Our residents are one rainfall from being homeless,” said Beth Guide, board member of the Elm Grove Homeowners Association. Guide spoke at the Kingwood Town Hall meeting, organized by Houston City Councilmember Dave Martin at the Kingwood Community Room Thursday, Oct. 17.

In a room packed with residents, Guide and several dozen others spoke out about the drastic effects the community suffered Sept. 19 as the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda poured water onto the Lake Houston area. Homes in Elm Grove, Hunters Ridge and other villages of Kingwood flooded in that storm. Many had flooded May 7 during a record rain storm, only to suffer again less than five months later. They wore orange T-shirts to signify their displeasure with Perry Homes, the official home builder of the Houston Astros, who were, that same night, in an ALCS playoff game. Nearly 400 homeowners have joined in lawsuits against Perry Homes and are accusing them of flooding their neighborhoods after clear cutting the development, Woodridge Village, located immediately north of Kingwood.  

Before the Oct. 17 meeting, the City of Houston filed a cease-and-desist order against the builders, and Tuesday, Oct. 14, Martin, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and City of Houston Attorney Ronald Lewis met with Perry Homes and other involved parties to “demand” immediate action to prevent more flooding, Martin said. The City of Houston filed decease-and-desist orders against Perry Homes, Double Oak Construction, Inc., and Figure Four Partners, Ltd. for the discharge of storm water from the Woodridge Village development site. These cease- and-desist orders were issued in response to the discharge of sand, silt, sediment and debris from the development site into the Municipal Storm Sewer System (MS4) on Sept. 19, 2019.

The documents state: This discharge is in direct violation of City of Houston Ordinance ARTICLE XII. - STORM WATER DISCHARGES, DIVISION 5 – ILLICIT DISCHARGES AND CONNECTIONS, Section 47-741 - Discharge to MS4 prohibited (a) A person commits an offense if the person threatens to introduce, introduces or causes to be introduced into the MS4 any discharge that is not composed entirely of storm water.

This discharge has caused severe damage to the City of Houston's MS4 and to the property of the citizens of the City of Houston. As a result of this discharge, the City of Houston started a 12-week extensive investigation of the storm water system located within Elm Grove and other affected communities within the far northeast section of Kingwood. This investigation is currently 10% complete as it started last week. 

Several months ago, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of residents of the Elm Grove neighborhood in Kingwood against Figure Four Partners, PSWA and Rebel Contractors alleging negligence and violation of the Texas Water Code.

Atascocita attorney Kimberley Spurlock, in partnership with attorney Jason Webster, filed three lawsuits in the District Court of Harris County (Case Nos. 2019-33415-7, 2019-34366-7, and 2019-36139-7). The case stems from an average rainfall of which the water drained from a Figure Four Partners (defendant) development directly into Elm Grove’s streets and into the plaintiffs’ homes.

According to court documents, this water caused extreme damage to the structures and the personal effects of the plaintiffs. Court documents further allege that there was nothing the plaintiffs did to contribute to this flooding, and that prior to the May 7, 2019, rainfall none of the plaintiffs’ homes had ever flooded.

Defendants Figure Four and PSWA were developing a plot of land named the “Woodridge Village Development” that borders the northside of the Elm Grove neighborhood. The defendants hired Rebel Contractors as the general contractor to prepare the development for construction.

Orange T-shirts were worn by those who flooded in September as a protest against Houston Astros official homebuilder, Perry Homes.

Court documents state that as of May 7, 2019, the development was not completed, but the defendants had allegedly begun the removal of trees and debris from the development and trenched out certain areas and added box culverts in an attempt to create drainage for the development. According to court documents, the defendants also filled in existing creeks and drainage channels while developing the land, thus allegedly completely blocking water flow from the existing water channels and ridding Elm Grove of proper drainage. Additionally, court documents further state, the defendants cleared the land and the development was sloped toward the plaintiffs’ neighborhood such that water would flow directly towards their homes.

The plaintiffs are seeking recovery from the defendants,” said Webster.

Furthermore, each of the defendants in the case recently filed an answer to the lawsuit, denying all allegations, and made a counter claim against the plaintiffs for having their homes flooded.

 “I wanted to sue these guys,” Martin said, but “people smarter than me persuaded me that is not the best path.” 

I have never been prouder of our mayor. We were upset! The mayor was upset. We were pretty forceful and demanded action at the meeting. The mayor demanded they respond within 24 hours,” Martin said.

Turner took the stage to announce the city received a letter from Perry Homes that afternoon agreeing to seven “demands,” the most significant of which is that the builders agreed to install all water detention of the entire project before building anything.  Turner said that builders typically put detention projects in phases as each part of the project is built.  In the letter, which may be found at Martin's Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/councilmemberdavemartin, they also agreed to several other actions. But one speaker pointed out that all they agreed to already is mandated by state law. 

Speaker after speaker poured out their emotions, with several men and women choking up at the mic. 

