Harris County Commissioners Court
September 15, 2009, 10 am
Houston Tomorrow publishes notes from public meetings to help local governments in their mission to provide transparency and to allow a greater pool of citizens to participate in important policy discussions. These notes are not official meeting minutes, nor do they necessarily record every agenda item.
Note: The Commissioners Court covers a wide variety of topics. Questions or comments regarding agenda items are discussed during the meeting, and some items may be removed. At the end the commissioners vote on the agenda as a whole.
The Commissioners Court approved local primacy on the Grand Parkway, meaning that the county and the other six Grand Parkway counties will assume responsibility for developing the project. This means that once a given segment receives federal environmental clearance, the counties must begin construction within two years, or else the project reverts to the control of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). For Segments E and F-1, which already have environmental clearance - pending a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club - the counties must begin construction by September 25, 2011. Art Storey, executive director of the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department, recommended the court seek local primacy, saying, “If anybody builds the Grand Parkway in the next two years, it will be Harris County.”
Robin Holzer, chair of the local Citizens’ Transportation Coalition, spoke in opposition to the project. Holzer asked what the requirements and deadlines were for Segment E to receive $181 million in stimulus funds, as well as for more information regarding the traffic and revenue study approved by the Commissioners Court in July. She told the Court, “Doing this study is not only fiscally conservative, it is essential, since changing demographics and rising gas prices may mean that a toll road across the Katy Prairie won’t pay for itself.” She also asked when the county would decide whether or not to develop the project using a public-private partnership and when citizens could expect work to begin to relieve congestion along the US 290/Hempstead Corridor.
After Holzer pressed the Commissioners Court for a reaction, Judge Ed Emmett told her that the public comment period was for the Court to listen to citizens, rather than a time for the commissioners to respond with their own comments. He asked for her to email him a copy of the questions and said that he would respond to them. Judge Emmett also said that the two-year timeline would extend past the next legislative session, and that it is possible that other legislation could affect the project.
In other action, three speakers showed up to express support for the Sylvan Beach Pavilion in La Porte and oppose a plan to replace the historic structure with a high-rise hotel. They said that the planned hotel has no public support.
Another speaker asked the Harris County Flood Control District to clean up blockages along Cedar Bayou and several nearby ditches.