At the first 2019 Kingwood Service Association (KSA) Parks Committee Meeting on Jan. 3, Bob Rehak presented a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public notice for a proposed commercial project that would change the face of Kingwood in ways hardly anyone living in Kingwood has ever imagined.
Rehak noted that the notice was quietly released Dec. 28, 2018 in the middle of a holiday week and requires written input no later than Jan. 29, 2019 to determine if a public hearing is warranted. Rehak explained the importance of meeting the deadline.
“If little or no interest is communicated in writing in time to reach the regulatory division of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in Galveston, it will be considered that there are no objections from the public,” Rehak said, and pointed out that, in his opinion, there are plenty of issues about which to be concerned.
The project includes development of a “Marina Resort District” of 107.41 acres, a “Commercial District” of 64.41 acres, and a “Residential District” of 136.93 acres. It will be located adjacent to River Grove Park along Woodland Hills Drive, virtually surrounding the Barrington Village subdivision on three sides and directly adjacent to many of the fairways of the Kingwood Country Club Golf Course south of Kingwood Lake. It will extend down to the San Jacinto River east of River Grove Park and the KSA athletic fields. It includes one high-rise building to be up to 500 feet tall and at least four other towers ranging in height from 230 feet to 400 feet for residential condominiums and retail offices. Other buildings would rise to a height of 70 feet. The marina will be built by expanding an existing 15-acre lake into an 80-acre marina with a maximum capacity of up to 640 boats.
Included in the description is a provision for widening Woodland Hills Drive from its existing two lanes to four and extending it south to connect to Hamblen Road. Forest Cove would be affected by the influx of thousands of cars and additional commercial traffic as would Woodland Hills Drive and Kingwood Drive.
Parks Committee members listened in silence as Rehak described the proposal and then joined in an animated discussion speculating about potential issues that all need to be addressed. Kingwood residents and homeowners associations will all be affected, especially those located near the proposed development, including Trailwood, Barrington, Kingwood Lakes Village and, to the east of the project, Kingwood Greens Village.
The committee decided that a campaign of submitting written public comments highlighting specific questions and concerns with requests for a public hearing is essential no matter whether one supports the project or not. The committee also emphasized individual residents are encouraged to submit concerns and questions they may have as soon as possible. Rehak noted examples of his personal concerns ranged from flooding to traffic congestion to issues of overcrowding in a limited area. Others suggested there may be threats to public safety and a massive change in the look and feel of the entire Kingwood community.
Rehak pointed out that the project is in a location that is in the heart of an area severely affected by Hurricane Harvey flooding and that the area has flooded multiple times in just two years. He noted that the proposal includes building the commercial area up to above the 100-year flood plain and questioned if that is adequate. The proposal says nothing about building to the 500-year flood plain.
“The development group is Romerica Investments L.L.C. and the primary developers are located in Mexico City and Italy with offices in Houston,” Rehak said. More details of the proposal are available online at reduceflooding.com/2018/12/28/public-notice-army-corps-and-tceq-soliciting-comments-on-high-rise-development-near-river-grove-park. The web page includes the address and contact information needed to submit comments and obtain any further information.
Committee representatives committed to do all they could to mobilize responses by the Jan. 29 deadline. Concerned residents are encouraged to do so on their own and to spread the word among their neighbors. City Councilman Dave Martin’s office confirmed that Martin is well aware of the proposal and is watching it closely at this point to see where it goes.
In his Jan. 2 newsletter to constituents Martin said, “The city is aware of the project, but the developer has not started the City of Houston permitting process. The City of Houston cannot act on a proposed plan; the city can only act on an actual project submission, which has not occurred yet.”
Martin has voiced his concerns directly to the developer and encourages residents to engage in the public comment period with the USACE and TCEQ. At the appropriate time, when the City of Houston receives the submitted project plans, the city will also have a public comment period. The District E office will notify residents of such a public comment period to ensure the community has another chance to be heard.
In other business the committee unanimously elected to keep its 2018 officers the same as in 2018. They are: Chairman: Chris Manthei of Bear Branch Village; Vice-Chairwoman; Dee Price of Sand Creek; Park Stewards: Creekwood Nature Area: Price; Deer Ridge Park: Clay Lawson of Trailwood; East End Park: Maryanne Fortson of Foster’s Mill and Bob Rehak of King’s Forest; Northpark Recreation Area: Christine McGucken of South Woodland Hills; River Grove Park: Price; KSA Entrances: Kingwood Dr.: Joe Mazzarella of The Reserve at Kings Point; and Northpark Entrance: Steve Hester of Sherwood Trails.
The next KSA Parks meeting will be Thursday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. at the South Woodland Hills Community Room, 2030 Shadow Rock Drive in Kingwood. The public is invited to attend.