The proposed high-rise development near River Grove Park and Barrington has been indefinitely delayed and may be dead.
Bob Rehak, the Parks representative for Kings Forest, who has been active in keeping the community informed about the controversial high-rise project proposed by a development group called Romerica, made the delay announcement at the April Parks meeting.
“The Army Corps of Engineers pulled and withdrew the permit of Romerica. They [Romerica] could not answer all of the questions that were posed by various groups within the 30-day time frame they had to reply within the statutes,” he said.
Romerica requested an extension and suspension of the terms of the permit application process, Rehak said, but the Corps denied the request and pulled the application. He noted that Romerica can reapply at some future date when they work out all the details and submit all the information they are supposed to provide. The application was withdrawn without prejudice.
“This is a huge development because when they reapply, the project will probably be changed significantly and, according to the Corps, it will probably not result in the great number of comments [it received],” Rehak said.
He pointed out that the Corps received 720 letters of protest and over 200 requesting a public hearing. It is a record number of protests in the Galveston Office of the Army Corps of Engineers.
In addition, Rehak said that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality submitted a letter to Romerica March 1 seeking information and Romerica never responded. That also contributed to the decision to pull the permit by the Corps. As a result, if Romerica wants to continue development of the area in question, it will have to essentially start over. It may in fact be dead, at least as far as anything resembling the project as originally proposed.
The project got a significant amount of negative attention in the community once plans became known. The project, called Herons Bay, was originally comprised of several tall skyscrapers, office buildings and a marina to be built near River Grove Park.
Residents raised numerous objections and packed several community meetings.
The project was questioned from nearly every community group.
The second item of interest to the Parks Committee was a presentation by two Houston Parks Board representatives about the bond-approved Bayou Greenways Project now underway throughout Houston and how it will be developed along the San Jacinto River.
Lisa Kasinowitz and John Brandt provided a PowerPoint presentation of the specific plans to develop the San Jacinto River Greenway Project. It is one of the specific improvement projects within the overall development of greenways and trails throughout Houston.
“The Bayou Greenway Project is an initiative to recover and create green space by utilizing the land near and along the bayous and waterways of Houston,” Kasinowitz said. She explained that the initiative includes 150 miles of greenways and bike trails connecting Houston along its waterways. The San Jacinto River Project is a part of that overall scheme and construction is about to begin in phases with completion expected by the end of 2020.
“The San Jacinto River is really totally unique from the other bayous we are working on. A lot of times the bayous we work on are engineered bayous as flood-control facilities. They are not really a live river like the San Jacinto,” said Brandt, the project manager.
Brandt said that the ever-changing aspects of the river shore changes the way the trails and greenways are located, designed and positioned along the river. In the case of the San Jacinto, as a result of its flooding history, much of the work is going to take place on shoreline areas in conjunction with flood recovery and prevention activity. This includes land acquisition and home buyouts currently going on along the river’s north shore.
The project will provide a greenway trail from the Edgewater Park area at U.S. Highway 59/69 along the river shoreline, under the Union Pacific Railroad bridge, and then between the river and Hamblen Road, including its undeveloped right of way to the edge of Kingwood’s River Grove Park at Woodland Hills Drive. It will be available for public access no later than the end of 2020. It will be open to the general public while River Grove Park will remain a KSA private park for use by Kingwood residents only.
The next KSA Parks meeting will be Thursday, June 6, at 7 p.m. at the South Woodland Hills Community Room, 2030 Shadow Rock Drive in Kingwood. The public is invited to attend.