Thursday, December 6, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Brittwood Homeowners Association

Brittwood Homeowners Association   
10823 Pepper Lane
Houston, Texas, 77079

Mr. Michael McNally
President and CEO
Skanska USA
350 Fifth Avenue, 32nd Floor
New York, NY 10118

Dear Mr. McNally,

As president of Brittwood Homeowners Association, I write to express the concern of all 15 homeowners in our association regarding the future of Lake Thicket and the commercial development your company is contemplating.  We add our feelings to the many other homeowner associations in the Memorial Area, and urge you not to drain and fill in the lake, but work it into the architectural design of whatever will be built on the property. You have a great opportunity to prove that you intend to be a positive influence on the larger Memorial neighborhood, and we urge you to show us you care about flooding concerns as well as the maintenance of wildlife in our area.

Sincerely,

Toby Mattox, President
Brittwood Homeowners Association

Friday, November 30, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Briarhills Homeowners Association

BRIARHILLS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION
C/O RealManage – Houston
2000 S. Dairy Ashford #120
Houston, Texas 77077
Tel: 866-473-2573 or Fax: 281-582-6400


Michael McNally
President & CEO
Skanska USA, Inc.
350 Fifth Avenue 32nd Floor
New York, NY 10118
Dear Mr. McNally,

The Board of Directors of the Briarhills’ HOA is writing to you as concerned neighbors about Skanska’s commercial development at 15375 Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas. We seek your immediate attention because we are concerned about the report that you plan to fill in Lake Thicket, which will have a negative impact on both flooding and wildlife in our area.

As I'm sure you are aware, flooding is a major concern of the HOAs in West Houston. Since Lake Thicket already acts as a detention pond during periods of heavy rain, its removal will have a negative impact on solving the flooding problems in our area. Flooding due to unchecked commercial development is damaging individual properties and is a detriment to our West Houston community.

The wild undisturbed area in and around Lake Thicket is also home to many species of animals and contributes to the quality of life in the area. Our wetland areas provide sanctuary for wildlife and helps to mitigate flooding and by leaving this land intact and unaltered preserves the quality of life for residents in the area.

We have requested the support of local regulators and elected officials as well, all who will be receiving copies of the petition as well:

  • Colonel Christopher Sallese – Commanding Officer, USACE Galveston District
  • Congressman John Culberson – US House of Representatives
  • Commissioner Steve Radack – Harris County
  • Councilman Oliver Pennington – City of Houston
  • Richard Smith – City Engineer, City of Houston
  • Moni Belton - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Sharon Parrish - Wetlands Section, Region 6, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Charles Maguire – Water Quality Section, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Mark Fisher, 401 Coordinator, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Rebecca Hensley – Ecosystem Resources Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

We ask that you consider Lake Thicket as a positive feature of the property, worthy of keeping intact, because of its history, its role in addressing our flooding issues, and because it is a natural harbor for wildlife.

Thank you for your attention in this matter. On Behalf of Briarhills’ Home Owner’s Association,

Brian Heil, Vice President Briarhills’ HOA
Ken Fickes, President
Martha Whitton, Treasurer
Mark Penick, Director at Large
Jeff Kollar, Secretary

   

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Preservation of Natural Lake Thicket

Dear Mr. McNally,

As  President of Cove Creek Corporation, a neighborhood homeowners association in Houston along the southern banks of Buffalo Bayou between Wilcrest and Beltway 8, I am writing to express our concerns about flooding along Buffalo Bayou as well as the preservation of wildlife and the wildlife habitat in this area.  We would specifically would like to encourage you to abandon any plans to fill Lake Thicket or destroy any of the natural habitat in the surrounding area you are developing.  Such action threatens to cause irreversibly damage to the environment and increase flooding along Buffalo Bayou.   Buffalo Bayou already has inadequate detention capacity for flood waters during rain events. 

