(Photo by Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Harris County Flood Control District has reached an agreement with the owner of the Spring, Texas club to acquire over 27 acres that could then be used to construct a regional stormwater detention basin. If approved by the county commissioners court, the deal could close by January 30 and the club would be given one year to close its operation. The Raveneaux property was one of the hardest-hit by the devastating Houston-area flooding in 2016.
Pending final approval by the Harris County (Texas) Commissioners Court, the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) hopes to acquire the 27.63 acres that encompass Raveneaux Country Club in Spring, Texas by the end of January, with the goal of constructing a regional stormwater detention basin to replace the country club and golf course, the Community Impact Newspaper (CIN) of Pflugerville, Texas reported.
Raveneaux CC has been a staple of the Champion Forest neighborhood of northwest metropolitan Houston since the 1970s, CIN reported. In addition to the country club and its 60,000-sq. ft. clubhouse, the community amenity also features a golf course designed by Robert Van Hagge, tennis courts and a fitness gym, and hosts weddings and special events throughout the year.
According to HCFCD Deputy Executive Director Matt Zeve, the district has been negotiating with the club’s owner, Michael Bloch for the past year with the goal of acquiring the property for flood-mitigation purposes, CIN reported. And on January 7, the Harris County Commissioners Court authorized the Harris County Real Property Division to make an offer to acquire the property.
According to an e-mail that was sent to Raveneaux members from Vice President of Operations Lou Mills, Bloch had accepted the offer extended by HCFCD as of January 11, CIN reported.
“We’ve been working with Mr. Bloch and his people for awhile now—probably over a year—and we’ve finally come to a tentative agreement,” Zeve said. “[However], pretty much everything we do has to be approved by commissioners court—so nothing is official until [the court] approves the transaction at its January 28 meeting. If they vote not to do this for whatever reason, then [the deal] is off.”
If the transaction is approved by the commissioners court, HCFCD hopes to close the deal by January 30, CIN reported.“[With approval] we will enter into a lease agreement with Raveneaux where they will have one year to continue operating the club and golf course, and then after the year is over, they will have to wind down all of their business and close up shop,” Zeve said.
While no decisions have been made on exactly what the plans are for the property, according to Zeve, the goal is to construct a regional stormwater detention basin for flood-mitigation purposes, CIN reported. While details of the basin have not yet been determined, Zeve said that in similar past projects, HCFCD has partnered with the local precinct to fund the construction and maintenance of adding recreational facilities to the property, allowing the basin to serve a dual purpose for the community.
However, CIN reported, Zeve added he was unsure yet if that is something the Harris County Precinct 4 is interested in doing, as the two entities have not yet discussed the matter.
Several residents expressed concern about the potentially negative effects the loss of Raveneaux CC could have on their neighborhood, including the potential decrease in home values, CIN reported. One of those residents is Allison Lewis, whose home sits on the golf course and has flooded in past high rainfall events.
(C+RB had a report after the devastating floods that hit the Houston area in 2016 that included drone footage showing how Raveneaux was one of the hardest hit among area clubs, with two-thirds of its golf course under water: https://clubandresortbusiness.com/friday-filmfest-rainfall-puts-houston-area-golf-courses-water/)
“These detention ponds can’t hold nearly the amount of water to stop the flooding when we’ve seen water in the great proportion that we’ve seen,” Lewis told CIN. “So is a detention pond going to stop the flooding? No. Obviously, it’s part of a bigger plan that will contribute to flood mitigation. And of course—my home took on water—I am all for flood mitigation, but I’m for thoughtful flood mitigation, especially in a community that really values its neighbors, its infrastructure and most importantly, our green space.”
Residents of the Champion Forest neighborhood also voiced concerns about not being included in the process for the sale of Raveneaux CC, CIN reported. Zeve did say that over the next year, the HCFCD will be engaging with the community to gather input on the future of the club. He added that the HCFCD would be adding a webpage for the project to its Cypress Creek watershed page in mid-January, where residents could submit questions and learn more about the project.
“We’re very aware that we’re not going to make everyone happy, but we’re also very aware that we’ve been asked by the Cypress Creek community—sometimes very forcefully—that major flood damage-reduction projects are needed in this watershed,” Zeve said.
The HCFCD will be working over the next year to acquire the additional 206 acres of the property that are owned by the Cypress Forest Public Utility District (PUD) which purchased the property with taxpayer funds in 2008, Zeve added.
The current lease between the Cypress Forest PUD and Bloch, the owner of Raveneaux CC, states the tenant must actively operate at least one 18-hole golf course on the property throughout the 99-year term of the lease, CIN reported. But Zeve said HCFCD will not be taking over the existing lease and will instead draft an entirely new lease, so the old lease and its tenant requirements will be terminated.
The land acquisition will be funded entirely through the HCFCD’s $2.5 billion bond referendum that was approved by voters in 2018, as $100 million of bond funds are allocated for acquiring property in the Cypress Creek watershed for flood mitigation projects, Zeve added.
“The flood control district recognizes that this project is transformative in that there’s a club in the community that’s been there for decades and that’s going to change and we’re sensitive to that,” Zeve said. “But we’re also sensitive to the toll that flooding has taken on that exact same community over the last three to four years.”