Turner and Martin stood on the stage and faced their anguish, with Martin offering that Kingwood has received more than $200 million in projects. 

Let's be fair,” Martin said to some who were shouting at the mayor to do more and faster. 

Kingwood has received more money under this mayor than any other,” Martin said and Turner said repeatedly, “We have made Kingwood a top priority.”

But the residents were not assuaged.

I cannot adequately express how my students feel whenever a black cloud is overhead,” said Stephanie Tyner, an Elm Grove Elementary School teacher and an Elm Grove homeowner.

Martin explained the various studies underway to divert water away from Elm Grove, including using a diversion ditch that runs through Kingwood.  Unfortunately, it is not a remedy because Martin said the ditch runs “right through” Kingwood Park High School.  Martin said the high school was built on a detention area.

Martin also shared that the map showing the area's watershed exposure is “scary.”

Look at where we live. I go to sleep at night knowing everything we are going to do will fail. All the development north of us – we can't do a damn thing about it,” he said.

Comments were made about the responsibility and apparent disinterest of Montgomery County officials who have authority over the Woodridge Development, which lies in their county.

All of the county officials are on the take,” said one resident, who then listed the percentage of campaign contributions that have come from developers.

James Metts – 100%, Mike Meador 91%, Charlie Riley 79%, James Noack 89% and County Judge Mark Keough – well only 51%,” he said.  Turner and Martin were visibly taken aback. 

Martin acknowledged the resident by saying, “Perry Homes is huge. They own Austin, Texas. So getting them to do what is legally required is not easy,” he said. 

Other residents asked where the funds are going that are assessed to Houston residents for a “drainage fee.” Turner explained that the money goes into Capital Improvement Projects funds, which have been dispersed to Kingwood for the Northpark Drive Project. 

State Sen. Brandon Creighton provided an update on Proposition 8and sand-mining legislation. He asked that everyone vote to support its adoption on Election Day, Nov. 5. 

Stephen Costello, City of Houston chief recovery officer, spoke on the progress of the additional Lake Houston Spillway Dam Improvement Projects (flood gates). Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock said the city is inspecting all the drains in the area. Turner also discussed the Lake Houston Dam Maintenance Project, which currently requires the level of Lake Houston to be kept 1 foot below normal pool elevation through next November.

Chuck Gilman, San Jacinto River Authority director of Flood Management, provided an update on the regional watershed study that is being completed with Montgomery County, Harris County Flood Control District and the City of Houston. 

The meeting that began at 6 p.m. did not end until 10:30. Frustrated residents were met outside the doors by candidates begging for votes, an action that was met with disgust by most. “Totally inappropriate,” was overheard by one man leaving the meeting. 

The City of Houston cease-and-desist orders filed against Perry Homes, Double Oak Construction, Inc., and Figure Four Partners, Ltd. for the discharge of storm water from the Woodridge Village development site are as follows: These cease-and-desist orders were issued in response to the discharge of sand, silt, sediment and debris from the development site into the Municipal Storm Sewer System (MS4) on Sept. 19, 2019.

The documents state:

This discharge is in direct violation of City of Houston Ordinance:

ARTICLE XII. - STORM WATER DISCHARGES, DIVISION 5 – ILLICIT DISCHARGES AND CONNECTIONS, Section 47-741 - Discharge to MS4 prohibited (a)  A person commits an offense if the person threatens to introduce, introduces or causes to be introduced into the MS4 any discharge that is not composed entirely of storm water

This discharge has caused severe damage to the City of Houston's MS4 and to the property of the citizens of the City of Houston. As a result of this discharge the City of Houston started a 12-week extensive investigation of the storm water system located within Elm Grove and other effected communities within the far northeast section of Kingwood. This investigation is currently 10% complete as it started last week. 

Several months ago, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of residents of the Elm Grove neighborhood in Kingwood against Figure Four Partners, PSWA and Rebel Contractors alleging negligence and violation of the Texas Water Code.

We didn't come here tonight to tell you we are 'studying’ or ‘talking’ about remedies,” Turner said.  

If I could take a backhoe and pull those culverts out myself, I would,” Guide said. “Perry Homes is killing us. This is my forever home.” 

After the meeting and reading the letter from Perry Homes, Guide's assessment of the letter was measured and thoughtful:

My opinion of last night's town hall is as follows (using my first amendment right) 1. I am glad to see that the CoH is putting its weight behind us. On the surface it seems there was some steps forward, which I will detail out. But working in business in an executive capacity, I understand the staging that is required with this and that things have to be done in steps. I know full well what can and can't be said. Yes, the city in a few ways has #perryhomes by the balls in some ways and they are "starting" to tighten the clamps. They are the 4th largest city in country and for this to even be happening at this pace is somewhat remarkable. Furthermore, I did not expect a lot of help for Kingwood from City Hall, after all we are not really the typical CoH voter. 2. I want to read this letter myself to understand what the order is going to be and if the North part of the plat is going to be last. Also, the way these things are interconnected oddly, and sharp angles will not allow water to flow naturally. In the end, I think this will not only be bad for us but also whoever our new neighbors will be in #woodridgeforest. Bottom line is the entire area, their new $400K homes and our meager $150,000 homes will continue to flood. 3. I asked several times what can be done from the Elm Grove side of the border. I've been saying build a wall In Elm Grove for a while. But 1/2 meaning it in a public relations and marketing sense so it stuck, but also for people to look at what can be done on our side. Maybe someone else beside the Elm Grove residents can think out of the box and figure out how to put a temp situation in place as everyone continues to sort this MESS out. And that is really what it is an absolute mess. 4. After 5 tries I FINALLY got someone to understand in my opinion and in talking to multiple gov't officials that the flood plan the was submitted was ONLY for Woodridge Forest II and III with no acknowledgment for the adjacent properties which includes Elm Grove. I remain unconvinced that the flood plan submitted by LJA will solve the problems created. I also privately voiced that the situation with Woodridge I exemplifies this because of how badly Northpark now floods and the raging waters that are coming down Woodridge Parkway. 5. I am not happy with the timetable that has a been laid out where as some of those timelines are 252 days. 6. I am also scratching my head economically as to why #perryhomes would agree and think something is amiss. Now I get what Raines Rushin was saying, but I also get what Steve Costello was saying, and I actually witnessed that in the building of Woodridge I, because at the time my parents had a house there. It’s like a Pay as you go, which is to take an area, put in its flood, build house move to the next place. And, had they not clear cut all 300 acres that might have worked, but they did. But I'm still scratching my head some on this one. But why. Are they biding their time for the results of the mayoral election/city council elections? If so, they must be forewarned that Bill King has been with us since day one back in May. And that with Mayor Turner taking this type of a stand it would only seem to imply that any other Mayor will be far harsher than Turner 7. I have said often that although this situation is horrible, I am thankful that this came up BEFORE Homes were built when something could be done. I am going to continues to pursue all the avenues that I have been which includes, TECQ complaints, USACE complaints and I am in the process of getting a large scale letter writing campaign similar to what was done to stop the Marina by Barrington. Between the lawsuits, the ongoing Negative PR campaign and now all the problems with the city, maybe we can make this so #perryhomes will donate that property to Kingwood and I have been told that there is larger tax breaks available because of the circumstances. Once donated, we can fix the property work to reforest it and start fixing a large percentage of the flooding that has occurred since 2018 on the NorthPark side and the work to getting the ditches expanded and all the other issues addressed. I was reminded this week we are just one spoke in the wheel and I agree. But this missing 300 acre tract is a pretty big spoke. 8. There is also some frustration with the lack of government aid. I know some of that is because there is no aid built in at the local level. So that is a different fight. I think as fema seems to be less and less likely to come into an disaster unless it’s a hurricane, we must hold our state reps and local officials accountable to put in disaster plans that transcend the office of emergency manage and Transtar. Also, work to bring in local entities to help. Judge Hildago learned this in the first go around with Elm Grove and did create a response team that was placed at the Methodist church to provide immediate help. It was hard for us to use it because many didn't have cars. I get that but it was an appreciated start. And there are many necessities lacking in it but at least it was start and a start that can be built upon. Red Cross needs to get off their butt and stop a waiting for disaster declarations and such but this is a whole different fight and one that has to be addressed separately. 9. The problems is will continue is until this is laws, with teeth that force counties to work together to balance the rights for the builders vs. the rights of the homeowners, regardless of the firm dates from FEMA. We need to stop allowing builders to elevate themselves out of a flood zone as a means to circumvent flooding laws. As much as I heard that the state of Texas is strong on property rights. The situation has allowed Elm Grove to be destroy by a bully (#perryhomes) with a fat pocketbook who continues to make egregiously large donations to politicians (maybe $34M) to stop the creation of those laws to protect communities at large. The apparent disinterested of Monkey County to fix this, to regulate, despite not being compelled by statue and to rubber-stamp bad plans that take away lifetimes of hard work and memories and terrorize children so they can't walk downstairs in a rainstorm without fear of flood must stop. I want to thank Dave Martin for fighting for us. He has been a powerful and effective advocate for Elm Grove despite what some think. And to @kprc it is ELM Grove..not elms Grove.”


Cynthia Calvert
Author: Cynthia CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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A trained journalist with a masters degree from Lamar University, a masters from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as extensive coursework toward a masters of science in psychology from the University of New Orleans, Calvert founded the Tribune Newspapers in 2007. Her experiences as an investigative, award winning reporter (She won Journalist of the Year from the Houston Press Club among many other awards for reporting and writing), professor and chair of the journalism department for Lone Star College-Kingwood and vice president of editorial for a large group of community weeklies provides her with a triple dose of bankable skills that cover every aspect of the journalism field. Solid reporting. Careful interviews. Respect and curiosity for people and places.

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