While we welcome Skanska to the neighborhood, we would ask that you not take any action in developing this property that would reduce detention capacity further and exacerbate an already challenging situation.  I have explained our position in further detail in the attached letter.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

George E. Crosby
President, Cove Creek Corporation

__________ Letter Below Sent With Email ___________

Cove Creek Corporation
106 Cove Creek Lane
Houston, Texas 77042

November 13, 2012

Mr. Michael McNally
President & CEO
Skanska USA, Inc.
350 Fifth Avenue
32nd Floor
New York, NY 10118

Dear Mr. McNally,

I am writing as President of Cove Creek Corporation, a neighborhood association on the southern banks of Buffalo Bayou between Wilcrest and Beltway 8. Our association is very concerned about flooding along Buffalo Bayou during rain events and the need for more detention of flood waters, not less. We are also concerned about the preservation of the wildlife and the wildlife habitat along Buffalo Bayou. Skanska's high rise office building development underway at 15375 Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas threatens to irreversibly damage the environment and increase flooding along Buffalo Bayou.

I am sure Skanska wants to be a good corporate citizen and a good neighbor. Accordingly, we are urging you to abandon any plans to fill Lake Thicket or any plan to remove any of the natural habit in the surrounding area you control. Such action would not only destroy a natural environment valued by the citizens in West Houston and a habit necessary to support native wildlife but it would also eliminate an important source of natural detention and thereby increase flooding in adjacent properties as well as communities such as ours downstream.

Your June 20 letter to the neighbors of Lake Thicket was inaccurate when it stated that Lake Thicket "has no impact on neighborhood drainage." I can send you pictures taken during the 2009 flood that show quite the contrary. The fact is that this natural "drainage system," which includes Lake Thicket and the course of the original Buffalo Bayou on the West side of Skanska's property, stores significant volumes of floodwater during flood events above and beyond the normal levels of the lake and bayou. If you reduce this capacity, it is at the peril of many surrounding communities as well as communities downstream.

During the 2009 flood, many homes within our homeowners association flooded. One of the reasons was that Buffalo Bayou does not have the capacity to handle serious rain events. The other reason is the lack of adequate retention or detention basins along Buffalo Bayou to accommodate the increased impervious surfaces resulting from developments in West Houston that did not provide for adequate detention as part of their developments plans.

While we welcome Skanska to the neighborhood, we certainly hope that this mistake won't be repeated. Preservation of the natural Lake Thicket not only enhances the beauty of the Memorial neighborhood but it also makes your development more attractive to future tenants.

Please join us in protecting this natural environment and helping us to eliminate costly flooding along Buffalo Bayou.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

George E. Crosby
President, Cove Creek Corporation

cc:
A.J. Restum, Skanska
Greg Mondshine, Skanska
Mike Nair, Skanska
Joel Ambre, Skanska
Bill Fleming, Skanska
Mats Johansson, Skanska
Shawn Hurley, Skanska
Thomas Hendriksson, Skanska
Catherine Dannenbring, Skanska
Johan Karlstrom, Skanska
Karin Lepasoon, Skanska
John Culberson, U.S. House of Representatives
Councilman Oliver Pennington, City of Houston
Mayor Annise Parker, City of Houston
Richard Smith, Chief Engineer, City of Houston
Colonel Sallese, Commanding Officer, US Army Corps of Engineers
Elizabeth Shelton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston Office
John Davidson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston Office, Enforcement Section
Phil Richardson, Save Lake Thicket Coalition
Creek Corporation Board

Monday, November 12, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Parkhollow Homeowners Association, Inc.


Parkhollow Homeowners Association, Inc.
3000 Armenia Dr. Houston, TX  77082



November 12, 2012

Mr. Michael McNally
President and CEO
Skanska USA
350 Fifth Avenue
32nd Floor
New York, NY  10118

Dear Mr. McNally:
   
The Board of Directors of Parkhollow Homeowners Association is writing to you as concerned neighbors regarding Skanska’s commercial development at 15375 Memorial Drive in the west part of Houston, Texas.  Our community of 550 homes is located just south of this property.  Many of our residents are concerned with the plan to drain and fill Lake Thicket.  This lake has served as a detention pond for many years and helped prevent homes in our area from flooding.   We have already lost much of the wildlife in this part of Houston due to all the growth and draining the lake would lead to more loss of wildlife.  The HOAs in the surrounding communities have worked hard over the years to maintain a desirable quality of life for their residents.  Draining and filling the Lake would certainly cause an irreversible, major loss of our area wildlife and would flood more of our homes.

