AUSTIN — Lawmakers Thursday put Colony Ridge under the microscope as witnesses from several parties offered testimony about the controversial development in north Liberty County.
The witnesses appeared before the Texas House Committee on State Affairs against the backdrop of the 88th Legislature’s third special session.
Critics of the development say the large, unincorporated community is a haven for criminals, is swollen by undocumented immigrants and is draining the resources of local schools. Some lawmakers want to put it under state conservatorship.
Colony Ridge CEO John Harris was at the center of that hearing, as he gave testimony on the development and fielded questions from house members, including state Rep. Ernest Bailes, a Republican who represents Liberty County.
Several committee members questioned the reasoning behind any hearing at all.
"What the hell happened? Why are we even here doing this?" said state Rep. Jay Dean, R-Longview.
Later in the hearing, Liberty County Judge Jay Knight answered Dean's question about how Colony Ridge became a topic of conversation.
"Hey guys, it's an election year, right? It's a big election year," Knight said.
Harris told committee members he hoped they could help explain to him why Colony Ridge suddenly garnered so much interest. He questioned whether the issue was ignited by enemies of Gov. Greg Abbott, following donations to his campaign coffers totaling over $1 million, or for other reasons.
Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Attorney General Ken Paxton have all urged action on the development, which Harris earlier said has been developed following all legal guidelines. The developer also denounced any claims of drug cartels hiding out in the settlement.
For more on this developing story, pick up a copy of the Oct. 26, 2023, Vindicator.