Sometime in the late evening of Memorial Day, 2015, and into the wee hours on May 26th, much of Houston flooded. Most of the news centered around spectacular vistas of Brays Bayou overflowing and inundating homes in Meyerland or the confluence of Buffalo and White Oak Bayous forming an “ocean” of water near downtown. As spectacular as those were, many other areas flooded, including the area around Memorial City TIRZ. A similar rain event in 2009 had prompted the formation of this organization. Most of the same homes flooded in the recent event that flooded in 2009; some flooded that hadn’t before, and some were dry this time, although many that were dry had been rebuilt with higher slab elevations. Many of you will be asking us one of two questions: 1) Why did you stop the lawsuit in the first place? and 2) Why restart it now?
When we stopped the lawsuit, Houston was in the throes of a drought and nearly everyone was praying for rain, not donating money to stop flooding. Our funding depends upon contributions from the public and like the parched ground, our donations had dried up. Although Jim Blackburn’s legal team had our claims identified and our legal arguments solidified, to move forward we would need enough money both to file the lawsuit and to fend off the onslaught of legal actions from the City that our lawsuit would prompt. Unfortunately, some of the claims also required a new flood event to re-trigger a two-year statute of limitations. I have often quoted statistics that Houston typically has a 100-year event every 5 years and a 500-year event every 8 years – this one took just over 6 years. It wasn’t a matter of if the next flood would occur; it was when.
We didn’t feel badly about stopping our lawsuit because former District A CM Helena Brown and District G CM Oliver Pennington were able to successfully remove the TIRZ Chair and Co-Chair while appointing true neighborhood representatives: Reverend Bob Tucker and John Rickel. TIRZ 17 seemed to have begun to seriously address flooding issues and it seemed reasonable to take a hiatus and work with John and Bob to move projects along that are important to our neighborhoods.
So why have we restarted it now? Contrary to the obvious – that homes flooded again – there are some real concerns with recent TIRZ projects and direction. There are four primary reasons: 1) the failure to enforce covenants in the Purchase and Sales Agreement between KFD LTD and the Memorial City Redevelopment Authority for the W140 detention pond property; 2) the failure of Metro National’s engineering consulting firm to provide truthful information regarding operation of the Conrad-Sauer detention pond; 3) the City’s insistence that the Gessner Road reconstruction project move forward with no place for the additional water to go; 4) failure to acquire land for new detention facilities.