     Parkhollow Homeowners Association welcomes Skanska to the area as we do all commercial developments.    We realize some of our residents will be employed by businesses in this development and that’s a positive thing for us.  However, the Lake is very important to us and we want to keep it as part of our community.  Therefore, we ask that you not drain and fill the lake, but work it into the architectural design of this property.   

Sincerely,

Amanda Sherard, Vice President
Parkhollow Homeowners Association 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Frostwood Community Improvement Association, Inc

Letter sent to Skanska from Christopher Jones, President of Frostwood Community Improvement Association Inc. regarding potential flooding along Buffalo Bayou.

Click image to make larger to read ...



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Parkway Villages Residential Association Inc.

Parkway Villages Residential Association, Inc.
15995 N. Barkers Landing Rd., Suite 162
Houston, TX  77079

October 17, 2012

Mr. Michael McNally
President and CEO
Skanska USA
350 Fifth Avenue
32nd Floor
New York, NY  10118

Dear Mr. McNally:
   
The Board of Directors of Parkway Villages Residential Association, Inc. is writing to you as concerned neighbors regarding Skanska’s commercial development at 15375 Memorial Drive in the west part of Houston, Texas.  Our community of 538 homes is located just south of this property.  Many of our residents are concerned with the plan to drain and fill Lake Thicket.  This lake has served as a detention pond for many years and helped prevent homes in our area from flooding.   We have already lost much of the wildlife in this part of Houston due to all the growth and draining the lake would lead to more loss of wildlife.  The HOAs in the surrounding communities have worked hard over the years to maintain a desirable quality of life for their residents.  Draining and filling the Lake would certainly cause an irreversible, major loss of our area wildlife and would flood more of our homes.

     Parkway Villages welcomes Skanska to the area as we do all commercial developments.    We realize some of our residents will be employed by businesses in this development and that’s a positive thing for us.  However, the Lake is very important to us and we want to keep it as part of our community.  Therefore, we ask that you not drain and fill the lake, but work it into the architectural design of this property.   

Sincerely,

Judy Thompson, President
Parkway Villages Residential Association, Inc.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Saving Lake Thicket: Westchester Villa Maintenance Association

Westchester Villa Maintenance Association
618 Chadbourne Court
Houston TX 77079


October 1, 2012

Mr. Michael McNally
President & CEO
Skanska USA Commercial Development
1776 Yorktown, Suite 690
Houston, TX 77056

Dear Mr. McNally,

The Board of Directors of Westchester Villa Maintenance Association is writing to you as concerned neighbors about Skanska’s commercial development at 15375 Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas. We seek your immediate attention because we are concerned about the report that you plan to fill in Lake Thicket, which will have a negative impact on both flooding and wildlife in our area.

As I'm sure you are aware, flooding is a major concern of the HOAs in west Houston. As a group we are
working with several government agencies to mitigate the problem, mostly thought the acquisition of property
near Buffalo Bayou that can act as a detention pond. Since Lake Thicket already acts as a detention pond during periods of heavy rain, its removal will have a negative impact on solving the flooding problems in our area.

The wild undisturbed area in and around Lake Thicket is home to many species of animals and contributes to the charm of the Memorial area. We have been very active in protecting our wildlife in the area around Buffalo Bayou and would not like to see any harm come to them.

We ask that you consider Lake Thicket as a positive feature of the property, worthy of keeping intact, because of its history, its role in addressing our flooding issues, and because it is a natural harbor for wildlife.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Sincerely,

Ben Crocker
President, Westchester Villa Maintenance Association

Friday, September 28, 2012

Saving Lake Thicket: Area residents say it’s a critical piece of Buffalo Bayou watershed

September 27, 2012
By Rusty Graham
YourMemorialNews.com


Lake Thicket, as residents call it, borders the Memorial Thicket neighborhood, and is threatened by potential development by new owner Skanska. Skanska says it doesn’t know yet how it plans to use the 21-acre site.

