Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dash cam, Part 4: T-bone treachery

Ancient suburban proverb say: dash cam tell no lies.  Note that I'm going to no special effort to get any of this material.  It's just the status quo of what happens on our local roads, with life-threatening near-misses multiple times each day. 

FM 518 at Calder, heading south across the intersection.  It was 7:31 pm, so the sun was getting low and the resulting overexposure of the dash cam washes out my traffic light, but you can see the opposing traffic light quite clearly. 

As I waited for my green, a white Jeep proceeded through the intersection on his yellow... no big deal with that.  It turned red before he cleared the intersection.

Then, a full two seconds later, this guy in the maroon truck ran the red light.  Notice that his wheels look more blurry than those of the Jeep.  That's because the Jeep was proceeding at speed limit, but this maroon idiot was blowing down FM 518 and through the red light at about 60 mph (speed limit on that segment is what - 35 mph?  45 mph?).
In other words, running the light wasn't an accident - it was a conscious decision.  (S)he did not care about that decision's potential consequences for me, a mother returning from Walgreens with prescription medicine for a sick child.  People like this only care about their own pathetic asses. 

Fortunately, none of us had jack-rabbited the intersection, so nobody was hit by this idiot.  You'll see this type of scene routinely at Calder - people will hesitate to proceed, because they know how dangerous FM 518 is.  In the words of my former Driver Ed teacher, "Green never means 'GO' - green only means 'GO if it is SAFE to go'."  At Calder, 'safe' takes careful verification.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dash cam, Part 3: Butterfly effect meets Broken Windows

Yesterday I was contacted regarding my first dash cam video which shows flagrant disregard for traffic control signs, and from that anonymous feedback, I realized the extent to which I've sorta put the car before the horse, here.
(Get it?? the car before the horse??  Arf!!). 

I launched into the dash cam video series without fully explaining the motivations and intentions behind it.  Therefore, I'd now like to back-track and cover that ground, because what I'm driving at here has significant ramifications not just for our neighborhood, but for our entire nation. 

Seriously, to say the same thing a different way, I (we) are not just old gray-haired eccentrics with nothing better to do with our time than to get all dramatic because some of our local residents are pathologically reckless drivers.  The wider impacts of this behavior are utterly profound.

Let me begin that explanation with one of my favorite proverbs, a bit of high wisdom that dates back to at least the 14th century (legendarily, Benjamin Franklin re-stated it formally in the year 1758):

For want of a nail, a shoe was lost
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost
For want of a horse, a rider was lost
For want of a rider, a battle was lost
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost
All for the want of a horse shoe nail.

This proverb is a metaphorical restatement of the butterfly effect, the observation that final outcomes can be exquisitely sensitive to starting conditions. 

If we take the ancient horse shoe proverb and re-cast it in terms of contemporary motor vehicles, this is the type of butterfly effect that falls out of that:

For want of traffic control, a kid's freedom to run and play safely outside was lost
For want of safe outdoor play, a kid's most natural fitness outlet was lost
For want of fitness outlet, a kid became obese and his long-term health was lost
For want of good health, the obese kid grew to become a less-productive adult whose net-positive contributions to private health care and Medicare systems were lost
For want of widespread net-positive contributions, America's financial strength was lost
For want of financial strength, America's position as a world power was lost
And all for the want of traffic control.

Is traffic control the ONLY factor in that causality?  Of course not - but nevertheless, it is one very REAL contributor.  Contrary to popular media hype, most parents today severely restrict their kids' abilities to run and play outside NOT because they are afraid of child-killer abductions, which are almost nonexistent, but because driving habits simply make it unsafe.   And now we have absolutely astonishing accelerations in national obesity rates despite the proliferation of organized sports for children (there seems to be something about free play that provides benefits to physiological regulation that structured sports do not, and I'll also post more on that topic later).

