HOUSTON -- As million-dollar homes go up in one Spring Branch neighborhood, there s a flooding controversy going down -- literally.
Bracher Estates, an 18-home subdivision under construction in the 1500 block of Bracher Street, is built on higher ground than existing neighboring homes.
It doesn t take an engineer to see where all the storm water will go straight downhill.
But City of Houston engineers gave their go-ahead for the project anyway. And the question is why.
Why would the new development s drainage dump straight into neighbors front yards instead of a Harris County Flood Control ditch, that runs along the backside of the complex.
It just absolutely makes no sense, I don't understand it, said homeowner Roger Lee.
We're mad because we're sitting ducks here, we're one heavy rain from water in our house, Lee said.
Another homeowner, Larry Hannusch, did get water in his living room. He said it was the first time ever in the since the family moved in 26 years ago.
Never flooded since we've been here, Hannusch said.
Hannusch said both the City and developer David Weekley Homes, have been giving homeowners the runaround.
One is claiming it's the other guy's fault, the other is claiming it's the other s, it's kind of a mystery at this point, Hannusch said.
City of Houston records reveal that mystery. In June, 2013, the Houston Office of the City Engineer sent David Weekley Homes a letter, requiring any storm drainage system to connect to the Harris County Flood Control Ditch. But the very next month, the Office of the City Engineer sent another letter, allowing the developer to let storm water run off down Bracher street.
It s unclear why, but the I-Team did obtain the following internal e-mail from a City engineer: It appears that the developer may have taken some short-cuts in the City development review process and perhaps misled the City in the process.
How that was done is also unclear, but another internal e-mail stated The Office of the City Engineer and Code Enforcement have reviewed the development drawings and the existing construction of the streets and utilities are different from what was submitted to them for approval.
If we find that someone had misled the city, then someone's going to be accountable for it, said Houston City Council Member Brenda Stardig.
Stardig has been working with all parties involved, on a drainage fix.
There s going to be some really hard questions as to why it was allowed to get to this point, Stardig said.
There's a paper trail here, and because of your investigative work, we're able to see a clear picture, she said.
It s a picture, Stardig said, that doesn't hold water.
So the I-Team had some questions of Chris Weekley of David Weekley Homes.
I-Team: Why would a City engineer say you may have taken some short cuts and perhaps misled the City?
Weekley: Quite honestly, that's the first I've heard of that or seen that e-mail.
Weekley later followed up with a written statement:
It appears that there was some back and forth over what was required. This is not unusual since developing a subdivision is a dynamic process, and there are frequently differences of opinion over what is required, and sometimes changes are made along the way. David Weekley Homes followed the plan approved by the City for streets and drainage, and the City approved and accepted those improvements. Despite that fact, when it appeared necessary to implement additional drainage measures, we willingly agreed to do so, at our cost.
The additional measures involved re-routing the drainage into the Harris County Flood Control Ditch something neighbors said should have happened in the first place.
In a written statement, Houston Department of Public Works Spokesman Alvin Wright maintained that Weekley Homes' original plans did in fact meet City criteria, including on-site stormwater detention.
But Wright did not address allegations of short-cutting the system or misleading the City.
For now, that remains a mystery.