But residents of Memorial Thicket say that draining and filling in the 1.6-acre lake removes a natural detention pond for stormwater, one that historically helps prevent flooding both locally and downstream Buffalo Bayou.  They say it holds more than 10 million gallons of water.
Rusty Graham - YourMemorialNews.com 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Save Lake Thicket Rally - September 23

Once Again!
Time to RALLY

 THE MEMORIAL EXAMINER,
a local publication,
is doing an article on our efforts and
is coming to our neighborhood.
They request your presence
 for interviews and photos of our group.

WE NEED A LOT OF PARTICIPANTS FOR THE MOST IMPACT.

 

Bring Your Own Posters that Reflect Your Concerns!
Flooding is being highlighted during this interview to save the lake
as well as environmental impact, not to mention the increase in traffic
with high rise buildings and apartments!
There are a lot of issues we all feel passionate about.
MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!!

JOIN US
THIS SUNDAY AFTERNOON
SEPTEMBER 23
4:00 P.M.
 IN FRONT OF THE SUBDIVISION
we will proceed to the lake together.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Lake Thicket - Fleetwood Property Owners Association Support Letter

From: Andy Nunmaker
Sent: Friday, August 03, 2012 12:08 PM
To: Michael McNally, Skanska
Subject: Lake Thicket project in West Houston
Please find  attached a letter from the Fleetwood Property Owners Association.  Our community is concern with the project Skanska has undertaken located at 15375 Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas.  Thank you in advance for reading this letter and taking our concerns into consideration.

(Click Letter to Enlarge)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lake Thicket - Board of Directors of Fonn Villas Civic Association

July 3, 2012

Mr. Michael Mair
EVP and Regional Manager
Skanska USA Commercial Development
1776 Yorktown, Suite 690
Houston, TX  77056

Dear Mr. Mair,

The Board of Directors of Fonn Villas Civic Association, Inc is writing to you as concerned neighbors about Skanska’s high rise office building development underway at 15375 Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas.  We seek your immediate attention because we are concerned that Skanska is ready to embark on actions that irreversibly damage the environment and increase flooding along Buffalo Bayou.

When Skanska purchased the property back in February, the Memorial community was hopeful that Skanska would preserve the natural wildlife habitat around the 2-acre Lake Thicket.  Instead the conditions of the lake have deteriorated for months, and the ducks are dying and now are being removed from the property.  We were told in your June 1 letter to the neighbors that “there are no plans to drain the pond in the immediate future” and that Skanska “will not make any determination on the pond until plans have been finalized”.  Why are you then hedging rather than committing to restore Lake Thicket to its historic position as a showcase of the Memorial community and to serving as both a wildlife habitat and a storm water retention lake?

Attached for your information are pictures of the same Lake Thicket view with one taken on a recent typical day and another during flooding conditions.  If the Lake had been gone during this 2009 flood, approximately 3 million gallons of water would have been released to further flood adjacent properties as well as downstream communities like Fonn Villas. 

You say in your June 20 letter to the neighbors that Lake Thicket “is not considered a regulatory retention or detention facility” and that Lake Thicket “has no impact on neighborhood drainage,” but the attached picture clearly contradicts those statements.  Instead the old "drainage system,” which includes Lake Thicket and the course of the original Buffalo Bayou on the West side of Skanska's property, resumes its function and stores significant volumes of floodwater. If you reduce this capacity, it is at peril of many communities.

Why is Fonn Villas especially concerned?  In April of 2009, 250 homes along Buffalo Bayou flooded, many of them in the Fonn Villas and Frostwood area.   One of the reasons for the flooding is the lack of good retention or detention areas upstream to accommodate the increased impervious areas, which resulted from the area’s highway and building construction in the last decade.  The other reason is that Buffalo Bayou is incapable of handling heavy storms.
  