In his book "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference", writer Malcolm Gladwell touches upon Broken Windows: a criminological theory which asserts that signalling has a dramatic effect on behavior.  Because of this, minor social disorder manifesting as broken windows, graffiti, and (I would argue) unchecked traffic violations provide a signal to people that the system has already broken down.  Internalizing this message, people then proceed to behave accordingly - with even greater degrees of disorder.  And pretty soon under such conditions, kids can no longer play outside, and their view of the world shrinks even as their waistlines balloon. 

If you want a real eye-opener, read pages 141 to 147 of the paperback version of "The Tipping Point", where it describes how New York City did an about-face on its crime wave, not by going after serious felons, but by refusing to accept minor infractions of the law and thereby stopping the progression of crime in its tracks. 

The lesson:  seemingly insignificant quality-of-life crimes are "tipping points" for more severe social degradation.  More than once, our local Chief of Police Mike Jez has gone on record as stating, "The police department would prefer not to write speeding tickets".   I realize that budgets are limited and yes, we have many crimes in our city that, on their face, are more urgent and serious than moving violations, but I find Mr. Jez's assertion to be short-sighted and an inappropriate social signal because, from those little things the big things flow, both in terms of crime and lifestyle and everything else that springs from them:

For want of traffic control, ...


So there's the first part of my larger dash cam rationale, and I will close this post with another 30-second video clip.  This one shows the impossible conditions that exist IH-45 northbound at the El Dorado Boulevard exit.  Because IH-45 is woefully underbuilt through north Clear Lake, people tend to treat the feeders as mainlanes, driving on them en masse at speeds up to 70 mph despite the 35 to 45 mph posted limits.  To compound this misery, the El Dorado interchange is an antiquated cloverleaf that cannot be safely approached at prevailing illegal feeder speeds.  Here you see me initially hit the exit ramp while INCREASING my speed off the freeway, because that's often the only way to achieve a merge.  But then I realized that I couldn't possibly merge in time for the exit, so I had to slow down abruptly to about 15 mph.   That's a very dangerous situation to be forced into when people are approaching from behind at up to 70 mph, but there's often no other way to access the exit.  Note that the four cars that blasted by on my right side were both lane-jumping AND driving faster than the cars in the freeway mainlanes to camera left!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dash cam, Part 2: Flying down the freeway

I kicked off my dash cam series with video footage of two sign-runners, with the intention of using the dash cam to call out local dangerous drivers.  But sometimes the things that transpire in the public right-of-way cause me to yell, "HOLY COW!!" for reasons that have nothing to do with motor vehicles.

Such was the case late yesterday afternoon when this behemoth buteo rose up startlingly in front of me:

Based on its distinctive underwing pattern, this appears to be a Swainson's hawk, possibly a migrant en route through Houston from Argentina, bound for a more northerly nesting site (if it's NOT a Swainson 's, someone please email and edify me!!). 


According to the URL above, "This hawk can be found in open grasslands, prairies, farmlands, and deserts that have some trees for nesting."  Well, that certainly describes the areas around Centerpointe: lots of open, mowed fields flanked with trees and awaiting commercial buyers. 

What amazed me about this encounter was the degree to which this raptor appeared "at home" in this unlikely venue, having landed in the narrow swale between feeder and mainlanes.  I am accustomed to seeing red-tailed hawks in close proximity to humans (in fact, last month, I blogged about seeing them in the neighborhood), but it surprises me to see this rarer species right on the freakin' freeway with its deafening roar and hoardes of cars blasting by. 

You can see from the screengrab above that he had something in his talons, but the resolution of the dash cam wasn't good enough to reveal what.  Perhaps it was a snake similar to what this guy had:
So there you have it, another existential vignette from another day in suburban paradise (and you thought it was just sterile empty sprawl!!).  Keep your eyes peeled for this magnificent creature each day as you exit at League City Parkway after your hard day at the office, and always remember the immortal words of Ferris Bueller

"Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dash cam, Part 1: Centerpointe sign-runners

Have you ever witnessed dangerous behavior in traffic and thought, "OMG, nobody would ever believe me if I told them that I actually saw someone do that!"  And then you wonder what you might do to help counteract the likes of it. 

