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Flood control district's $2M bid hits a legal snag


The Harris County Flood Control District’s $2 million bid to purchase 50 acres of land along Dixie Farm Road is temporarily on hold as the developer and owner of the property fight in court over splitting proceeds of the sale.

Officials with the flood control district have been negotiating since June with property owners to acquire the land as a possible stormwater detention site for Clear Creek, officials said.

The land became controversial in June when nearby residents began objecting to a proposed shopping center at the site because they worried piles of dirt might worsen flooding in an area that had been inundated during Hurricane Harvey less than a year before.

The worrisome dirt should never have been piled at the site in the first place, flood control district officials said in November.

But a recent court filing paint a complicated picture of the development and ongoing negotiations since June.

Attorneys for John Carlew and Remington Homes, the developer of Westover Plaza, on Jan. 28 filed a lawsuit in Harris County against property owners Robert Wood, James Wood and Doris Wood, asking the court to enforce an agreement between the two sides.

Neither the attorneys nor representatives for the flood control district responded to a request for comment by deadline Tuesday. The Woods could not be reached for comment.

Essentially, Carlew in 2016 approached the Robert Wood about purchasing property at 2811 Dixie Farm Road and the two sides eventually reached a contract to develop 6 acres of the property, court filings assert. James and Doris Wood then conveyed the property to Westover for construction and Robert Wood and Carlew obtained dirt and development permits from the flood control district, filings assert.

During that same period, Robert Wood also asked Carlew about helping to sell the remaining property, the lawsuit asserts. Carlew initially said he would do so, but would charge $50,000 a month, before later proposing he would help if he received 50 percent of the sale proceeds.

“During the entire process of creating the two contracts, but after an agreement was reached with HCFCD to ship fill dirt onto the development property from one of HCFCD’s local dig sites, there were local protests from residents regarding the addition of the fill dirt,” the lawsuit asserts.

The dirt is from the excavation of the Mud Gully detention pond, a Harris County Flood Control District project.

A contractor working on that project had taken the dirt to the Dixie Farm Road property after flood control district officials had approved a request to do so, officials said in November. District officials approved the request because the contractor had attached 1999 flood insurance rate maps instead of 2007 maps when he filled out the paperwork.

The site shouldn’t have been approved because it fell in a 100-year floodplain, officials said.

“The defendants became dejected as to the possibility of a sale and made the comment that the property was worthless without the ability to obtain permits,” the lawsuit asserts.

Carlew argued the flood control district shouldn’t be allowed to remove the dirt and that perhaps it would then buy the land, the lawsuit asserts.

Westover then deeded the land back to the Woods and eventually the flood control district offered more than $2.7 million to purchase the property, the lawsuit asserts.

All sides reached an agreement in October, but the Woods contacted Carlew and asked whether he would reduce his 50 percent interest and he declined, the lawsuit asserts.

Robert Wood then emailed that he set a tentative closing date for the property for Dec. 3, upon which the plaintiffs said they would reduce the 50 percent interest in the sale proceeds by taking a 6 percent adjustment of the total sale, netting $1.19 million at closing, the lawsuit asserts.

Robert Wood then rejected the offer and said future communication should be directed to an attorney, the lawsuit asserts.

The Woods are now refusing to honor the agreement and delaying the closing to thwart the contracted percentage of the sale proceeds, the lawsuit asserts.

Hundreds honor former sheriff Taylor at funeral


To most people, Joe Max Taylor was the sheriff, the man whose blue eyes could wither with disapproval, or whose kind words could inspire and earn loyalty.

That version of Taylor was at the center of many people’s minds Tuesday at the Galveston Island Convention Center, where hundreds of people attended his funeral. But so were the other versions of Taylor — the loving husband, and the caring father, and the sometimes jokester, who would show up at staff meetings early to fill an unsuspecting captain’s coffee cup with salt.

“As serious as he was about his job, he was that serious about having fun,” said Phillip Cameron, Taylor’s son-in-law. “He was passionate and fierce about protecting and loving his family and friends, and he was able to laugh even when the laughs came at his own expense.”

Taylor, the county’s sheriff from 1981 until 2000, died Feb. 10. He was 86 years old.

Taylor was remembered as a mentor and leader that became one of the most powerful political forces in Southeast Texas in his day. In his nearly two decades as sheriff, he oversaw massive growth of the office and introduced programs and initiatives that are still in operation today.

He began working at the sheriff’s office in 1956 and largely assumed control of the sheriff’s office when he became undersheriff in 1970.

“Joe Max Taylor carried himself, even in the most powerful office, with a decency that defined his whole life,” said Brian Teichman, a family friend who delivered a eulogy for Taylor.

