Image: A Texas Department of Transportation map showing proposed routes for the Tx-249 extension and the location of Waco real estate developer Rick Sheldon’s tract of land. (Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Transportation and Kelli Cook.)
Conroe, July 10 – Montgomery County road policy clearly has little to do with County needs or even the direction of actual economic development. If the County’s road policy followed County growth needs or economic development, then County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley would have fought to widen the two-lane F.M. 1488 from the Waller County line to Mostyn Manor a long time ago. They’re finally getting around to doing that after The Golden Hammer and others pointed out their dereliction of duty.
As drivers commute from the Magnolia area towards Houston during morning rush hour and then going the opposite direction in the afternoon, they should remember Riley and Doyal are the two people most responsible for trapping them in their cars for long hours. Riley and Doyal are finally getting around to widen F.M. 1488 in the area of the fastest economic growth throughout Montgomery County literally ten years after they should have addressed that issue.
Why don’t Riley and Doyal address road needs in light of the actual direction of economic development? Because Riley and Doyal don’t serve the people of Montgomery County, and they most surely don’t serve the interests of businesses or economic development. Instead, Doyal and Riley serve their main constituents: a group of Montgomery County outsiders who contribute most of the money to Doyal, Riley, and the political projects that most effectively fool Montgomery County voters into supporting their outside-the-county interests rather than the interests of the citizens, businesses, and other taxpayers within Montgomery County.
That’s one of the reasons that the upcoming election of Riley and Doyal is so important to those outside firms: those two members of Commissioners Court, along with Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, cater to their largest financial contributors from outside of Montgomery County rather than the lowly interests inside of the geographic boundaries of this community.
Rick Sheldon and the TCTPC
The 2014 election offered a stark contrast between Mark Bosma and Craig Doyal, who were the two candidates for Montgomery County Judge, who made the Republican Runoff Election. Bosma represented reformers, ideological conservatives, and the longstanding Tea Party groups, such as the Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC. Doyal represented the political establishment, which had lost several County-wide elections during the 2012 election cycle.
As a result, Doyal and his close friend Duane Ham, along with some of their political supporters, decided to form a brand new “Tea Party” organization called the Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition (TCTPC) with Ham as its Chairman. The TCTPC formed for the 2014 Republican Runoff Election specifically to attempt to counter the Patriots PAC’s very effective use of voters guides which recommended to voters for whom they should vote. TCTPC voter guides claimed the “Tea Party” mantra and recommended Doyal and Riley. If nothing else, the competing voter guides created enough voter confusion at the polls that Doyal was able to beat Bosma through the dual methods of confusion and obfuscation. Bosma had gotten more votes than Doyal in the 2014 Republican Primary Election, but Doyal came back to defeat Bosma in the Runoff.
During that 2014 election cycle, the TCTPC raised and spent $140,953.42, according to campaign finance reports. Of those funds, $76,312.42 came from outside-of-Montgomery County contributors, or 54.14% of the total.
The second largest of those outside-of-Montgomery County contributors was none other than Rick Sheldon, the extremely successful real estate developer based in Waco and San Antonio. Sheldon also was one of the people mentioned in a July 21, 2016, email that discussed that Sheldon and two others from the Austin area hired Rusty Hardin to represent Doyal for Doyal’s criminal indictment under the Texas Open Meetings Act and that Sheldon was instrumental in “setting up” Doyal’s legal defense fund used to pay Hardin.
Sheldon just happens to own land in Montgomery County along the route for the proposed Tx-249 Tollway, the $443 million, 11.4 mile portion from Pinehurst to Todd Mission that seems to end up in the middle of nowhere after it carefully bypasses the City of Magnolia.
Sheldon also owns land along the 3.6 mile portion of the Tx-249 Tollway over which Montgomery County residents are currently arguing, because the County government has chosen to take that approximately $73 million project away from Tx-DOT and has already spent $13.1 million of funds for engineering and other design work as well as right-of-way acquisition.
As another example of how dangerous the “consent agenda” items are, it turns out the Montgomery County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a Master Plan for Sheldon’s 585.5 acre tract, prepared by none other than David Hamilton, one of Doyal’s best friends (remember the wedding Doyal and Bobby Adams attended? That was Hamilton’s!), for Sheldon.
Sheldon’s project made no economic sense whatsoever and, over the past two-and-a-half years Sheldon has not moved forward with the project at all, since Doyal and Riley tricked their colleagues to approve the Master Plan in the middle of nowhere on the April 21, 2015, Commissioners Court “consent agenda.”
Now, with the Tx-249 Tollway coming through – at a cost to the taxpayers of over half a billion dollars – Sheldon’s contributions to Doyal directly and through the TCTPC are paying off nicely.
The Sheldon project is an interesting contrast to several other real estate developments in Montgomery County which seemed to arise from genuine population growth needs. Those projects include the Woodforest Development along the Fish Creek Thoroughfare, Grand Central Park, Valley Ranch in East Montgomery County, and even the gigantic Woodlands development in south Montgomery County.
Sheldon needed Doyal and Riley. Doyal and Riley needed Sheldon perhaps a whole lot more.
In this instance, the County government is creating economic value for a favored political contributor. His land would otherwise be rural and low in value. With secretive and centralized planning and backroom dealing, however, Rick Sheldon used his pawns Doyal and Riley to make himself a whole lot of land value overnight.
Montgomery County is truly a County for sale.