I had an epiphany after witnessing two separate child-endangering traffic violations committed by parents dropping kids at Victory Lakes Intermediate School for the morning WAVE bus pick-up.  Of all people, you'd think WAVE parents would have better judgment, as higher intelligence is rumored to run in the families of GT kids.  But of course, intelligence is not always correlated with either common sense or politeness.

So with this epiphany, I decided to try something more proactive than griping about flagrant violators.  For sixty bucks, I bought a dash cam: a DVR that looks much like a radar detector but is actually a faithful e-sentinel, looping through a continuous video recording of everything that transpires in front of it.

This video clip below shows my approach to the neighborhood northbound on Walker, followed by not one but two successive stop sign runners - a gold sedan at Walker and Centerpointe followed by a black pick-up truck just fifteen seconds and one block later at Centerpointe and Willow Pointe:

(Sorry about the Gaye DeLorme tune blasting in the background!
And this was shot March 24, not March 1 - I need to change the date stamp)

Neither of these drivers so much as slowed down at their respective intersections.  Many years ago when I first got my license, drivers at least had the courtesy to "fake it" by coming to a rolling stop rather than a full stop.  Not these days - they just blast right through the signs as fast as they can without skidding out. 

This is only my first day's DVR trial, and running stop signs is by no means the most egregious violation someone could commit, but this video speaks to attitude:  the majority of suburban drivers now disregard traffic controls signs, period.  I could go out there right now and shoot another thirty seconds that would show basically this same scene.  The majority of drivers speed, and the majority of drivers ignore signs.  No exaggeration: A 2010 Houston Chronicle investigative report found that 92% of drivers were speeding on Clear Lake City Boulevard, an arterial that has an unusually high speed limit to start with!  

So for all of you who feel that local, state, and federal regulations do not apply to you personally, I say this:

Go ahead, make my automotive day.  Keep doing the ignorant things that you do, and you might find yourself to be the next blog-embedded neighborhood YouTube star.  You might not end up in a Court of Law because of it, but in certain instances the Court of Public Opinion might prove to be comparably unpleasant, because there are many of us who are fed up with the hell-on-wheels behavior to which our neighborhood is subjected on a daily basis.  Perhaps the peer pressure of knowing that "candid car camera" is out there can help to stimulate the type of compliance and courtesy that regulation, law enforcement, and personal conscience are obviously all failing to inspire. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dog found

This golden lady was found wandering Centerpointe on the evening of March 25, 2011.  She has a black collar with white plastic studs, but no tags on it.  She has had puppies, maybe even recently, despite appearing to be an older, slightly-overweight dog.  Very friendly, clean, and willingly spent last night in a borrowed crate.
Her finders will need to drop her off at the League City Animal Shelter this morning for lack of space in their own pack (and yard).  You can contact either the community coordinator or if you need further info.   

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Local political splash-fest

Centerpointe Communicator is a neighborly lifestyle blog conceived in an idealistic effort to rise above stereotypical suburban mediocrity.  If I succeed in delivering just a few local residents one inch further away from the nadir of anonymity that tends to characterize life in the sprawl, then I will consider myself successful with this effort. 

As a lifestyle blog, it is not my intention to assume the roll of political commentator, a job that is better left to others whose natural interest in (and experience with) that sort of thing propels them toward at least the potential for actual journalistic competency.

Nevertheless, from time to time I feel compelled to exercise editorial privilege and respond to some of our municipal goings-on.  After all, our lifestyles are directly affected by the financial decisions made by our local elected reps, and there is an election on the horizon.

