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Community members opposed construction of The Hollows Apartments in Channelview

Channelview Health & Improvement Coalition Meeting Minutes

By Carolyn Stone

During December research of The Hollows found this $37,811,161 182 unit subsidized housing apartment complex was to be funded with $11,000,000 of Harris County Community Development Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG) funds along with mortgage revenue bonds and 4% tax credits for the investors. Community members were opposed to this project and began preparing a petition in opposition to present to Pct. 2 Commissioner Garcia, Judge Hidalgo and the other Harris County Commissioners.

On or about December 4, 2019 community members learned the developer, LDG Development, was holding a public meeting at Harvey S. Brown Elementary on Wallisville Rd. on Saturday Dec. 21st to announce The Hollows Apartments to the community. Despite this meeting being held four days before Christmas several hundred community members attended the meeting and were very vociferous in their concerns related to and in opposition to the proposed project.

In response to the community concerns and opposition to the complex Horace Allison from Housing & Urban Development lectured community members informing them they should be better people, but the most telling statement came from the developer, Mr. Dru Childre of LDG Development, who informed the community members, “You need to understand this is not housing for hard working individuals like yourself.”

Mr. Childre’s statement was applauded by the community members and taken as confirmation this complex would be a burden upon the residents of Channelview.

At the December 21, 2019 meeting Pct. 2 had representatives, Nelson Espitia Community Relations, Mercedes Sanchez Housing Policy, and Cindy Miller Channelview Liaison present to hear the concerns of community. Pct. 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, whose precinct is literally directly across Dell Dale from the proposed site did not have any of his Pct. 1 representatives present.

Following the October, November, and December updates, further discussion was held in relation to The Hollows. Shared with the attendees was following the developer’s meeting some of the statements community members had heard made by the developer were researched with the following results:

1. Nelson Espitia Pct. 2 Community Relations stated Commissioner Garcia had no say in the approval of this complex. – On the Harris County Commissioner’s Meeting Agenda for 07/30/19 approval was provided for the submittal to the TX General Land Office the Harris County Affordable Rental Development projects using 2017 Hurricane Harvey Texas CDBG-DR round one funding in the total amount of $42,560,000 for four projects (two in Pct. 1 & two in Pct. 2), one of which was for LDG Development LP for The Hollows in Precinct 2. This approval was provided by Pct. 2 Commissioner Garcia, Judge Hidalgo and the other Commissioners. This approval also was provided following a series of community meetings Commissioner Garcia held after being elected to determine what his constituents concerns and needs were. His meeting held in Channelview was on 06/30/19 and was designated “Housing”. Attendees at that meeting informed the Commissioner’s representatives the residents wanted more people who were of permanent nature and vested in the community, they wanted infrastructure such as a hospital, more law enforcement and neighborhood street lights to support the existing residents. The residents did not want people who were temporary in nature who had no true investment in the community. Commissioner Garcia’s approval of the submittal to the TX GLO was in direct contradiction to what his Channelview constituents had told him just one month previously. Harris County also has input into the COH Planning & Development Commission’s approval of any project development application which lays within the City of Houston’s 5 mile Extra Territorial Jurisdiction. Harris County is also the entity who is in control of approving and issuing any construction permits.

2. The developer LDG Development stated they had not yet purchased the land the complex was proposed to be built on. – Property records reflect the lot “Reserve A, Block 1 Wyndham At Sonoma Ranch” is currently divided into two portions. One portion, 7.54 acres, is owned by WCTCB and the other portion, 4.88 acres, is owned by Pari Investments.

a. WCTCB is believed to stand for Westdale Capital Texas Community Bank. Westdale Capital is the parent company of WCTCB who purchased the entire original 12.42 acre lot from Texas Community Bank on 01/04/2017. WCTCB sold 4.88 acres of Res A, Blk 1 plus another 5.45 acres of TR 38E Houston Farms (property along Wallisvile Rd.) which WCTCB also owned to Pari Investments on 09/05/2018. Westdale Capital is a multifamily apartment complex development company.

b. Pari Investments LLC is the property owner of the new “Plaza at Wallisvile” retail development at the corner of Wallisville and Dell Dale adjacent to the where The Hollows is proposed to be built. The Hollows developer refers to the Plaza at Wallisville as an integral part of The Hollows development.

c. If LDG Development is not the current owner (HC property records reflect WCTCB as owner) of the lot The Hollows is proposed to be constructed on, why is Harris County and/or TX General Land Office providing taxpayer funds to LDG for LDG’s project to be developed on property LDG does not own?

3. LDG representative Dru Childre stated the complex was not required to have a retention pond instead it would utilize an existing drainage easement that runs along the property. Per Mr. Childre HC Engineering & HC Flood Control had informed them this easement could accommodate the runoff from the complex. Review of the 06/18/2008 recorded Wynhaven At Sonoma Ranch plat map for where The Hollows is to be built shows a drainage easement created to accommodate flood drainage of the Sonoma Ranch subdivision. At the time the easement was created 11 years ago it was sized to handle the expected drainage from the completed subdivision. Since The Hollows was not a part of the planned Sonoma Ranch subdivision drainage from The Hollows could not have been calculated into the creation of the required size of easement. Mr. Dru Childre also supplied the development was utilizing a flood study created shortly after Hurricane Harvey, this study reflects there is not flooding in the area. The Sonoma Ranch subdivision continues to grow and residents from Sonoma Ranch and Rancho Verde are already reporting drainage issues; the area which did not flood during Harvey during Imelda had flood waters requiring residents to park outside of the area and wade in to the subdivisions and their homes.

Following the sharing of findings, further discussion was held between the C.H.I.C. meeting attendees regarding if the use of flooding disaster funding was even being appropriately used to build The Hollows, a new complex, the funds were to be used to aid existing residents, to rebuild damaged structures and alleviate future flooding. The Texas General Land Office is the governmental agency in charge of the disbursement of the federal disaster monies. The purpose of the GLO’s CDBG Mitigation plan did not seem to be accomplished by The Hollows project. According to the Texas GLO the CDBG Mitigation Action has seven criteria which should be accomplished through the use of the CDBG funds: 1) Community Resilience, 2) Pubic Information Warning, 3) Long-term Vulnerability Reduction, 4) Operational Coordination, 5) Planning, 6) Threats & Hazards Identification and 7) Risk & Disaster Resilience Assessment. In the opinion of the community it appeared Harris County officials had not adhered to the CDBG Mitigation Action Plan. C.H.I.C. meeting attendees questioned why disaster funding was being used to create new development when, to date, so little had been provided to those in need of funding to recover from the Harvey and following flooding events. Shared with the attendees was a copy of the 2020 Commissioners Court Meeting Schedule and information on how to contact each of the four Harris County Commissioners and Judge Hidalgo to voice their concerns and/or opposition. The discussion regarding The Hollows development was concluded with the attendees given the opportunity to sign the petition in opposition to the development, being informed final approval of The Hollows development would be discussed and voted on at an upcoming Commissioners meeting and when the item appeared on the agenda notice would be sent to allow those who could attend the Commissioners meeting the opportunity to attend and oppose the development.

In attendance to hear the attendees concerns were Lone Star Legal Aid – Samantha Salas EJ Paralegal and Heejin Hwang EJ Fellow, Harris County Pct. 2 – Kristen Lee Environmental Policy and Cindy Miller Channelview Liaison, Harris County Sheriff’s Department – Charlotte Jackson, City of Houston Councilman District B – Jerry Davis, and Houston Responds – Tammi Scott.

The Channelview Health & Improvement Coalition will hold its next meeting Thursday February 27th from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at the Channelview Fire Department Station #3.