Our Memorial community welcomes Skanska as a developer.   We just want your commitment now to save our natural lake, which enhances the beauty of the Memorial neighborhood.  This commitment will help eliminate costly flooding along Buffalo Bayou, and will likely help Skanska land more attractive tenants.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,


Patrick Clynes
Tonya Wright
Fonn Villas Board

Monday, July 2, 2012

Lake Thicket - Barkers Landing Board of Directors

From:  Leigh Voreh
To:  Michael McNally, Skanska
Sent: Mon, July 2, 2012 3:43:28 PM
Subject: Lake Thicket - Barkers Landing Board of Directors

Good Afternoon Mr. McNally and Associates,

Please read the attached letter and photos from the Barkers Landing Homeowners Association Board of Directors. They, along with other communities are very concerned about Lake Thicket .

Please feel free to contact me with any information I can pass along to the Board of Directors.

Thank you,

Leigh Adams
LETTER CONTENTS:

Barkers Landing Homeowners Association, Inc.
P. O. Box 219223
Houston, Texas 77218
281-870-0585 / Fax 281-870-9170
  
July 2, 2012

Dear Mr. McNally and Associates,

Our Barkers Landing Board is writing to you as concerned neighbors about Skanska’s office building development which is underway at 15375 Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas.  We are apprehensive that Skanska is ready to embark on actions that will irreversibly damage the wildlife environment and increase flooding along Buffalo Bayou. Therefore, we seek your immediate attention.

Lake Thicket is a two-acre natural body of water sited about 30 yards south of Memorial Drive between Eldridge and Highway 6.  Lake Thicket is not just some nice man-made water feature; it is the historical confluence of Buffalo Bayou (the banks of which the City of Houston was founded on in 1836) and Langham Creek.  Just immediately upstream of Lake Thicket, ExxonMobil Chemical Company kept and enhanced that portion of Langham Creek that flowed across its property.

When Skanska purchased the property in February, the Memorial community was hopeful that it would preserve the natural wildlife habitat around the 2-acre Lake Thicket, as has been done across the street by ExxonMobil. Initially, our community was led to believe that the lake and the wildlife habitat surrounding the lake would be preserved   Instead the conditions of the lake have deteriorated for months, the lake was fenced off and the ducks are dying and now are being removed from the property. In a recent communication from Skanska we were told that the domestic ducks have been moved to a “safe, habitable location”. Many still remain with difficult access to the lake itself.

Also attached for comparison sake are two different pictures of Lake Thicket. One was taken on a recent average day and another during flooding conditions in 2009.  If Lake Thicket had been gone during this flood, approximately three million gallons of water would have been released to further impact the flooding on adjacent properties, as well as downstream surrounding neighborhoods. Skanska states in the attached communication mailed June 20 that Lake Thicket “is not considered a regulatory retention or detention facility” and that Lake Thicket “has no impact on neighborhood drainage”, but this picture is clearly contradictory to those statements. Additional flooding without Lake Thicket would be detrimental to many Memorial communities adjacent to and downstream from the Skanska property. This lack of concern for the impact made on the area in deference to a potentially more lucrative outcome for Skanska causes us great concern.

Our Memorial community welcomes Skanska and other companies to our fast-growing West Houston community.  And we must remain watchful and protective of our natural resources. Any changes made in haste may cause irreparable damage to our safety and to the environment.  We implore you to invest in our community by retaining Lake Thicket to preserve our Memorial wildlife habitat and to avoid additional flooding of our community.  Your new tenant(s) will benefits from a more pleasing work environment that will result in more satisfied and highly productive employees.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

 Barkers Landing Board of Directors
 
 
Recent Picture of Average Day at Lake Thicket

Lake Thicket During Flooding Conditions in 2009

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rally - Memorial Thicket Guardhouse, Jun 28, 8:00 am

RALLY TIME!
ALL NEIGHBORHOODS INVITED TO RALLY ON OUR COMMON CAUSE: SAVE LAKE THICKET!!!
THIS THURSDAY, JUNE 28th 
8AM
MEET IN FRONT OF THE MEMORIAL THICKET GUARDHOUSE

BRING YOUR POSTERS!
(SOME READY MADE ARE AVAILALBLE) 
we will be moving towards Terry Hershey Park closer to the construction site

IT IS HOT, but we need to keep putting pressure on SKANSKA until our demands are met.

