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Don’t get too attached to that house

Some new homeowners whose houses may be in the path of the proposed new Grand Parkway segment are saying they wish they’d been told about that little detail earlier.

Nobody told [Spring homeowner Tracy Martin] that their brand-new neighborhood was in the footprint of the Grand Parkway, a planned highway encircling Houston. Or that most of the nearby houses would likely be bulldozed when construction began on the four-lane tollway that would be her future next-door neighbor.

Now she and her neighbors are asking why the Lakes of Avalon Village subdivision was built and why they had to find out about its future in a postcard from the Grand Parkway Association, the nonprofit group organized by the state to facilitate the highway’s development, rather than by the home builder, Lennar.

“Lennar or the developer should have disclosed this to us, and we would have went to another neighborhood and tried to start our new life,” Martin said. “I planned on leaving this house to my grandchildren. But who wants to raise children next to a freeway?”

[…]

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

“We are not up there on a daily basis to make sure that the builders make it clear to everybody else,” he said.

[…]

The current F2 alignment was chosen in 2005 and was included in a draft environmental impact study the association published the following year, [David Gornet, executive director of the Grand Parkway Association,] said. The developer applied to the Houston Planning Commission for the plat in late 2005 and received approval in 2006, he said.

Gornet said he met early last year with representatives from the Friendswood Development Company, a Lennar subsidiary that bought all the lots from Hudson, and told them the Grand Parkway would pose a problem for homes being built in its right-of-way.

However, neighbors said Lennar was building homes on an affected cul-de-sac as recently as a couple of weeks ago. The builder’s Web site was still advertising homes for sale in that subdivision on Tuesday.

Hudson, the developer, said it would be wrong to bar building when there is no guarantee this segment of the Grand Parkway will be built at all, let alone in that specific alignment.

“Do they have their funding approved through TxDOT or through the Federal Highway (Administration)? The answer to that is no,” Hudson said. “All they are doing is making a statement that they want to come through there.”

That’s a pretty weak rationalization. The bottom line is that the builder knows something the buyer may not know, and that thing may very well affect the price and the decision to buy. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require the builder to disclose this piece of information. If that means buyers will become less likely to buy, well, then maybe the builder shouldn’t be building in that particular location, at least not at that time. Sorry, but my sympathies are with the homeowners here.

UPDATE: neoHouston asks a good question: “What the hell is Harris County or the City of Houston doing issuing building permits there!?!” You got me, dude.

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5 Comments

  1. Dennis says:

    I worked as a city planner for more than twenty years, but I’m also a homeowner so I guess I can see both sides. Any home buyer should do the appropriate amount of due diligence, but the fact is that very few ask the important questions. The plans for the Grand River Parkway (which I personally consider a monstrous waste of money, not to mention being a major cause of costly suburban sprawl) have been known for years. And it is not fair to an owner who owns vacant land which is in its way, but which has not be condemned, to take that land off of the market or to settle for less than fair market value.

    If buyers weren’t aware, it certainly wasn’t the obligation of the builder to inform them of something that might or might not happen in the future.

    Fair market value, or “just compensation” as our constitution calls it, still is due any property owner whose land is taken.

  2. Jeb says:

    Sounds like an issue for the Residential Construction Commission . . . oh wait . . . .

  3. Charles Hixon says:

    That “you didn’t ask” rationalization is unreasonable because the questions are endless and the new home construction implied a certain utility, one of which is that it is designed to outlast the mortgage. Forthermore, an incorrect answer could turn into: “you didn’t ask the right person“. Thirty years could pass and you still wouldn’t have asked all the questions to everybody involved, given that they change jobs and move on too. Now, if no one could have anticipated this, then it’s a different issue.

  4. Dennis says:

    To answer neoHouston’s question, I’m a city planner, not an attorney, but my experience in land use regulation tells me that the City of Houston had no legal authority not to issue building permits in this area. Until the property has been condemned or otherwise acquired for public use, it can still be used by the landowner or sold on the market. Otherwise the city would be sued for adverse possession and would almost certainly lose.

  5. MissN says:

    As a New Home Consultant and licensed Realtor, the Laws of Agency Diclosure require that all material facts must be disclosed to both customers and clients. You may want to call the Attorney General’s Office for your state and see if they can help you.