The Leaky Lakes of Crown Oaks

Lake at Crown Oaks, ConroeThe charms of gated acreage near Lake Conroe: large, wooded lakefront homesites, plus only a 25 minute commute . . . to The Woodlands! Oh, and if we’re talking about 1400-acre Crown Oaks in Montgomery County, lots of lawsuits, too!

Last year, the Crown Oaks Property Owners Association, along with individual homeowners, sued Affiliated Crown Development LTD, citing poor structure of the two manmade lakes in the development, located outside Montgomery.

But so much has happened since then: After new board members decided the developer would finally work with them to solve the lakes’ problems, the property owners association dropped its suit this fall. But now two groups of 10 individual homeowners have hired separate legal teams to continue their lawsuit against the developer. And in turn, the developer is now suing the engineering and construction firms it hired to build the dams on both lakes.

But there’s even more lawsuit fun:

“The POA tried to get out of the suit as a plaintiff, so my group has also sued them,” [homeowner attorney Kevin] Forsberg said. “The individuals were not satisfied. … Even though the POA started working with the developer in the hopes that the lakes would be fixed, nothing has actually been done.”

What’s it like to build your home on a lake that doesn’t bother to show up? Thanks to the amazing power of the internets, you can experience all the highs and lows of manmade-lakefront real-estate investing yourself — from the comfort of your own computer! Watch videos and read details of the whole dam story . . . after the jump!


To get a good picture of what drew homeowners to this place, you’ll want to watch the cheesy Crown Oaks promotional video first. “Offering solitude with old-fashioned values,” Crown Oaks marketed itself to a community of people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of that . . . um, big, crowded metropolis nearby. That’s right: The Woodlands.

[You] have all the amenities of The Woodlands, but don’t have to live right next door to your neighbor, know exactly what you’re neighbor’s eating for dinner . . . it’s really nice.

It may be an hour’s drive north, but this place isn’t so far from Houston, really — at least in spirit. Residents here are just like Houstonians, always looking nearby for the charm of someplace else:

When we pulled into Crown Oaks . . . and we drove through the subdivision, it looked like we were in Austin, Texas! The hills, the rolling hills that you find here, you don’t find them down the street. . . . It’s our own Hill Country!

When you’re done watching that video, get all the lakefront dirt from the recent KHOU-TV report.

What exactly is wrong with the lakes? From a Q&A posted to the POA website last year:

The dams have yet to be approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state agency that monitors and approves dam
construction in Texas. They were built without proper permits. Serious soil erosion has occurred
on the dams from simple rainfall runoff, meaning that serious overflows from a full lake would
cause even heavier damage. The Majestic Lake dam in particular was not constructed according
to the engineer’s original design.
Despite the fact that we’ve had enough rainfall to at least
partially fill Majestic Lake, it appears to not hold water at all. The ability of Crown Lake to hold
water is also in question. Seepage occurs downstream from the Majestic Lake dam whenever the
water level does rise above a certain level . . .

More detail from a Courier story last year:

Issues concerning the Majestic Lake dam first surfaced in October 2004, when the TCEQ noted certain parts of the dam had not been built to the plans and specifications the agency approved in June 2004.

The inspection showed that the emergency spillway had been built to a width of 200 feet instead of the approved 350 feet.

The emergency spillway was designed to be protected by a geotextile mat that was to extend 50 feet downstream. Instead, “inadequately sized” riprap of 9 to 12 inches in diameter was “sparsely placed” in place of the covering, according to the inspection report.

“The rock did not extend downstream as proposed and did not cover the entire slope,” according to the TCEQ report.

The report also noted there no “seep holes” in the discharge section of the concrete service spillway as proposed. The configuration, slope and dimensions of the discharge channel also were different from the plans.

Bonus: The developer’s other lawsuit — with another subdivision! But it’s been settled, according to the original Crown Oaks POA website:

A downstream subdivision sued the developer over damage to their lake caused by the construction of Majestic Lake. They also sued alleging superior water rights for their lake. . . .

The exact settlement is unknown due to a non-disclosure agreement between Deer Lake and the Developer. Reports have suggested that the settlement may have been in a 7 figure settlement.

If during the course of any work done on Majestic Lake there is future damage to Deer Lake, Deer Lake retains the right to file another lawsuit for future damages against the developer and/or POA.

Photos: Powell Land Company (top) and Visit Houston Online