Friday, August 22, 2008

Proposed Grand Parkway toll road blindsides homeowners

Consumer Watch: No one-stop site to track road plans

Aug. 22, 2008

Copyright 2008
Houston Chronicle

Bob Elliott and his wife, Virginia, thought they had moved into their dream home, the last one they would ever buy.

Now, after about two weeks in their house in the Lakes of Avalon subdivision in Spring, the Elliotts don't see much of a future there. That's because 60 lots in the subdivision are in the right of way of a proposed segment of the Grand Parkway.

"It leaves us in a subdivision that is now garbage," Bob Elliott said. "We have lost tremendous value on our homes, not to mention the fact that we are not a regular subdivision now. We are just on a piece of land right off the freeway."

The Elliotts and their neighbors are left wondering why weren't they told by the builders or the developer that the roadway would go through their subdivision of several hundred houses between FM 2920 and Kuykendahl Road

Unfortunately for homebuyers, there is no one-stop location — physical or on the Internet — to get information about subdivision developments and proposed roadways in the Houston area. So, you're going to have to check with various entities — the city of Houston, Harris County, toll road authorities, transit agencies and other agencies — to see what they have planned for an area.

Hard to believe

Tracy Martin, a Lakes of Avalon resident, said she didn't check beforehand to see if the parkway was coming through her neighborhood because she thought nothing like that would happen to a new subdivision.

"And, by no means, even if you yourself had all the background and all the education to check for the tollway, if you had seen the neighborhood that we stay in, not once would you have thought that a Grand Parkway would cut it in half," she said.

As the owner of a real estate company, Elliott said he's familiar with the services available for prospective homebuyers wanting to check on construction projects.

"There is no database," he said. "When you get something like this (Grand Parkway) that's been in the works for 25 years, nobody knows anything. Even today, I cannot find a map that shows the streets."

David Gornet, executive director of the Grand Parkway Association, said the proposed segments of the 185-mile highway are on the nonprofit group's Web site.

But, as Elliott points out, since the maps only include major roads, that makes it difficult to see the neighborhood streets that will be affected.

Fighting the route

Robert A. Hudson, a Spring developer who partnered with Lennar on the project, has said builders knew the highway might come through the subdivision.

Daris Horn, regional customer care manager for Lennar, sidestepped questions about that. But she said the builder will do what it can to help change the route.

"We live there, too," Horn said. "We have homes that are not sold. We have associates that live in that community, so we feel like they are a part of us."

Suzy Hartgrove, public affairs manager for the city of Houston's Planning Department, said it would be nice if there was one location where a consumer could look for data on proposed construction of roads, water treatment plants and other public projects in the area.

She recommended checking each governmental agency's Web site for capital improvement projects.

Hartgrove said Houston's public works department has a weekly report that lists major construction permits by ZIP codes.

Deborah Vaughn, director of architecture and engineering for the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department, said the county has a Web site at with capital improvement projects planned by county agencies, including the Toll Road Authority, Flood Control District and the Architecture and Engineering Division. Raequel Roberts, the Metropolitan Transit Authority's spokeswoman, said its projects on are the Web site under the tab of "Metro Solutions" at

Got a problem?

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