Authority approves annexation plans
- By Cynthia Calvert
Board members of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (the Authority) and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) Number 10, Lake Houston Zone (the Zone), used the relatively quiet March meeting to approve a proposed annexation plan before it is given to the City of Houston. They also approved routine statements and policies and heard one report regarding the status of improvements to two intersections in Kingwood.
After numerous revisions, the board was given a nearly final draft of the areas to be annexed by the City of Houston into the TIRZ boundaries. The 7,470.3 acres of land include rights-of-way, park lands and open water. The TIRZ will ask the city to include the land in its boundaries in order to facilitate the transportation needs of the area. Additionally, the Northpark Project will require the issuance of bonds and the TIRZ is asking the city to extend the life of the TIRZ 25 years from its current ending date of December 2026 to December 2053.
Tim Austin, board attorney, explained, “If we are going to do this Northpark project, or any of this types of projects, then we have to sell bonds. We couldn’t afford to do much with short term bonds.
“The extensions do not apply to any developer agreements made by this board. The developers must live with their agreements,” he said.
Ralph de Leon, Authority manager, commented, “To some, 7,000 acres sounds like a lot, but once you deduct all the acres of water and rights of way, it is not very much. The City of Houston authorizes your powers and they periodically change or add to these. TIRZ money is designated to pay for things; the Kingwood Library, the Community Center and the future Kingwood West Fire Station are all examples of things the TIRZ pays for. One day, this group may wish to look at other projects, such as those originally planned like the extension of Kingwood Drive across the lake to Huffman or the extension of Woodlands Hills south to 1960. The documents submitted to the city in the near future will create the space for the board to issue bonds and tackle other projects as they see fit.”
Jessica Beemer, chief of staff for Houston Councilmember Dave Martin, announced two Safe Sidewalk projects will begin in June. A new sidewalk will be built on the south side of Kingwood Drive from Valley Manor Drive east to Oak Street, near Fuddruckers. A pedestrian crossing will be built at Kingwood Drive in front of Kingwood High School. The second sidewalk project, a repair, is on the north side of Kingwood Drive near the high school. Tree roots have caused damage to existing pavement and this will be fixed.
Rachel Ray, an engineer with Walter P. Moore, told the board that the hold up with the Kingwood road projects rests with TranStar, the transportation entity which, among many tasks, reviews all intersections improvements when a traffic signal is involved. Ray said TranStar administrators are used to having right angles and straight lines for sidewalks. Kingwood’s meandering style has temporarily caused plans to be scrutinized. Ray considers it a minor delay and said the construction should be approved and begun soon. The two intersections, W. Lake Houston Pkwy. at Northpark and W. Lake Houston Pkwy. at Kings Crossing, are slated for turn lane additions and extensions. Both projects were identified as high priority by residents during the Kingwood Mobility Survey held in 2016.
At the beginning of February, the Authority’s beginning operating fund balance was $2,426,831. After disbursements, the ending balance is $2,314,432.
The serenity of the meeting was punctured briefly when Allen Brown, a resident, spoke during public comments and ended up getting a sharp rebuke from Martin. Brown first stated that Humble ISD has misappropriated $100 million in TIRZ funds that are restricted to use inside the TIRZ boundaries. Then he asked Martin why there has been no public sign for the community center built, as promised more than two years ago, to which Martin said, “It’s coming.”
Brown then pointed out that Martin and the Authority board had wrongly allowed Forest Cove residents to stop a planned road improvement needed by the community [The Tribune, Feb. 15, 2017].
“You can’t go to a small group of people and let them decide what’s best for all,” Brown said. Martin tried to answer, both men shouted over the other, and Martin finally told Brown he had “made an ass of himself” at the Town Hall meeting held the week before. Brown rolled his eyes and said, “So what. I come here to help, not to make a fuss.” After the meeting, they were seen shaking hands.
The Authority meets next on April 13, at 8 a.m. at the Kingwood Community Center.