Uptown/Galleria TIRZ Terrorizes Traffic
Some time ago, I wrote an article in an effort to inform readers about how their tax dollars are being spent on improvement projects in and around the Galleria area. Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, or TIRZ were the target of my article titled, So What Is a TIRZ Anyway??. Now it seems that there are more players involved in this game, and they're all too eager to spend MORE of your tax dollars on seemingly unnecessary projects, all seemingly in an effort to line their own pockets.
Rewind to Monday, June 20th when a group of folks, the Uptown Property Owners PAC, who are in opposition to the project held a press conference. The project is one in which the Uptown Management District has decided to widen Post Oak Boulevard by two lanes to build a dedicated bus lane. It came to my attention yesterday (about an hour out) that there was going to be a press conference held outside of one of the affected properties to feel the impact of the proposed project, The Cosmopolitan at 1600 Post Oak Blvd. I rushed down to film the presser to gather some more information in order to share it with you. To save you from watching the video in its entirety, I have picked out a few highlights to help let you know what the folks opposing this project are hoping to accomplish.
According to a spokesperson for the group, former Channel 13 investigative reporter, Wayne Dolcefino, there are several that this group of citizens have some goals they hope to accomplish. They are asking: 1) that the "project not go forward, first and foremost; and 2) that there be a temporary ban on permits for new high rise construction until a truly independent study is done of traffic and Emergency Response Times. There are plans to add 11 million square feet of property without doing anything to make the traffic better. One other quick thing, the Uptown has announced that this bus project, which will run down the middle of the road here, is going to eliminate right turn lanes on Westheimer and San Felipe from Post Oak This is going to make traffic worse, not better. This is a tremendous waste of money and a project that is stained epically from the get-go."
The group represented at the press conference has also stated that they would like to take a survey of the residents living in the Uptown Galleria area to see if they will even take the bus, and they're challenging Mayor Turner to do this study. The Uptown TIRZ...has raised (or taxed) over one hundred million dollars to build this bus project. Jim Scarbourough of the Uptown Property Owners PAC is advocating that the money that was taxed or raised could be better used to fix flooding issues in Meyerland, etc.
The group has raised safety concerns that could arise with the bus lane addition, Emergency Response issues and the possibility of increased flooding in the area. That's not all, though. Here's where it gets juicy.
According to Dolcefino, "One other thing, my office filed a criminal complaint claiming that Uptown violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. The DA is conducting a criminal investigation, I've spoken to them as late as Friday and they are reviewing the real estate contracts that have already been done. One of the bizarre things about this project, besides the absolute idiocy of it, is that Uptown doesn't own the right of ways. They own some, but most of the property they don't even own yet."
Oh, and one more thing, "Kendall Miller, the chairman of Uptown, is making millions of dollars on this deal; he's probably making it legally. He should not be a guy that is involved. Kendall Miller lobbied for the money from the feds and the state. He was involved in executive meetings on this project. He's on the Uptown Management District, he's on the TIRZ and the UVA. It is a classic example of these kinds of conflicts. The only company that's done a study on whether this bus project will work at all was Walter P. Moore. That was the big so-called independent study. Walter P. Moore is a contractor for Uptown, involved in making money if this project goes forward. That's not independent, that's getting the answer you want to get. A real independent study should be done, and in this case, by an out of town firm, I would suggest."
So, there you have it. What can you do to help, you might be asking. Call Mayor Turner's office at 713.837.0311 to ask him to put a stop to the project. You can also go to their website, Save Uptown Houston and donate to their legal fund. Not only that, but you can sign the online petition to help stop the project from going forward. It's time to hold these un elected bureaucrats accountable, starting with the TIRZ and the Uptown Management District.