Exclusive: City of Sugar Land, TX fought to hide flood insurance, flood management issues, and flood map information from the public

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Exclusive: City of Sugar Land, TX fought to hide flood insurance, flood management issues, and flood map information from the public

Today Little Jolly Politics releases multiple pages of documents related to homeowner flood insurance rates, the establishment of a flood management task force and the 2014 FEMA map adoption process that the City of Sugar Land, Texas fought to keep hidden from the public. These meeting agendas and meeting minutes were obtained from the City of Sugar Land after their city attorney was admonished by the Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney General’s office to release the responsive material back in December 2015.

Quiet Please

(Photo credit: used in accordance with Creative Commons license)

Documents received by LJP include the December 2013  minutes of the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council Board of Directors meeting updating the directors on the current status of the National Flood Insurance Program or NFIP. During the December 2013 meeting the board voted unanimously to “create a standing committee to address flood management issues and legislation impacting Fort Bend County.” (emphasis mine).

InkedFBEDC minutes Dec 2013_LI

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Minutes from the January 8, 2014 meeting of the GFBEDC board of directors reveal an update provided to the board after the initial meeting of the Flood Management Task Force. The task force evaluated two issues: review all pending legislation in Congress “including but not limited to the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA)” and “consider affiliation with the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance.”

InkedFBEDC Minutes Jan 2014_LI

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The board was also apprised of the pending HFIAA legislation and the flood management task force support of the legislation pending completion of “the affordability study that was required by FEMA in BW12 (Biggert Waters 2012) but as yet not completed.

InkedFBEDC Minutes Jan 2014 page 2_LI

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The responsive documents further reveal discussion of a FEMA Map Adoption Process on the March 2014 agenda of the GFBEDC Board of Directors. Richard Stolleis, the Fort Bend County Engineer and Mark Vogler, Chief Engineer of the Fort Bend County Drainage District updated the board on the status of the current FEMA map adoption process.

The directors were informed that the flood administrators/ districts in Fort Bend County; all 39 of them, were required to approve the new flood maps by April 2nd 2014 and it was expected all 39 should be approved.

InkedFBEDC Minutes March 2014_LI

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In October 2015 the Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney General’s office specifically noted in ruling 2015-21056 that “the city (City of Sugar Land, Texas) maintains the submitted information in connection with the transaction of its official business”.  The AG’s office rebuffed the GFBEDC’s assertion the documents consisted of minutes of closed, non-public meetings, finding that the information in the documents were NOT minutes or certified agendas of closed meetings.

As a result, the City of Sugar Land was told they could not withhold the information from LJP.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey several published news accounts point to flood management issues that were alleged to have been kept hidden from homeowners and the broader public.

A Houston Chronicle investigation revealed Fort Bend County’s flood maps are based on 50 year old rainfall data, and asserted real estate developers and major land owners are “terrified” their land could end up inside a revised flood plain, instantly devaluing their property.

An abc13.com story focused on the Millwood neighborhood of the Riverstone master planned community highlights homeowners who specifically inquired if they were buying homes located in a flood plain and were told “no”, only to later discover just the opposite was true.

Trent Siebert of Texas Monitor published a blog post based on Houston Chronicle reporter James Drew describing how bond prospectuses from one Municipal Utility District that issued bonds for infrastructure never disclosed the flood risks for homes in the Canyon Gate area of Katy, Texas.

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