HOUSTON -- Complaints from neighbors about noises and other nuisances created by the Bayport Container Terminal have finally paid off and handsomely.
The Port of Houston Authority will pay $13.5 million to 411 property owners who have complained about the lights, noises and pollution caused by the Bayport Container Terminal.
After years of public hearings, negotiations with terminal neighbors and sound monitoring studies, port officials have developed a plan to appease the residents.
About 150 people gathered at the Bay Area Community Center in Seabrook Wednesday night to hear details about the offer port officials made to La Porte and Shoreacres residents.
Homeowners who live just across the Bayport Ship Channel from the terminal could each receive $40,000 from the Port in exchange for an easement. To qualify for the payment, homes must have been on the land between Feb. 8, 2007 when the terminal opened and Jan. 26. Homes wiped out by Hurricane Ike and never rebuilt qualify for the checks.
Port officials said there were 327 homes in the area and homeowners can decide what to do with the money whether they insulate their houses or sell them.
Owners of another 84 lots in the area qualify for $5,000 payments from the port in exchange for the easement that gives the port legal permission to build, develop operate and maintain its container and cruise terminals. This means that property owners give up their rights to sue the port for its terminal activities.
Port officials said they are under no legal requirements to make this offer.
Nevertheless, being a good neighbor means the port authority should own up to its responsibilities when issues affect our neighbors, Port CEO Alec Dreyer said. We are serious about being a responsive and responsible neighbor. This is reflected in the design of the terminal, in its construction and operations, and in our community outreach measures over the past seven years.
Port officials said the move is unprecedented.
After similar complaints from residents of the North Hollow subdivision about airplane noises at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the Houston Airport System and Federal Aviation Authority agreed to insulate 180 homes in the neighborhood at a cost of about $8 million. Instead of giving residents checks, the two organizations will spend about $30,000 to $40,000 on insulation and new doors and windows as part of a three-year program.
After property owners near Bayport receive an application and information about the program in the mail, they will have two months to apply. Property owners will sign the easement document in the presence of a title company official and that easement will stick to the home forever, even if it is sold.
Reaction to the offer from residents at the meeting was mixed. Some whispered, don t sign as port officials spoke. Others said they would take the payment. Several said they were confused about what signing the agreement would mean.
You take $40,000 and shut up or you take nothing and shut up, said Glenda Sparks, a Shoreacres resident. I honestly don t know what to do.
I think they are being very fair, and they ve put some thought into it, said La Porte resident Joyce Dudley, who had not decided if she would sign the document.
La Porte resident Carolyn Gloyna said she was glad that people who lost their homes during Hurricane Ike would receive the money.
Retired school teacher and La Porte resident Carroll Hilborn said he would take the money.
I m going to live for today, to hell with tomorrow, he said after the meeting.
Port attorney Erik Eriksson said officials don t believe the easements will affect homeowners ability to sell their property. That prompted laughter from several in the audience.
The money for the program comes out of the port s operations budget.
Long before the first container crane was installed at the terminal, area residents said the facility would interfere with their quality of life.
We all have been waiting long enough to move forward, said Dreyer, who said that shortly after taking the helm of the port late last year, he made it a priority to work out a solution.