Plum Grove officials make their case
**The Vindicator recently sat down with parties from the City of Plum Grove, Colony Ridge LLC and Liberty County to discuss the ongoing situation in that area. This is the first part of a series that will attempt to address the conflicts and hear the issues from each parties perspective. This week we present our discussion with City of Plum Grove Mayor Barbara Norris and City Secretary Missy Jo Pouncey about the city’s current troubles and their goals to resolve the situation they feel is plaguing the community.**
Robert Frost’s line, “the road not taken” would have been the perfect description of Plum Grove Road and the once quiet community it led to. Far off the beaten path the small Liberty County community was once nestled away from the hectic everyday life of more populous communities.
Today things have changed dramatically as Plum Grove finds itself surrounded by one of the fastest growing suburban developments in Texas, if not the United States.
Conflicts have arisen between Plum Grove and the creators of that development, led by Trey Harris of Colony Ridge LLC., as well as Liberty County in recent years.
According to Mayor Barbara Norris the city is facing three major challenges that need to be addressed as soon as possible, traffic, flooding and the damage to roads throughout the area.
“I want to get the roads fixed and I want to fix the flooding, but I’m not quite sure how to get it accomplished,” said Norris.
Plum Grove Road serves as the main artery for not only the city, but it is where traffic is fed into the new subdivision.
There has no doubt been some wear and tear, along with a major washout that occurred during Hurricane Harvey and has since been left untouched, as the city struggles to get funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).
The city cites a hold up on a hydrology study that is needed by FEMA, according to the city they need a copy of a study done by the developer. They contend it is the difference in $20,000 with the study, or $80,000 without to do a new study to determine the directional source of the flood waters that washed out those culverts on Plum Grove Road.
According to Harris he did not conduct a study of Plum Grove, and only did studies for his subdivision. A point that Plum Grove officials argue is mute, as they are just requesting the report leading up to where the developments drainage leads into the creek at Plum Grove.
Since the development of the new subdivisions in the area began, they have brought with them a major amount of traffic congestion for the area, with the only two current entrances being on Plum Grove Road, one off of FM 1010 and the other FM 2100, with new access roads coming soon that will lead off of the Grand Parkway.
The entry way from FM 1010 is the direct connector for the route to Cleveland, where all of the school buses up until now had to travel to and from for school, however in the last year Cleveland ISD has opened up the first campus for that area in Cottonwood Elementary, and there are two more school’s already under construction and set to open in the next year.
Once on Plum Grove Road there are seven streets that connect into the new development, and Pouncey argues that the roads were clearly not created for the amount of traffic that is traveling them every day.
“They clearly knew our roads were back roads,” said Pouncey.
The two ladies did however credit a number of residents that have volunteered time, material and resources to help alleviate some of the poorer conditions on the roadway. Citing the efforts of Donald Enloe, Noble Enloe, Israel Lopez and Donald Burton for their continued efforts in the area.
The city which was established in 1969 never began collecting property taxes from residents until just a couple of years ago, bringing in just under $200,000 annually for the past two years. In that time Pouncey estimated that city had spent between $25,000 to $30,000 in materials themselves on the roads.
Several months ago, a deal had been negotiated where Harris would provide $25,000 for the materials to work on the entry to Plum Grove Road at FM 1010, but the developers wanted to spend the money on the project and provide the material directly, the council approved the agreement to accept the funds, however the agreement has since fell through.
One of the biggest points of contention has been the hiring of former television investigative reporter Wayne Dulcefino by the Plum Grove City Council.
Asked why they hired Dulcefino’s consulting company, Norris said, “We just want the truth, we brought him in to investigate it and see what’s going on,” in reference to the conflict.
Pouncey believes the investigator has brought some important things to light through a series of video reports the journalist has done.
“Many things have come to light and many more will. We have citizens donating money to Dolcefino’s bill, because they want him to stay,” Pouncey said.
That bill has not come cheap, and at one point came with a lawsuit filed by Colony Ridge against the city council over the hiring of Dolcefino, with the exception of now former mayor, Mary Arrendell, who resigned recently after she was attacked over her phone records, along with Liberty County Judge Jay Knight, Commissioner Pct. 2 Greg Arthur and District 18 State Rep. Ernest Bailes. Not much has yet come from the unearthing of these calls, but Dolcefino contends there is more to be unearthed, while each of those officials argue there is nothing to be found outside of normal communications with every day business.
That lawsuit has since been dismissed by Colony Ridge, however a suit against them remains of behalf of Plum Grove.
According to both Norris and Pouncey there are no feelings of ill will on their part against Harris and company, and she even hopes to eventually work with them to achieve some goals for the area, “I’m not here to fight with him, but we have got to get the roads fixed, it’s horrible,” Norris said.
The Mayor feels she has to fight for her community until a successful resolution is achieved.
“I’m not going to just lay down and let them walk all over Plum Grove,” Norris concluded.