Flood victims sue city of Houston

HOUSTON – Angry residents are talking the city of Houston to court to force construction of more flood control projects to benefit neighborhoods in the Memorial City area.

Several hundred residents living in the Buffalo Bayou watershed plan to file a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the city and TIRZ 17, a government corporation which receives tax money to provide infrastructure improvements in the Memorial City Area. The suit contends that the city has allowed commercial construction in the area which increases drainage into the subdivisions, without providing promised flood control projects to mitigate it.

Lois Meyers is one of the plaintiff's in the lawsuit.

“Anytime it rains we're at risk,” she said. Meyers says she's lived in her house in the Long Point Woods subdivision for 40 years without flooding. That changed in April 2009 when high water flooded her home, and again in May 2015, and in April 2016.

After flooding three times in seven years, Meyers says the house is now practically worthless.

'You can't sell it. People have tried to sell houses in this neighborhood,” Meyers said.

She estimates the floods in 2015 and 2016 caused at least $100,000 in damage, destroyed her late father's library, and damaged treasured family photos and documents.

Her father was James A. Dickson, MD, a pioneering, mid-century heart surgeon.

“All of this could have been avoided. It's all man-made flooding because of willful negligence and faulty engineering on part of the city,” she said.

Meyers and hundreds of other plaintiffs joined to sue the city of Houston, and the TIRZ 17 redevelopment authority, also known as the Memorial City Redevelopment Authority.

Their suit contends that TIRZ 17 and the city allowed private commercial developers to build in the area, conveying increased storm water into the neighborhoods without providing promised flood control projects to mitigate the excess runoff, and according to the lawsuit, “often in favor of non-essential projects that benefit private commercial interests.”

Charles Irvine is the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

“Our lawsuit alleges they've done most of the commercial projects that will help the commercial properties inside the TIRZ, now the water flows efficiently out into the neighborhoods to the north and south and then it kinda stops,” Irvine said.

The lawsuit contends that the the city and redevelopment authority have promised relief for residents for more than a decade, but taken little action.

An example: The city signed a contract with TIRZ 17 in 2002 to provide four flood--retention ponds in the area, but to date only one has been built.

“Frankly they're (residents) tired and angry and feel no one is listening to them,” Irvine said.

The lawsuit doesn't ask for damages. It does ask for a federal court to force the city and TIRZ 17 to start building out up to $80 million in recommended flood improvements immediately.

A spokesperson for the city of Houston declined comment on the lawsuit on Tuesday.