Such is the case with one of the lead stories in the Galveston County Daily News online edition this morning, in which Hayley Kappes served as a triangulator between League City, represented primarily by Rich Oller, an assisting Public Works manager, and a new election-inspired website called Leaguecityvote2011

As of this post, the originator(s) of Leaguecityvote2011 have not been revealed.  Doesn't matter - my opinions about them wouldn't change supposing I found out that one of my own family members was publishing it on the sly. 

And my opinions about them are not positive ones.  Thomas Jefferson declared, "Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe."  That is as true today as it was when he said it in the year 1816, but I have moments where I wonder if the venerable President Jefferson ever could have imagined the explosive partisanship and astonishing degrees of self-servitude that would eventually be born of free speech in our electronic age. 

Let me pick a single post from Leaguecityvote2011 to illustrate what I mean:  their February 20, 2011 post about League City water rates

Not knowing that Leaguecityvote2011 existed until this morning's Daily News, I independently published some preliminary comments on our water utility situation just three days ago in response to the recent conservation request. 

In that post, I began to explain that Texas is genuinely believed to be running short of potable water.  Water supply isn't some nebulous thing like global warming where developments in arcane system models have the potential to alter future conclusions.  Water is much closer to being a matter of simple arithmetic: we know how much we can get from sources on top of and underneath the ground, and we know how much comes down from the sky.  We know what the population of Texas is, and we can extrapolate with reasonable precision to predict what that population will be in future years.  We know how much water is used for any given population.  Add, subtract, multiply and divide, and what you find is, Texas is going to run short of water unless management adjustments are made

That being the case, what motive could any commentator have in calling an objective consumption-based rate structure an "elaborate revenue-generating water scheme" ?   As I eluded in my March 21 post, to my knowledge, there is nothing being done by League City with respect to their Water Conservation Plan that is also not on the standard menu of municipal responses to this looming predicament.  As citizens, we have the right to grumble about rising water rates, but we are all in the same boat here.  Thus far, there's nothing that I see happening in League City that is not also happening (or reasonably predicted to happen) in some comparable form in every other regulated city in Texas. 

And the key word there is regulated: I'm not an attorney, but it has been my observation that state law trumps local law in almost every instance.  And with respect to water, League City is highly regulated.  Even if League City WANTED to back off on water-associated utility rates, it's not likely that it would be allowed to do that by its regulators, which include (but are not limited to) the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Water Development Board

With all this in mind, it seems pretty silly to classify a post titled "League City Water Rates on the Rise Again!" under the blog heading "Big Government", does it not?  The implication is that the city is merely doing a cash-grab for the purposes of funding its burgeoning self.  I'm as against "big government" as anyone you'll find, and as I noted on March 21, some of the city's historical financial conduct with respect to water has, indeed, been less than exemplary, but League City never originated these conservation mandates, of which consumption-deterring pricing is considered to be a cornerstone.  "Rich Oller thinks that it is OK to charge citizens more to discourage them from using too much water." (URL op. cit.)  It's not his personal decision, you dorks!  These practices trickled down from much higher elevations and they have been widely adopted by other local cities, including nearby Friendswood (which also appears to have adopted block pricing).    

The problem is, a website like Leaguecityvote2011 doesn't transmit objective bits of information like those described above.   What it does instead is invite you to jump with them onto the bandwagon of righteous indignation so that you, too, can participate in their titillating but completely-mindless ride: "When does it stop?" "Is this the way you, as a taxpayer, want to be treated by your city government?"  (URL op. cit.)

And THAT is what drives us Old Schoolers absolutely bonkers.  I'm not naive - I know that politics has never been a clean sport and never will be.  But the troubling bit is that our complicated society has gotten to the point where it's almost impossible for the common voter to distinguish between ill-conceived opinions and the underlying facts.   There are so many complex issues that voters must struggle to understand, and yet so much of what we see arising in response to that complexity is just one propaganda machine after another, with many attaching the puffery term "Watch Dogs" to themselves.  Jefferson is surely spinning in his grave by this time, and frankly, I wouldn't have a clue what to tell him if he ever managed to rotate all the way up for air.   

