Site Selection & the Pit Falls

A New Home or Building is going to require a site. Do you have existing property or are you going to purchase a new site. Site selection should involve a real estate professional, but they don’t always tell you about the flood plain or the ETJ (Extra Territorial Jurisdiction) or the need to replat the property. Are you going to need a detention pond and is the property large enough to accommodate what you want and the detention pond? What are the deed restrictions if any?

We had a client that purchased property that is in the City of Houston ETJ and portions of the property are in the floodway, others are in the 500 and 100 year flood plains. They did not know what any of these were when they purchased the seven acre property. Because they wanted to build a new custom home and also build a building for their business on the same property we wound up having to replat the property because in was in the Houston ETJ. It took over 6 months to go through the relating process and normally would have taken even longer. They didn’t know that you cannot bring in fill dirt into the flood plain or that there are alternative methods of construction within a flood plain. They thought it was their property and they could build what they wanted because there were no known deed restrictions. We helped them through the entire process. But other clients weren’t so lucky and had to cancel their proposed projects or try to sell their useless property because they did not know about the ETJ or the flood plain issues and how it was going to affect them. Buyer beware!

Detention ponds are another issue altogether. When Tropical Storm Allison hit the Gulf Coast back in 2001 the resulting flooding in areas that had never flooded before lead to massive finger pointing as to why. Apparently the mostly unhindered growth in our region did not recognize that new developments and roads were changing the absorption patterns of water in many areas. The impermeable surfaces caused by the unrestricted roads, homes and commercial developments were paving over the water absorbing soils and causing the water to run faster into the steams and bayous resulting in unprecedented flooding in areas that did not previously flood.

As a result of the record flooding of Tropical Storm Allison, FEMA remapped the flood plains affecting existing property and where you can and cannot build or how you can build in these areas. On sites that exceed 15,000 square feet of area, a detention pond most likely will be required. During a storm the drainage of the property is directed to and collected in a detention pond. A detention pond is designed to detain water during a storm by restricting the flow out of the pond helping to keep the storm sewers, streams and bayous from being burdened. After the initial drainage subsides, the pond releases its retained water in a slower flow.

Keep your head above water and know your property before you buy!

Bruce A. Sommers, President