Taylor was feted with honors given to few public officials. His body lay in state at the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday morning, watched over by honor guards of officers from several law enforcement agencies. Nearby, a table filled with mementos from his career, including a pair of cowboy boots.

On the mural of a sheriff’s badge on the wall nearby, the office added a blue line in honor of Taylor.

Later, as Taylor’s casket was carried out of the convention center, draped in a U.S. flag, dozens of deputies and other officers formed a wall of honor and saluted him as he passed.

Taylor was survived by his wife of 46 years, Anita Menotti Taylor, as well as four children, 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

The funeral was officiated by Deacon Sam Dell’Olio, of Galveston’s Holy Family Parish. Taylor was buried in a private ceremony.

One man killed in Tuesday shooting in Galveston


One man died Tuesday morning in a shooting near 27th Street and Avenue K, police said.

Galveston police found Raymond Anderson, 34, shot in the backyard of an Avenue K residence about 10:30 a.m., department spokesman Capt. Joshua Schirard said.

Anderson was pronounced dead on the scene, Schirard said.

Police late Tuesday were still searching for the shooter, who fled the scene. Investigators had not provided details about the person’s description, he said.

“Detectives have developed a person of interest but are still pursuing leads,” Schirard said.

No arrests had been made as of Tuesday evening, Schirard said.

“This does not appear to be a random event and the Galveston Police Department does not believe the general public is at further risk,” he said.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call police at 409-765-3770.

jenniferreynolds / JENNIFER REYNOLDS/The Daily News  

Galveston police Detective Michelle Sollenberger talks to the sister of a man killed in a shooting in the 2700 block of Avenue K in Galveston on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.

Coming Thursday

In Political Buzz: Read all about the state of the county and a spate of local-interest legislation.

City prepares for many thousands of Mardi Gras revelers


Mardi Gras, which will lure thousands of visitors to the island, returns Friday and, along with the usual street closures, will bring with it a new city regulation this year.

People who want to park cars or trailers overnight on the seawall will have to wait until Thursday to do so or risk paying a $250 fine per night, city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.

The Galveston City Council usually waives the nightly fine to allow for the tradition of snagging a spot along the seawall parade route early in the week, but this year increased the nightly fine to discourage early birds from blocking seawall spaces.

The normal nightly fine is $50, which many parade watchers have in the past paid as part of their Mardi Gras expenses.

“We know some festival goers opt to show up early to snag a spot and pay the fines, but this creates headaches for crews trying to maintain the seawall and prep for the parades and festivities,” Barnett said.

People can park overnight between 5:01 a.m. Thursday and 11:59 p.m. Sunday on the first weekend of the pre-Lenten festival, according to new city rules.

The city expects about 300,000 attendees over the 10-day festival, which is scheduled from Feb. 22 to March 5, Barnett said.

Although the National Weather Service predicts a 50 percent chance of rain on both Friday and Saturday, that shouldn’t stop people from coming, Yaga’s Entertainment owner Mike Dean said.

The company organizes and promotes Mardi Gras.

“We’re in pretty good shape,” Dean said. “We have a 52 percent chance of rain between 10 a.m. Saturday and noon and that’s it.”

That’s generally when people start coming to Mardi Gras celebrations, he said.

Dean also isn’t concerned about a planned state project to demolish the FM 646 bridge beginning the festival’s second weekend, he said.

The Texas Department of Transportation project is on schedule to begin demolition on March 1, the Friday of Mardi Gras’ second weekend, but it shouldn’t impede travelers to the island, department spokesman Danny Perez said.

“The closures will be limited to the northbound lanes and there will be no impacts on the southbound lanes,” Perez said.

The project is part of an ongoing $120 million effort to expand Interstate 45 from six lanes up to eight lanes of traffic, Perez said.

Crews will take down the bridge and replace it with a street running under the interstate, he said.

“Besides the impacts to the northbound main lanes on the first weekend, we do not anticipate any additional main lane closures during peak travel until later in March,” Perez said.

The project should take about six months to complete, he said.

During both weekends, emergency responders will operate a post at 25th Street and The Strand to respond to any emergencies, Barnett said.

People should be aware of their surroundings during the popular festival, City Manager Brian Maxwell said.

“Our special events staff has worked with the organizer to make sure every step is being taken to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors,” Maxwell said.

The city has taken preventative measures to provide additional safety and traffic flow, Executive Director of Special Events David Smith said.

“We hope people will bring their families to enjoy the festivities,” Smith said.

Some downtown street closures will begin Thursday to allow crews time to set up for the weekend festivities. Streets downtown will begin reopening at 2 p.m. Sunday, Barnett said.