Colony Ridge, a massive residential development north of Houston, has quickly taken center stage in Texas politics.
After weeks of reports in conservative media portraying the development as a “magnet for illegal immigrants,” followed by state Republican leaders expressing alarm, Gov. Greg Abbott has promised that Colony Ridge will be addressed in an upcoming special legislative session, saying “serious concerns have been raised.”
“We’re trying to put together as much information as possible so that I can add to the special session any issue that needs to be enforced in terms of a new law in the state of Texas, to make sure that we’re not going to have colonies like this in our state,” Abbott told radio host Dana Loesch on Monday.
The precise issues are unclear. Abbott suggested he is worried Colony Ridge has become a “no-go zone” where the state’s ban on “sanctuary cities” is not being enforced. But legal experts say there is no law against selling land to people who aren’t citizens and many of the more outlandish claims about the neighborhood have been accompanied with little or no evidence.
Abbott also said the state has issued subpoenas to the developers “to find out what’s going on financially.” And he said state environmental regulators are investigating Colony Ridge and will issue a report.
The development company, Terranos Houston, has dismissed suggestions that Colony Ridge is a haven for people in the country illegally as “slanderous” and “unsubstantiated.” Developer William Trey Harris, a major campaign donor to Abbott, told local media this week he is “a little disappointed in our state government that they are taking action based on lies and gossip.”
Harris, the developer, is a prominent Republican donor, particularly to the governor. He has given over $1 million to Abbott’s campaigns and also contributed to local politicians such as state Sen. Brandon Creighton and state Rep. William Metcalf, both of Conroe.
I’m a little disappointed, too, dude. A million bucks just doesn’t go as far as it used to now, does it?
That report was from late last week. Houston Landing added on this Monday.
It is unclear what action Abbott wants legislators to take on the development during the upcoming special session, but he said during the interview he is concerned Colony Ridge is flouting the state’s ban on so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Patrick, president of the Texas Senate, said he is considering holding hearings about Colony Ridge during the special session.
State lawmakers have been expecting to gather in Austin Oct. 9 for a special session centered around school vouchers, although Abbott has not released an agenda for the session.
In a letter to state lawmakers, John Harris, president of Colony Ridge, Inc., called the reports of thousands of immigrants in the country illegally and cartel activity nothing more than “salacious rumors and lies” and invited them to tour the community later this week to see for themselves.
“We have followed the law fully, including: screening all customers for potential terrorism/narcotics trafficking, following anti-discrimination laws, and adhering to all county ordinances, environmental regulations, and model subdivision rules,” Harris wrote. “Further, allegations of drug cartel connections to Colony Ridge are preposterous and unfounded.”
Liberty County officials say action is needed, but not to combat immigrants or to declare war on a drug cartel compound. Estimates on the community’s population vary, but officials agree the population has exploded in recent years and the county is struggling to keep up.
“We’re just seeing an influx of people,” said Billy Knox, a deputy chief with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. “I think some of the people are reporting there’s 75,000 people in here. … We only have three people out here for 75,000 people. The main concern is being able to provide deputies to cover the area.”
Knox said there may be cartel activity in Liberty County, but nothing that is out of the ordinary for any other county in the border state of Texas.
Liberty County Judge Jay Knight said, to his knowledge, the Colony Ridge developer has followed every local and state law.
“Yes, there’s been quite a bit written about it, and I think some of those things have probably been exaggerated,” said Knight, who is a Republican. “Everyone wants to live the American Dream, and this was an area that was opened up to persons that want to realize the American Dream in some form or fashion.”
The comments from Harris and county officials have done little to tamp down on the political fervor surrounding the development, which advertises in Spanish low-cost options to buy property and build a home.
Just as a note, Liberty County voted 79% for the Former Guy in 2020. Two guys elected to represent that county say this is a load of crap. Those leopards sure do get hungry, don’t they?
UPDATE: Here’s a followup story from the Trib that talks to one of the Harrises involved in the project (turns out there’s three of them, I had thought the two stories above were calling the same guy by two different names). Among other things, he has a truly touching faith in out state leadership:
[Trey] Harris said he was not sure if his development will be included on the special session’s call, but that he was working on gathering facts that refute the allegations to send to lawmakers.
“When they see that, this whole thing might just go away,” he said.
He said he believes that Abbott is “a good guy” who made a mistake by not gathering information before talking about the development publicly.
“I think he’s gonna know he made a mistake when the facts come out about what’s really going on here,” he said. “I’m curious to see how he reacts when he finds out he’s got egg on his face.”
That’s just adorable. Please do let me know how your faith in the ability of Republicans to learn and react to factual information works out for you.
UPDATE Colony Ridge is officially on the special session agenda. Like I said, a million bucks just doesn’t have the buying power it once did. But don’t worry, I’m sure Greg Abbott will see the error of his ways as soon as he understands what the true facts are.