Lawsuit: No More Private Projects for TIRZ 17 Until All the Flooding Is Fixed

TIRZ 17 boundary

Some Memorial-area residents (mostly under the banner of uncontroversially-named Residents Against Flooding) filed a previously-threatened lawsuit this morning requesting that the city of Houston and TIRZ 17 be barred from using the reinvestment district’s funds for private development projects until more drainage projects have been implemented in the nearby neighborhoods. The lawsuit alleges that the Memorial City Redevelopment Authority and the city have been increasing runoff from the zone (inside Beltway 8 at I-10, shown above in green) into the nearby neighborhoods without adding enough new drainage projects to compensate for it; residential flooding in 2009, last Memorial Day, and this Tax Day are cited as the outcome.

The group filing the suit says it doesn’t want money — so what is the suit asking for?

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In addition to restricting use of the TIRZ funds, the group wants city be barred from approving permits for large commercial developments in the area until a study proves that each project will not worsen flooding throughout the residential areas nearby; the plaintiffs also asking that a special flood-minded administrator be installed to oversee future TIRZ 17 activities.

Residents Against Flooding, which changed its name several years ago from the Memorial City District Drainage Coalition, started planning a similar lawsuit back in 2009; that suit was shelved before filing as years of statewide drought conditions caused the group’s donation-dependent revenue stream to shrivel up as well. Last year’s Memorial Day water served as new fuel on the fire, and talk of the suit was revived over that summer. Then in April, the group publicly decried the city council’s replacement of a TIRZ 17 board member whose term was ending with a not-from-the-neighborhood rep — days before Tax Day flooding inundated the area again.

Map of TIRZ 17 territory: City of Houston

Memorial City

9 Comment

  • so they want their tirz to be a literal rainy day fund? interesting.

  • @Toasty – this TIRZ is actually only authorized by law to perform drainage and mobility projects which is quite shocking to most people since it has morphed into such a developer piggy bank.

  • I can’t help but like what these people are doing. Very much looking forward to more TIRZ battles in the city.

  • While I don’t have a dog in this hunt, I do like the idea of citizens reining in the shadowy power of TIRZ entities. The actions of TIRZs need to be brought into the sunlight.

  • Actually, this particular TIRZ was formed at the behest of the commercial property owners who PROMISED that they would add a number of detention facilities in a contract with the City of Houston. The contract expired unfulfilled and unenforced. The promise accomplished what was intended – removal of opposition to the formation of a TIRZ in an area that could hardly be described as needy.

  • paulp – can you provide a copy of that contract? I’ve heard this argument from the Citizens for years, but have never seen a copy.

  • I’m not sure whether this link will work, but the contract and related documents can be found here:

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/9361152/2003.Jan.16%20Public%20Dev%20Contract.pdf

    To add insult to injury, the TIRZ has maintained for years that this is not a contract (funny thing – it says that it is), that it’s non-binding, that it is just a set of guidelines, that it is nothing more than what every TIRZ signs, that it doesn’t mean anything. All of which is ridiculous. This is quite clearly a contract (you don’t need to be an attorney to see that it is, but I am, and it is), it is quite clearly unique to TIRZ 17 (there are specific mobility and drainage projects identified on Exhibit A), and it is quite clearly a binding commitment (the contract requires the TIRZ to make an attempt to complete the projects – something that it doesn’t claim to have done, because it didn’t even try).

    The accomplishment of the drainage projects would have required either the cooperation or condemnation of properties owned by the commercial interests, primarily Metro National Corp. My belief is that those interests preferred to solve their drainage problems within their district at the expense of others and refused to cooperate and preferred to spend their incremental tax dollars on things like fancy lighting and landscaping. As to condemnation, no one had the guts to push the issue. The city made no effort to enforce the contract, and everyone involved seems to have worked very hard to forget that it ever existed or that any such promises were ever made.

    To add irony to the situation, Metro National has now taken advantage of non-TIRZ detention area north of I-10 to enhance an office building it is constructing at the intersection of I-10 and Gessner. It didn’t contribute to or pay for the detention, it refused to provide its own property (even parking lots) for detention, but it’s happy to make use of a park over a detention area that others have paid for.

  • KILL all TIRZ’s ..they’re corrupt / crooked and whore themselves to the over development of the affected areas…

  • If you think TIRZ 17(Memorial City) is something . Take a look at TIRZ 16 ( Uptown). They have or will sell $121M of bonds secured by ad valorem taxes to build a dedicated bus lane down the middle of Post Oak Blvd.
    No public input or no third party surveys by office workers to see if they would ride a bus to work , So why do they do it? Maybe millions of dollars to certain land owners( mainly TIRZ board members) in the form of cash and increased utility capacity for future development. All at tax payer expense. My guess is more lawsuits coming until the Texas Legislature puts an end to this madness