In sum, make your personal voting decisions according to your conscience, but I will tell you this much: 

On the face of that water rate post alone, I will not vote for ANYONE who ultimately proves to be associated with Leaguecityvote2011 because, by simple logic, one of two things must be true about that individual:

(1) Either they LACK the intellectual horsepower required to comprehend water conservation issues and therefore as an elected official they would be too uneducated and/or too stupid to deserve my vote,


(2) They DO HAVE the intellectual horsepower required to comprehend water conservation issues but they choose instead to present a discourse that has been deliberately twisted for their own sensationalist gain, and if that proved to be the case, then they would be too devious to deserve my vote.

Either way, I don't see anything in all of this that would merit my support in any form. 

Disclosures and disclaimers:  I moderate and write this noncommercial blog as a citizen of League City Texas.  I have some municipal management experience, but I am expressing personal citizen opinions only here, entailing absolutely no professional judgments.   I have not provided professional services either directly or indirectly to the City of League City within the past five years, nor do I plan to seek any such contracts or appointments.  If I were professionally associated with League City in any capacity, no matter how minor, it would be a breach of ethics for me to opine on city management issues publicly even as a private citizen (yoo hoo, do you guys at Leaguecityvote2011 hear that?? because you sound suspiciously like you're emanating from The Inside).  No elected or hired League City personnel are known to me personally at this time.  No election candidates are known personally to me at this time.  I support no electable candidate at this time. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fenced in

The community coordinator recently asked someone to recommend a good fence staining company.

As a consummate DIYer, I'm asking someone to recommend a good fence STAIN.

Once upon a time, I was the DIY Master of this stuff, inside and out.  I stained and sealed about 50% of the existing wood furniture in our house.  I re-stained all the kitchen cabinets prior to selling my last house.  I own my own pressure washer (a good one) and stained a tri-level outdoor deck and cedar fence at a previous home (pic below).  And refinished an oak hardwood floor at a graduate school apartment because my landlord did not have that kind of thing in his budget. 

Trouble is, blink and the world changes.  We recently found that out the hard way, after buying a new unfinished entertainment console from Bald Furniture in Webster.  "Piece of cake," I thought, as I custom-mixed our own stain color, as I always have done. 

But OMG, it was a horrible experience!! There has been such an incredible push in the past couple of years to lower the volatile organic compound (VOC) content of oil-based stains that many of the previously-wonderful products are now absolute garbage (VOCs can contribute to air pollution, but they are also what give oil-based stains their "teeth" or penetrating power as well as durability).  The stain we bought for the entertainment console, having insufficient reactives in its formulation, could not be made to penetrate the wood effectively.  To add insult to injury, the insufficiently-penetrated stain then lifted off when we applied clear top-coats, a cheapie effect I had never witnessed previously in my 20-odd years of intermittent experience.  Absolute garbage, in my opinion. 

About 10 years ago, I researched outdoor deck and fence stains extensively when I lived in central Texas, and I settled upon the brand name TWP (Total Wood Preservative, apparently now renamed "Total Wood Protectant", perhaps reflective of degraded performance??).
Here's a snippet of the old digs,
with the deck having been done by yours truly using Total Wood PRESERVATIVE "Cedartone"
and the rear fence in the contrasting "Dark Oak"
(see a little bit of it peeking out
from behind the grasscloth screen).
However, today when I review TWPs existing products, I see that their formulations also appear to have been changed to "low VOC", which means that I must begin this research all over again, because I will not trust that stuff.  (You can permanently mess up a fence or a deck if you use the wrong stain... it's not like you can simply scrape or sand it off). 

Anyway, are there any worthy products still left on the market?  As I implored above, if you know of a good oil-based penetrating wood stain (not a coating, not a 2-part epoxy), please comment or drop me a line via  Thanks!! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Water water everywhere...

...except where and when we need it to be. 