PLEASE, TRY TO ENCOURAGE YOUR NEIGHBORS TO PARTICIPATE.
THIS BENEFITS THE ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD!
WE NEED EVERYONE
~ THE YOUNG AND THE ABLE~

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lake Thicket Rally Photos - June 12th

 Eggs from the Lake Thicket Area that didn't make it maturity


Some of the Rally Attendees on June 12th who handed out informational flyers



 All Ages Attended the Rally
TV Interview at the Rally

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rally - June 12, 7:30 am


We Are Not Giving Up!!!!!!!
 Join Us
Tuesday - June 12 - 7:30 AM
for a RALLY
 The More that Come = More Impact
See: saveLakeThicket.org for details*

*details originally posted on home page are now being directed to posts within the blog
 

Lake Thicket Birds


Saturday, June 9, 2012


IT'S RALLY TIME!

Tuesday, June 12th at 7:30 a.m.



Bring your signs and meet at the Memorial Thicket Guardhouse. We will have flyers to pass out.  You can also watch for postings at the Guardhouse about upcoming events.

There continues to be ongoing talks with Skanska, but no commitment has been reached to save Lake Thicket thus far. Until there is a written agreement, our efforts will continue to do all we can to preserve Lake Thicket and the wildlife. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


A History of Lake Thicket

Lake Thicket is not just some nice man-made water feature.  It is the historical confluence of Buffalo Bayou (the banks of which the City of Houston was founded on in 1836) and Langham Creek until about 70 years ago.  At that time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers channelized both of these waterways while concurrently building Addicks and Barker Dams to help protect the City of Houston from flooding.

With Memorial Drive being extended in the 1950’s out to its present terminus at what is now SH6, the area became positioned for development.  Memorial Thicket began in 1979 with the initial plan to not only develop the current neighborhood, but to also develop around Lake Thicket.

With the downturn in the Houston economy for new residential housing in the 1980’s, the developer of Memorial Thicket sold to the Atlantic Richfield Co. (“Arco”) in 1984 over 20 acres that had not been developed.  This sale included the undeveloped residential lots on the east side of Windbreak Trail.  In 1985 Arco finished construction of a building with approximately 350,000 sq. ft. and 600 parking spaces.  It was also that year when control of Memorial Thicket Homeowners Association (“MTHA”) passed from the developer to the residents.

Shortly thereafter an opportunity presented itself for MTHA to acquire additional property for housing development, ensure that the Memorial Drive frontage would not be owned by third parties who might commercially develop it, and acquire cash in the process.  In exchange, ownership of Lake Thicket would be given up, but since the lake was separated from the rest of Memorial Thicket by the property Arco had purchased from the developer, it was not as critical as the other properties for the future development of Memorial Thicket.

So in 1987 MTHA exchanged Lake Thicket for Arco’s land at the south end of its property.  This newly acquired property was then exchanged with a housing developer for the approximately two acres of undeveloped land fronting Memorial Drive on both sides of Memorial Thicket's entrance and cash.  The developer then built 10 homes, which helped spread out MTHA’s fixed costs, at what is now the southern end of Plainwood Dr.  A portion of the cash received from the developer was used to construct the current guard house and the metal decorative fence on the newly acquired frontage and the remainder was placed in reserves.

As part of the foregoing transactions, MTHA negotiated an easement with Arco for use of the lake for a minimum of 15 years and certain rights thereafter.  MTHA agreed to and to date has kept an insurance liability policy on the property for the benefit of the property’s owner.

Arco undertook adding filtration, pumps for circulation and water jets to the lake.  Arco stocked the lake in the 1980's with striped bass, perch, bluegill, and catfish, some of which reached quite a large size.  The caretaker often fed the catfish by hand and could even pet them.

