Don Hickey, Special Guest Writer to The Golden Hammer
The Woodlands, December 9 – Homes developed in the Creekside Park West neighborhood on lots prepared by Howard Hughes Corporation (“HHC”), current owner of The Woodlands master-planned community, flooded at a rate 35 times greater during Hurricane Harvey than previously existing homes here, according to a group of Woodlands’ residents calling themselves “Stop The Flooding.” Their spokesperson, Don Hickey, one of the residents whose home was flooded, compiled a study that drew comparisons from three categories:
- Creekside Park West, The Woodlands newest village, located within Harris County.
- Municipal Utility District 386, a MUD created by Howard Hughes to provide services to the new village.
- All homes located in The Woodlands outside of MUD 386.
According to the study,
Category 1 – Creekside Park West experienced flooding in 331 homes of the 1,435 completed homes in the subdivision, which equals a 22.9% flood rate.
Category 2 – MUD 386 includes 4,993 homes within and outside of Creekside Park West. So, with 331 flooded homes, MUD 386 as a single entity shows a flood rate of 6.6 percent.
Category 3 – The Woodlands Township reported on October 25, 2017 that 215 homes were flooded in the Montgomery County portion of The Woodlands. The HHC Community Facts information sheet lists 33,465 residential homes plus 3,715 attached homes for a total of 37,180. Stop The Flooding estimates that an additional 350 new homes were built to date in 2017.
Conclusion – Taking total number of homes in The Woodlands, minus those accounted for in MUD 386, reveals an overall “original Woodlands” homes flood rate of only .66%. Comparing that “original” rate to the 331 flooded new homes in Creekside Park West means that single section of new homes, built on lots developed by its relatively new owner, Howard Hughes Corporation, experienced a flood rate 35 times greater than the established neighborhoods of The Woodlands.
Don Hickey took his study and the encouragement of more than 1,500 people who have signed a petition to “Stop The Flooding,” to The Woodland Township Board meeting on December 6.
He explained: “I am a flood victim from Creekside Park, which is my third village of residence since I moved to the Woodlands 37 years ago. And yes, I worked for George Mitchell for 15 years. My mentors were the people who created this community. Most of the flooding in The Woodlands was from Spring Creek, a watershed with no plan for flood control management. Spring Creek is complicated since it borders many different jurisdictions.
There are three important points to these observations:
First, there are local solutions to flooding in Creekside Park and the flood victims are working together with MUD 386 on developing and implementing a plan for these local solutions.
Second, there are regional solutions to the flooding in the Spring Creek watershed. It is imperative that the township, the special districts and Harris, Montgomery, Grimes and Waller Counties actively engage and work together with state and federal officials to design solutions and compete for funding. There are large competing projects for funding and we must be organized to be successful. I offer my services to participate in this process.
Third, as a community we need to take control of our destiny. Our community was not designed for local control. It was designed to give the developer complete freedom to establish standards and to develop with little to no accountability. For most of my years as a Woodlands Resident, I strongly believed that world class urban planners overseen by a benevolent dictator were more effective than a political process. Mr. Mitchell was intently focused on quality and he established and enforced the standards of our community.
That is no longer the case. We are now an ATM machine. I have nothing against free enterprise or seeking a profit. However, I have watched the development company state that they have met all minimum standards for flood control. I have watched them abdicate any responsibility for the quality of their product. I have reviewed the corners that were cut in the development of my neighborhood which were focused on profitability in lieu of quality. This is why Creekside Park West had 35 times the flooding rate of the more established areas of The Woodlands, all outside of MUD 386.
CALLS FOR HALT TO MORE CONSTRUCTION AND INCORPORATION AS A CITY
This has led me to a 180 degree change in my opinion. I now believe that the developer of The Woodlands cannot be trusted to establish standards for our community. Some standards like schools and amenities are already well established. Harris County has now established new standards for flood control that will require a lot of work to bring the older areas into compliance. In Creekside Park West, future construction which leads to more runoff should be halted until these new standards can be met.
One of the remaining standards in the community that has not been established is density and traffic. The higher the density, the higher the traffic and the higher the profitability on development. Think Uptown Houston. High density, high profits, awful traffic. Many people moved to The Woodlands to avoid that.
Our community must take control of establishing standards for density and traffic before it is too late. The only means to achieve this is to commence incorporation as a city and implement zoning. In my neighborhood, profit was, obviously and sadly, chosen over quality. Our residents now realize that single-minded developers, based outside our community, view us as just an ATM machine. The developer will continue to choose profitability over the interests of our family community. The Woodlands is our home and our community and, I know I speak on behalf of most residents; the time has come for us to take control.
Don Hickey is a resident of Creekside Park West, a spokesman for “Stop the Flooding,” and a banker.