You may have gotten the email blast from the community coordinator this morning, or read the news stories about the water conservation measures being called for tomorrow, as League City replaces a main valve. 

Heck, if you're an avid reader, you may have even read recently about League City's proposed "water smart" park, and the bit of controversy surrounding its funding

Aaaaand if you've lived in League City for a while, you may even recall the misery of the summer of 2009, when League City began with voluntary water rationing, and then proceeded to make it mandatory, rules that it partly ignored for its own purposes, with most of us finding out only later that part of the water "shortage" was actually due to the city's own gross mismanagement of our potable water assets, specifically, the expenditure of about $1 million of our taxpayer dollars on a water distribution plant that it proceeded to forget that it had even acquired! 

All of this may have you thinking, WHAT is the DEAL with League City and water?!?!

That whole story would take me a month of Sundays and a river of blog posts to explain.  For the moment, suffice it say that League City, like every other city of its size in Texas, has a Water Conservation Plan (WCP, which it incidentally submitted to the state a year past its due date; you might be able to yank a PDF copy of it from this site if you'd like to see it).  Among other things, the WCP sets usage-discouraging billing rates, provides a promulgated framework for water rationing when conditions call for it, and defines water reduction goals, namely a 5% per capita per year reduction which, to date, I really haven't seen articulated extensively via community outreach efforts. 

That's right.  Your city has basically decided that we all should have a goal of reducing our potable water usage by 5% per year. 

Before you get all indignant about your personal consumption habits having been decided without you being consulted, bear in mind that, to my weakly-informed knowledge, this is a fairly typical reduction goal state-wide.  The issue is that the population of Texas is growing but its water resources are not.  If anything, there may be a trend toward us having fewer water resources, as climate change (whether natural or human-induced) results in increasingly-frequent droughts.
Current conditions from U.S. Drought Monitor, as lifted from SciGuy's blog post of this morning.
The bottom lines in all of this:

(1) Our water billing rates are high and could likely go higher in the future.  One news article quoted a city administrator as noting that large irrigated lots in League City's Hidden Lakes subdivision could see water bills as high as $700 per month!

(2) We will likely be asked to conserve water on a regular basis. 

What steps can we take in the face of these issues?  I'll have some suggestions in additional blog posts to follow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sidewalk talk

It's never my intention with blog entries to appear preachy or demanding.  We have enough agents (both official and unofficial) in our society who delight in assuming those roles.

I'd rather be a provider of perspective and information and, with that in mind, I'd like to expound upon a point that appeared in the February neighborhood newsletter:

Look at the fourth line down.
I am quite sure that many local residents do not know this:  it is ILLEGAL in many municipalities to block the sidewalk with your car, even where your own driveway crosses it.

Let me offer you a vignette of perspective on this issue before further discussing its practicalities.  I was jogging in the neighborhood about three weeks ago when I happened across a young lady, a prospective buyer, who was viewing a listing for sale on Harvard Pointe Drive.  We chatted about the neighborhood and its amenities.   Seeing my attire, one of the first questions she asked was, "Is Centerpointe a good neighborhood for joggers?  Are all its sidewalks in good condition equivalent to the sidewalks on Harvard Pointe?"  She, too, was a jogger and the availability of good sidewalks were a key factor in her purchase decisions. 

Moral of the story
Access to sidewalks is extremely important to many of us.  Sidewalks are not just bling added to the front of houses to increase property values.  Many of us make active use of them daily. 

Here's a short list of activities that CANNOT be properly accomplished if there is no access to sidewalks, either because they were not installed in the first place, or because they are blocked by multiple cars:
  1. Take yourself jogging.
  2. Take your dog walking.
  3. Push a baby stroller.
  4. Guide a young child on a training wheels bicycle.
We used to live in "old town" League City where you can see majestic 100-year-old oak trees... but you better not spend too much time gazing up at them because you have to constantly jump out of the way of traffic in that area.  Those old neighborhoods were built without sidewalks or even street shoulders.  Many times when we would try to walk there, we would find ourselves literally leaping into open ditches to escape speeding cars.  From a stress standpoint, it was hardly worth it to go outside. 

