Many of the residents in attendance at Thursday morning’s METRO Board Meeting breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement the organization would pursue negotiating selling its former Pinemont Park & Ride to Harris County instead of the Houston Housing Authority.
The motion to sell the property to Harris County, which may construct a potential multi-service center, passed unanimously with METRO Real Estate Committee Co-Chair Jim Robinson reiterating his support for the community and how the proposed 300-unit housing complex would hinder rather than help the surrounding neighborhoods.
“It was my judgment that, because of the large amount of apartment development that already exists in that area, to put another high-density apartment complex […], that’s just more multi-family housing than a single family residential community can effectively operate in,” Robinson said.
The decision is an about-face from METRO’s previous plans to sell the property to the HHA, which had threatened to utilize eminent domain to acquire the former Park & Ride if the property was listed on the open market. Residents living in areas like Forest West, Pinemont Park and other surrounding communities quickly mobilized and voiced a number of concerns with the potential housing complex including impacts on property values, crime and traffic.
METRO officials said the subsequent public outcry caused them to reconsider the sale to HHA and Real Estate Committee Co-chair Diane Lewter said, in the future, surplus properties would feature signage displaying information about potential sales and contact information for surrounding neighbors to stay informed of similar sales.
Kirk Waldron, Vice President of the Forest West Community Improvement Association, praised METRO officials for their actions.
“The Board and the Real Estate Committee has gone of its way to do the right thing,” Waldron said.
METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia said Harris County could close on the property in 30 days, which was a shorter time period than what HHA could offer. Both organizations were offering the roughly $3 million appraised value and the measure would likely go before Harris County Commissioners next month.
Garcia also took the time to dispel some “myths” about the sale of the Park & Ride.
“We’ve always had a priority to work with other agencies, and who best than an agency that contributes funds from their hard-earned tax dollars into the METRO service area – which is the county,” Garcia said. He cited the transit services provided by Harris County as fitting in with the organization’s mission to support such services.
Garcia also had positive words for the HHA.
“They have been nothing but honorable and for those who have said otherwise it’s just not correct,” Garcia said. “We’ve worked with the HHA on other transactions and they have been nothing but forthright and willing partners.”