 website. Although state law allows a project started inside a TIRZ to extend outside the TIRZ, most people would agree that it is much less transparent to do so. Consequently, we agree with an annexation procedure that not only presents the annexation candidates, but also allows public comments. It’s messy. There won’t be universal agreement. But it’s transparent – we know what’s going on.
There are two maps: the above and the Annexation Base Option Plus. The difference is the inclusion of J, K and L. Basically the City wants TIRZ 17 to use its money to complete rebuilding Memorial Drive west of Beltway 8. Since it’s outside its zone, TIRZ 17 must annex it. But it also would drain money from projects already in the TIRZ long-term CIP, so the Lantern Lane Shopping Center (J) and the new Midway development (K) would be added to pay for it. Midway plans an extensive mixed use development on the old Methodist Hospital property in the 12500 block of Memorial Drive, which will provide a substantial tax increment and increase the value of surrounding properties. Purportedly, this will be sufficient funds to rebuild Memorial Drive, but for this discussion let’s concentrate on the Base Option.
Base Option North of I-10
In the Base Option, A is the Lumpkin Road Extension. Lumpkin Road is already a TIRZ project so the extension continues the design into the adjacent commercial area. It also adds the existing Westview detention pond. Discussions in TIRZ meetings are that there will be significant under roadway detention and more capacity added to the existing pond. One downside is that enhanced commercial access will spur redevelopment pressure on the neighborhood at the end of Lumpkin.
These three projects Demeret (C), Larston (B), and Windhover (E) are listed in the Regional Drainage Study as necessary for the Briar Branch Creek Drainage Project to provide any substantial relief to the adjacent neighborhood. Documented elsewhere on this website are flooding along various roadways east and west of Witte Road and north of Briar Branch Creek. Flooding increased dramatically when Fidelis elevated their46-acre property an average of 1½ feet, displacing about 69 acre-feet of water. Given the charter for this TIRZ to address drainage and mobility in and around its boundaries, annexation of the roadways under which larger drains will be added makes sense and we support it. Since the water backflows in existing drains under these roadways, some mechanism to reduce backflow needs to be implemented concurrently, whether flap valves or otherwise. The proposed rebuilding of W140 suggests that it will be enclosed and lowered substantially. If so, the elevation difference may allow adequate drainage of the neighborhood. The proposed annexation of land around W140 west of Witte Road may provide some room for additional drainage capacity or room for hike/bike ways. With that said, unless the W140 bridge at Bunker Hill is modified to allow more water to pass, all of this work and taxpayer dollars will be wasted because the bridge restricts flows too much.
Springrock (F) is the lowest street in the area. This is an unexpected, but welcomed annexation. Imagine flooding along a road less than a tenth of a mile from a 44 acre-foot detention pond. Many times we have pointed to this unfairness so we are pleased that the Annexation Committee listened.
If TIRZ 17 builds these projects in a timely manner in as transparent way as possible, MCDDC feels that they will substantially reduce area flooding. While the TIRZ begins sorting through the problems around its area, the City of Houston is planning to rebuild Gessner Road to provide some flood relief for homes north of Long Point that flooded. Unfortunately, the City rarely looks at interactions between watersheds so it’s likely that this water will be shipped south with little or no concern about downstream flooding. Much of our new detention capacity may be lost to this Gessner water.
Base Option South of I-10
On Monday, September 15, 2014, TIRZ 17 held an open meeting to review the annexation of certain properties. Properties on the north side of I-10 had been discussed extensively in previous TIRZ meetings so there were only slight surprises. This document was presented to the public at that meeting by Don Huml. Annexations on the south side of I-10 were extensive and somewhat unexpected. The ones that I perceived to be lightning rods:
- Gessner Road due to the inability of the TIRZ or CM Pennington to state that Gessner would not be widened during installation of underground detention. More precisely, that the esplanade would not be removed and Gessner converted from two lanes each direction to three lanes each direction.
- Memorial Drive from Beltway 8 to Tallowood (already annexed) and from Tallowood to the limit of Bunker Hill Village (proposed).
- Lantern Lane Shopping Center and Midway’s new development south of Memorial Drive on the old Methodist property.
- Memorial Drive west of Beltway 8 – because it has nothing to do with Memorial City Shopping Center.
Most of the other annexations may have detractors, however, they are somewhat more defensible because they have been studied as part of the Regional Drainage Study (RDS) and were shown to have significantly benefited homeowners. Explained elsewhere on this website, but repeated here again, is the statement by Derek St. John, hydrologist for LAN, to the stakeholders reviewing the RDS that “there is an 8′ by 8′ box culvert modeled from Tallowood to Buffalo Bayou that’s not shown in the drawings. It’s needed for the drainage to work.” I’m paraphrasing since I’m too lazy to find the original quote, however, that statement needs some fleshing out before the annexation.
Given that there are groups along Buffalo Bayou who will sue to prevent losing trees and an obvious reluctance from Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) to initiate new detention along Buffalo Bayou, there needs to be an alternative water path besides a hidden pipe to the Bayou. Otherwise, none of the “straws” shown will work adequately in a heavy rain. Can enough detention be installed under Memorial or in conjunction with the new Midway development? Remember that HCFCD had included Midway’s newly acquired property as a possible site for a 60 acre-foot detention pond in their Charting the Bayou Study. Yes, the same Study that was shut down after one public meeting. Didn’t I say detention along Buffalo Bayou was contentious!
At the meeting, when asked if the City of Houston (COH) had any plans to handle the increased water from their reconstruction of Gessner north of Long Point, Gary Struzik from Klotz and Associates answered that the COH was not in the business of just moving water from one place to another without assessing the impacts. He obviously doesn’t live in the area. The Fonn Villas Project was a COH drainage project that moved water from the TIRZ area near I-10 and Addingham, through Fonn Villas where more water was added, then through a 6′ by 12′ rectangular culvert into W-153, a small creek with a restricted outlet under Memorial drive. Half of the homes adjacent to the creek flooded in 2009 as did many others that rely upon W-153 for their drainage. Likewise, it is the COH who has just completed a drainage project under Tallowood that moved water from Old Oaks to the Memorial Drive open ditch that feeds W-153, essentially filling it faster, but doing nothing to remove the area water which will simply recirculate. This was done despite the fact that the RDS showed how useless this would be and despite numerous warnings from local residents to PW&E and several City Council Members that this would be wasted money. Indeed, if the annexation of Tallowood occurs and the TIRZ follows their RDS, this line will be replaced with one approximately 20 times larger, which will need to be fitted with a restrictor until enough detention is added to avoid impacting W-153. In yet another example of the COH not addressing impacts, the COH said that the new buildings on Gaylord built by Metro National don’t need ordinance required on-site detention because the properties were “Grandfathered” when in reality about 4 acres never had concrete so would not have been grandfathered. Sure, it’s only two acre-feet, but that may have prevented a few townhouses on the southern side of Gaylord from flooding. Mr. Struzick probably should have considered his answer better.