I personally know some families in Centerpointe who block the sidewalks with their cars, which is why I figure many people who do it are unaware that their actions are impacting their neighbors.  They're nice folks - they probably just haven't given this much thought.

Google Maps tells a tale of the extent of it in Centerpointe:

Sometimes it appears to occur because folks failed to buy or build a house big enough to accomodate all of their cars.  If you can't fit them in your garage or on your own section of your driveway (see plat excerpt below), the street is your other legal parking option.

In my recent observation, the section of Walnut Pointe between the two ends of Lilac Pointe is the worst street in the neighborhood for this kind of thing.  I have often counted as many as a DOZEN blocked driveways just along that one stretch.  Sometimes joggers on Walnut Poine have to go straight down the middle of the street! 
An example of a 2-wide where a car is blocking the sidewalk despite ample room in the driveway.  Even if these folks do not want to park next to each other, they could still probably pull all the way up to their garage so that they spare the sidewalk.
A 3-wide driveway example where blocking the sidewalk is clearly unnecessary!!
Yet another 3-wide driveway where blocking the sidewalk is EVEN MORE unnecessary!!
Some of the less-enlightened among you may be thinking at this point,
"Well, it's MY driveway - I'll park in it any way I want."

Actually, you might be wrong about that, as this survey excerpt suggests:

I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice, but it appears to me as if the documents that legally define the neighborhood state that the sidewalks and the land upon which they were poured are public property, not private.  This would mean that it's actually NOT "your" section of the driveway. 
Anyway, I hope this post begins to raise awareness about this issue.  Thanks for not blocking the sidewalks, from those of us who utilize them daily.  There are so few public spaces in our modern, crowded residential neighborhoods that we need to maintain open access to what little has been made available to us.

Friday, March 4, 2011

NIMBYs in the news

WHOA - an article this morning in the Galveston County Daily News snagged my attention, as all local articles with the phrase "low-income housing" have a way of doing:  a new 'lower-income' development is planned for construction close to the Bay Colony subdivision on the west side of IH-45. 

Furthermore, the article went on to state that another similar development had recently been proposed for construction near the Victory Lakes subdivision to the south of us, but apparently it was not approved.

All that, of course, reminded me of the fact that it's in our interest to keep tabs on what's happening around us.  The type of "low-income housing" discussed above is apparently not as low as low can go, but I still would not want to wake up one morning and find out that some deal was already done and we're all going to be staring out our hard-earned windows at something we'd rather not see.

So in the interest of maintaining awareness, this post contains some general info pertaining to what undeveloped land remains around us, and what might happen to it.  The usual disclaimers apply here:  none of the stuff in this post even remotely constitutes legal advice of any kind - it's just a curiosity exploration on a beautiful Friday morning.   Not only is it not legal advice, it's not even an educated discourse.  It fits best into the category known as "well-intentioned but barely-informed rambling".   

Centerpointe's most obvious current "extra-territorial" development questions pertain to the undeveloped tracts to the southeast of us across West Walker and to the south of us fronting on state highway (SH) 96 (aka League City Parkway).  Most of this acreage is actively for sale (according to signage erected thereon).

 Not that I know much about real estate, but one would hope that the SH 96 frontage tracts have both a commercial valuation and a potential traffic impact that would exclude their zoning conversion to multi-family residential, so I won't speculate about that for the moment.

However, the tract that fronts on West Walker, adjacent to the existing apartments, is noteworthy. It currently appears to be posted with two separate for-sale signs, but when I did a map search in the Houston Association of Realtors' commercial and residential websites, I found no active listings.

When Googling this phone number, the only interesting bit I found was an entry in the popular Houston real estate blog Swamplot which basically asked the same question:
Who is this??

