If not sold, acre may be taken by eminent domain
By Elsa Maxey
Some Sugar Land homeowners are calling attention to their homes’ location. They live in a residential neighborhood, not an industrial park, they say. But, the Fort Bend Levee Improvement District (LID) #2, according to them, is interested in purchasing an open-field acre owned by the First Colony Community Association (FCCA) that has been vacant for 20 years. It’s next to their homes, and they’ve been told the land can be had by eminent domain for a storage facility to be built on it.
The Fort Bend LID#2, which approached the FCCA, wants the land for a warehouse it intends to build for what is being referred to as emergency operations, reports FCCA’s new Executive Director Doug Earle. He said a land appraisal provided by the LID’s attorney Russell Jones valued it at $45,330, also confirmed by the FCCA’s Board President Myatt Hancock, who said it was obtained on June 2.
Even this appraisal value does not sit well with those in opposition of the sale, who have said that FCCA did not bother to get its own appraisal. Lot values in the neighborhood, according to the land sale opponents, calculated in relation to the acre would have it go for about $295,000. They say the FCCA board should be looking out for the homeowners, but some may be “a little too cozy with the Levee board and their consigliere.”
Those affected by the prospective land sale live in Austin Meadow, a neighborhood next to Clements High School that includes Colony Court, Colony Crossing, Bright Trail, Caroline Court and the Oakland Drive subdivisions. Residents there say they’re trying to protect their neighborhood and property values. With the sale of the FCCA-owned acre to the Fort Bend LID #2, they say the use of their tax money to buy the land is misguided, wasteful, disruptive to the community it serves, and not in the public interest. They have even told the FCCA of their opposition and there’s even a signed petition.
“Surely there are other areas in Sugar Land and within the boundaries of LID #2 that would be more appropriate and suitable for reasons of accessibility and capacity, said Dave Presutti.
Presutti said he and his two neighbors attended the LID board meeting this month and communicated their opposition to the land sale. “There were no plans, details or specifics,” that could be explained at the board meeting, he said. “Our elected officials should be looking out for the people to insure that their tax money is being spent wisely in these difficult economic times,” adds Presutti, along with there being careful deliberation about damaging consequences. Mere talk of the land sale possibility recently affected a home sale on Oakland Drive, he said, where a buyer reportedly backed out upon news about the LID’s interest in buying the property for building a warehouse.
Presutti acknowledges that the neighborhood has “never flooded because the levees have been designed and upgraded in recent years to increase the volume and flow of water.” He said he believes this to be the focus of LID #2, and not on building unnecessary structures.
The sale is not a done deal, and “it is under review and assessment,” according to FCCA’s Board President Hancock. He said the property is platted for elevated water storage, it has a power line going through the middle of it, and it has large irrigation ditches through the back of the property, “and is not suitable for recreation or much of anything else.” Hancock said that if the LID did not pursue its purchase, “we would just leave it as vacant land.”
Fort Bend County Commissioner James Patterson may weigh in on this issue. On Monday, he met with about 100 affected homeowners.