How only 2 people approved $470M+ bonds for new Galveston County MUD

Photo does not have a caption

HOUSTON – Two voters decided more than $470 million in MUD Bonds on Election Day, and the same young couple played the same role in a previous election.

"We just move place to place," Sarah Haynes said.

Haynes and her husband are renting a single-wide manufactured home across from the Texas City Buc-ee's. The site the mobile home sits on will one day give way to a residential, or perhaps mixed-use development.

But before any of that happens the developer secures bond money, in this case about $472 million to fund infrastructure, drainage and parks. Presumably, future residents will service the debt through MUD taxes.

"This is how it pretty much works in Texas," former Harris County Judge, and KPRC2 Political Consultant, Ed Emmett said.

According to the Galveston County Clerk's office, only people who live within MUD No. 59 are eligible to vote on the bond propositions, four in this case. 

The Haynes are the only people who live within MUD No 59, right now. So their votes, two in total, determine the fate of the funding.

"How good is the break you get on rent?" KPRC2 Investigator, Joel Eisenbaum, asked.

"About half price," Haynes said.

Haynes said she did not fully understand how the process worked, but she appreciated the discounted rent and the father of a friend helped arrange the situation. 

She also said that she and her husband did the same thing a few years ago for a project that involved one of the same developers.

Haynes did not name the company, and the company name was not independently confirmed Friday evening.

"People could say they're buying your votes?" Eisenbaum said.

"I guess people could say that. They're not telling us which way to vote," Haynes said. 

Attorney Greer Pagan, who says he represents MUD 59, released the following statement:

"My firm serves as general counsel to Galveston County MUD 59 and in that capacity we assisted in the preparation of legal documents for its bond election in accordance with the requirements of the Texas Election Code and the procedural rules of the Texas Attorney General and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Galveston County administered the election in accordance with state law.

"There is an industry group, the Quality Community Alliance of Texas, that may provide additional information." 

Quality Community Alliance of Texas, a group that advocates for MUDs, released the following statement:

“Eisenbaum’s questions about the MUD election process in Texas does not give him license to trespass on private property. That said, Municipal Utility Districts ensure affordably-priced homes in quality communities. MUDs are essential to the Greater Houston Region’s high quality of life and low cost of living.

"The election process for Galveston County Municipal Utility District No. 59 is the same, tried-and-true election process that has been used for MUDs for approximately 70 years. MUD property taxes and bonds are transparent and are disclosed to the future homeowners in the MUD prior to their purchase of a home. No homeowner or other property owner located outside the MUD is required to pay for any part of the debt issued by the MUD.”