14 Comment

  • Wow, that’s the exact opposite of my impression of Houston, although I’ve only been here a few months and live in the loop. It seems to me like I could drive a good 45 minutes to an hour in any direction and still be in the city, which is actually kind of depressing.

    Or maybe we have different definitions of “rural.” Mine doesn’t include subdivisions or strip malls.

  • Welcome to Houston, zippy.

    I’m guessing the original comment was referring more to individual properties having rural flavors, rather than whole-scale rural areas.
    That’s one of the effects of our more-or-less lack of zoning: lots of sprawl, but also pockets of ‘rural’ properties mixed in to all.
    We live on ~2/3 of an acre within 35 minutes of downtown, where we can burn outside, and there are horses everywhere.

  • Think northeast Houston, inside the Beltway. If the only thing you can say is that you’ve never been there…there’s a reason why. Much of it is virtually untouched, with numerous swaths of forested land and many tracts larger than Memorial Park.
    The only thing is, oddly enough…if you make enough money that you could afford to live there, you wouldn’t want to.

  • South Houston between 610 & BW8 is also very rural. In fact, you can get some interesting vantage points from BW8 with cattle grazing in the foreground and skyscrapers in the background. I imagine that most people who have never been to Texas think all our cities look like this area.

  • Everybody take those pictures now! because the rural bits will be built on.

  • There are a lot of areas, particularly in southeast and northeast Houston, that have active oil and gas wells. And which will probably never be developed for that reason. No developer could afford to clean up the land. And of course the land cannot be used for park land either because of the contamination.

    There is oil and gas under Memorial Park but the trustees of the Hogg Estate are bound by the covenants. So fortunately there will be no drilling in Memorial Park. Unfortunately there was drilling everywhere else.

    And it’s not just oil and gas contamination and many of those easements we see scattered around with the warning signs are not just oil and gas pipeline easements but chemical pipelines as well.

    You used to be able to access the pipeline maps online prior to 9/11. One possible problem with ever putting in a subway system is all the pipeline systems.

  • … on the other hand… roads go over top of petroleum pipelines all the time with an agreement & bond to protect them. Citie$, countie$ and large entitie$ do it all the time.

    The whole of the Woodlands Town Center, including the regional mall there, is built atop a pipeline, which runs alongside the foundation of the Anadarko Tower. Even Lake Robbins, though it’s not at all deep, is on top!

  • And of course there is a natural gas pipeline that runs through Tanglewood. Something the realtors of course don’t point out. The oilmen who loved Tanglewood of course loved it. Not sure if anyone else did. Accidents do happen you know.

    There is one subdivision in Ft. Bend County where quite a few were surprised to find that the natural gas pipeline was really a benzene pipeline. Easement or not it still makes quite a few quite uneasy.

    As for building subdivisions over pipelines, forget it. That has never been allowed. There has to be an easement and there is an easement involved in the Woodlands. If there were a problem with the pipeline, do you think they are going to tear down buildings to access the pipeline?

    There is also a LPG pipeline that runs through Fondren Southwest and Maplewood/Westbury. Scary stuff all around us. That we never think about but should given the age of some of the pipelines.

  • Matt, not all oil fields are toxic. Friendswood, Clear Lake City, and Kingwood were all once large oilfields operated by Exxon and developed by their subsidiary, Friendswood Development Corporation. There are in fact still active oilwells and numerous pipeline easements within Clear Lake City that can be observed on Google Earth.
    More recently, paranoia over the possibility of unlimited liability in lawsuits related to the real or perceived impact of environmental issues on public health had forced Exxon to place deed restrictions on remaining undeveloped oilfields, such as those around Ellington Field preventing that those lands ever be developed…except that they can be and are being developed as commercial and industrial properties. But to be clear, it isn’t a regulatory thing, it is a deed restriction thing, and if someone were willing and able to indemnify Exxon, they’d probably be willing to revoke the deed restrictions.

  • I have a friend who owns a percentage in one of the unified fields along Beamer Road and sorry but it’s not that simple as just selling the land and never had been but particularly at this point. TRNCC, also known as Train Wreck, has a lot to say about what you can and cannot do with the land. After an environmental assessment of course. For the most part you can get a permit for commercial or industrial. But it depends on the environmental assessment.

  • Matt wrote….”There is one subdivision in Ft. Bend County where quite a few were surprised to find that the natural gas pipeline was really a benzene pipeline. Easement or not it still makes quite a few quite uneasy.

    As for building subdivisions over pipelines, forget it. That has never been allowed.”


  • Oil fields? Pipelines? I thought we were talking about horses…

  • Drive out of the med center, just outside 610 on Main, and it’s pretty rural. And if you drive south on Stell Link and then a bit west, toward the Willow Meadows area, you’ll see horses grazing under the powerlines.

  • Matt, a Phase I environmental assessment is required by lenders when a developer even purchases land. That report looks at historical land use for the subject site and adjoining properties, raising any red flags. A Phase II study is then required if the Phase I brought up issues of concern, and that involves soil and groundwater tests. …again, that’s just for land to trade hands.
    A Phase II study is required for any and all new development prior to permits being issued. It doesn’t matter whether it was an oilfield or not.
    Beamer Road is a special case because of the Brio Superfund Site. There was a waste processing plant that had disposed of a great deal of material from various refineries by dumping it into earthen pits. That was not standard practice; this was Houston’s Love Canal. The Brio site has been contained to prevent additional seepage through the groundwater, but the pollution that’s there would be far too expensive to remediate. So yeah, unless your friend got a chunk of that sweet sweet settlement, he’s probably **** out of luck.