A Harris County judge has ordered a developer and the owner of 50 acres along Dixie Farm Road to mediation in a legal battle that has stalled a government bid of almost $3 million to purchase the property for a flood-control project on Clear Creek.
Attorneys for plaintiffs John Carlew and Remington Homes and those for property owners Robert Wood, James Wood and Doris Wood have less than 30 days to negotiate a settlement in the lawsuit, which was filed in January over a dispute about splitting proceeds of a sale.
Mediation is common in such lawsuits and it was too early to know whether the litigants might strike a deal, said Nathan Steadman, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
Attorneys for the defendants didn’t respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
Officials with the Harris County Flood Control District have been negotiating since June with the 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.
Work on the proposed 60,000-square-foot Parkwood Plaza, a retail development anchored by a restaurant, stalled in June when Friendswood officials told the property owner they had voided his construction permit.
Carlew wants either the permit back or fair compensation from the sale proceeds, Steadman said.
Houston attorney R. Talmadge Hammock, representing the Woods, generally denied the plaintiffs’ assertions in an answer filed March 4, court records show.
The January lawsuit asserts Carlew in 2016 approached Robert Wood about purchasing the property, 2811 Dixie Farm Road, and the two eventually reached a contract to develop 6 acres of the property. 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.
The dirt was 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.