Builder, city of Houston point fingers in fire hydrant dispute

Both sides blame each other for lack of fire hydrants in neighborhoods

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The City of Houston Fire Marshal's Office has begun issuing daily citations to the developer of a gated community off South Main near Stella Link. The enforcement action comes after months of complaints from residents living in the Contemporary Main Plaza subdivision.

"I'm a taxpaying citizen; I'm not getting any value out of my money," said resident Jimmy Friday.

Residents told Local 2 they have been complaining to the builder, Contemporary Garden Homes, and city officials since March that not enough fire hydrants were installed in their neighborhood.

"It really seems like we're getting some fingers pointed at each other," said resident Mia Hinojosa. "We really don't care whose fault it is, we just want it fixed."

Despite months of meetings between the developer and city officials, no new hydrants have been installed in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, both sides continue to blame one another for this issue.

President of Contemporary Garden Homes Bill Gray has declined Local 2's repeated requests to speak about this issue on camera. However, during phone conversations in May and on Tuesday Gray maintained he is being unfairly targeted by the city.

Gray said the city approved his plans for the subdivision and granted permits in 2007, yet never told him additional fire hydrants would be required. Gray said the city only notified him more hydrants would be required after residents started complaining about the issue.

Officials with the city's Public Works and Engineering Department told Local 2 it is Gray's job to know city code and inform inspectors when work is complete so follow-up checks can be done.

City Fire Marshal Richard Galvan told Local 2 the neighborhood was not built with enough fire hydrants to meet city code. As a result, Galvan had the area posted as a "fire hazard," has ordered Gray to stop work on homes still under construction and on Monday began issuing daily citations to the company. Galvan said the citations are for bringing combustible materials in to an area considered a fire hazard and fines can be as high as $2,000.

Galvan said his office will continue to issue these citations until the matter is resolved. Gray said his attorney will fight these citations in court. Gray he added he will build more hydrants and is waiting on the city to approve his plans and issue permits for the work.

"Somebody should have been coming back in and making sure that everything was done to point and they didn't," said Hinojosa.

Council member Larry Green told Local 2 an employee of Gray's company met with the city on Tuesday to again start the process of obtaining permits to build more hydrants. Green said he is confident the issue will be resolved within a matter of weeks.

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