There's also this sign, but as of today the Cushwake listings website did not seem to have a listing in this area.
What's going to be built there eventually?  It's an important question, as it will impact all of us, especially the buyers in the new Section 9, around which the tract partially wraps.
I sure don't know the answer, but let's contemplate what could potentially be built there.  League City has published its zoning map:
And here's the blow-up of the area surrounding Centerpointe:
This posted map version is dated August 2010, but the city obviously had not incorporated the improvements for Centerpointe Section 9 by that point (that undifferentiated chunk of bright yellow just below map center). 
And here's an excerpt of the map legend:
So according to these resources, that parcel would seem to be zoned "general commercial" as of the date of this post. 

Here's how the tract was presented as of this morning on Galveston CAD:

Screengrabbed from a map page associated with
The internet reports that the owner LC Partners LP was the business entity authorized to sell a large tract of land along IH-45 and north of FM646 to University of Texas - Medical Branch (UTMB).  According to the CAD, that entity currently owns three tracts in our area, of which this West Walker tract is one. 

Anyway, at this point I must suspend my sleuthing so that I can attend to that pesky necessity known as a day job. 

Suffice it to say that, for the moment, it does not appear that we're at a high risk of facing a situation similar to the Bay Colony story referenced above.  The adjacent West Walker sale tract does not appear to be currently zoned "multi-family" as like what might potentially end up as "low(er) income housing". 

Of course, zoning designations can and do change, but in League City, there's a public notification process for that, so hopefully we'd find out about it, if it were proposed.   We will try to keep an eye on the development of this tract (and the other ones along SH 96) as the local universe continues to unfold.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2011 District Science Fair

The CCISD Science Fair was held last night in the new Clear Falls High School commons. 

The stage was set to celebrate student success...
For those of you not familiar with this event, it's a huge undertaking involving vast numbers of ISD personnel and also 200 volunteer judges from the community evaluating approximately 800 projects from our 26 elementary, 10 intermediate, and 7 high schools (whew!!).  With the local emphasis on science and engineering represented by NASA and its associated technology companies as well as our area's medical and petrochemical infrastructure, Science Fair is a big deal around here.  And last night marked the 50th anniversary of this Fair. 
Reproduced from

Congrats to ALL the kids who competed!  With 38,000 children in CCISD, just getting into District is a tremendous accomplishment!  (For those of you not familiar with the process, the kids who go to District must first win top prizes within their individual schools).

I wish I could report on the competition results for the Centerpointe kids who entered the Fair while still maintaining the degree of anonymity appropriate for a public blog, but given privacy issues, there's no real way for me to correlate the published list of winners to their respective neighborhoods.  I know we've got some extremely talented kids in Centerpointe (I've met some of them!) including some attending the Seabrook Science Magnet, which naturally tends to spawn many winners.

I can, however, comment on the results of one project that has been a source of mild curiosity in the neighborhood by virtue of its conspicuousness.

If you strolled through the new section within the past two months, you may have noticed this unusual sight on one of the vacant lots.  The project was designed to compare the most common types of sediment controls used by construction contractors in Texas.  These types of controls have been widely used for years, but not much work has been done to evaluate how effective they actually are.
That project earned a Place 3 medal in its category last night.  The author and her family wish to thank Centerpointe Properties, Ltd. for allowing the use of the lot, and Meritage Homes for allowing this experimental apparatus in their active sales area.  Most importantly, heartfelt thanks are due to the buyers who signed a purchase contract on this lot shortly before the project was dismantled.  When they posed for their celebratory family photo holding their Meritage "SOLD" sign, they did so surrounded by this somewhat bizarre experimental set-up.  Thanks so much for your patience, guys!!  At least you know you're buying into a community that offers strong support to its children!!!  (And karma-wise, your new homestead is off to a great start!!).  We all look forward to welcoming you when your new home construction is finished!!

If anyone else knows of other neighborhood Fair winners, please feel free to comment or drop me an email so that an anonymous kudos can be appropriately rendered!