Schemes for half-billion-dollar eco-resort theme parks are delicate things. To make them happen, it sure helps if everyone believes! Close your eyes and wish it, then: a 500-acre eco-themed, dinosaur-flavored earth science fantasyland, resort, conference center, and retail development just 30 miles northeast of Downtown Houston on Hwy. 59, and just a short drive from Bush Intercontinental airport. Imagine the synergy: Rides, a water park, a museum and scientific institute, ecotourism, a volcano and retreating glacier, shops, restaurants, and shows! Pterodactyls!
But darn, wouldn’t you just figure a ragtag bunch of cynical, self-proclaimed investigating journalist types would get in the way, asking all sorts of annoying questions? Like: How come the East Montgomery County Improvement District has been funneling millions of dollars to various development entities connected to the proposed EarthQuest Resort in New Caney, a hefty chunk of which appears to have been spent on lavish travel junkets for the developers, EMCID officials, and their families — to view theme parks in Las Vegas, Florida, Canada, the Bahamas, Japan, China, and Vietnam? And: How come EMCID officials now claim not to know the current status of the now apparently bankrupt EarthQuest Institute, which for several years listed the EMCID’s address as its own on tax forms, and when the 2 organizations have the same board chairman? And: Who’s even gonna build this thing now that the landowner has declared bankruptcy and the developer won’t show up to community meetings?
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Oh, and one other small question: If the EarthQuest Resort doesn’t get built, how’s the county improvement district going to pay back the $7.6 million in sales-tax revenue bonds it took out in 2009 to pay for pre-development costs on the project?
A frustrating situation to think about, certainly. How about we just keep our focus on the dream, instead? East Montgomery County, this is your future:
EMCID president Frank McCrady continues to insist EarthQuest is “moving forward”; The project’s first phase is now expected to break ground “in 2011 or 2012,” the organization’s website proclaims. Homebuilder D.R. Horton, McCrady says, is buying the land out of bankruptcy. That’ll get it going. Just you wait!
- Fantasy Land [Houston Press]
- EarthQuest Institute received $500,000 from EMCID, EarthQuest Institute: a betrayal of the public’s trust?, Loan funneled through second entity questioned, EMCID entourage racks up expenses at resorts, restaurants, theme parks, Where’s the money? [The Tribune]
- Earthquest: Sinkhole for residents’ taxes? [The Courier of Montgomery County]
- Planned ecology park near 59 would dwarf AstroWorld [Houston Chronicle]
- Overview [EarthQuest]
Images: EarthQuest Resort