All of the animals on the property have been cared for seven days a week for many years (holidays included) by the building’s tenants and by people in the neighborhood and community.  Even now, the ducks are fed by three community residents seven days a week.  In fact, during the years between 2002 and 2009, a duck rescuer/rehabilitator who lives in Magnolia was allowed to use the property to place some of the ducks in the Houston area that were in need of a good home.  Today care of the ducks is problematic since, for the first time in memory, public access to the lake has been restricted, even though site construction does not affect the lake area.

The building became the headquarters for Vastar Resources Inc.  As part of a restructuring in 1993, Arco formed Vastar, which was its natural gas exploration and production subsidiary.  Vastar went public in 1994, but Arco retained over 80% ownership.  BP Amoco purchased Arco in 2000 and the remaining public ownership of Vastar that same year.

BP Amoco subsequently leased the property to Global Marine, Inc.  Global Marine and Santa Fe International Corporation merged in November 2001 to form GlobalSantaFe Corporation with the property being its headquarters.  In 2007, GlobalSantaFe was merged with Transocean Ltd., which was the name of the merged company.

In the interim, Lexington Realty Trust, a REIT, acquired the property in a sale-leaseback arrangement with BP Amoco.  Lexington took out a mortgage with an affiliate of Allstate Insurance Company.  The Transocean lease ended in September 2009, and the property has remained vacant since.  The maturity date of the mortgage was October 2009.  With no tenant and no cash flow, Allstate took over the property from Lexington.

On February 24, 2012, SCD Memorial Lakes I, LLC (an affiliate of Skanska) purchased the approximately 21 acres at 15375 Memorial Drive on which Lake Thicket is located with plans to demolish the building and replace it with Class A office space and perhaps multifamily housing.

On just the other side of Memorial Drive from Lake Thicket, ExxonMobil Chemical enhanced the portion of Langham Creek that flowed across its property.  The two resulting lakes were stocked with fish and aerated to prevent algae growth.  In addition, the wildlife on the site has been protected and added to over the years.  Most recently, the site became home for baby screech owls that were abandoned by their parents during the 2011 drought.  The entire 35 acre site was made a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the Wildlife Habitat Council in 2010.  This required researching and documenting the site history and developing wildlife projects that included ExxonMobil employees and other members of the Houston community.

Lake Thicket in turn serves as a wildlife habitat and shares wildlife with the ExxonMobil Chemical site and with Terry Hershey Park.  Approximately 60 animal species have been identified in the Lake Thicket habitat in the past few years.  These include migratory birds as well as permanent wildlife residents near the lake.

The lake has a surface area of approximately two acres and has provided the surrounding community with a buffer from flooding.  For example, in the April 2009 rain event, only a few homes in the neighborhood experienced structural flooding.  Lake Thicket and the building’s below-grade garage retained many acre feet of water that Buffalo Bayou could not handle at that point.  Without that retention, flooding might have been more severe.

To call Lake Thicket a “retention basin” is a pejorative.  The “pond” as Skanska is wont to call it has a name and that name is and has been “Lake Thicket” for decades.  We hope that the new owner will not dismiss years of history for self-serving reasons.  That is not conducive to becoming a part of the Memorial community.

Dear Neighbors,

The good news is that the draining of Lake Thicket and the removal of any additional wildlife has been postponed by Skanska.  Though our team was ready, willing and able to meet, the full management meeting did not occur on Tuesday. Skanska opted instead at the last minute to have what was billed as a one-on-one meeting (but to which the Skanska representative brought his outside PR firm representative).  The primary outcomes of that meeting were that a full management meeting would be rescheduled for sometime next week and, until that meeting occurs, Skanska will not remove any more wildlife or drain the lake. 

In addition, late Wednesday Skanska decided to begin cleaning up the lake rather than draining it as earlier planned.  On Thursday morning a generator was brought on site to power the lake equipment since site power has been disconnected. One aerator already is running and some lake debris will be removed.  The uncertainty is that this equipment has not been run for a long time and it would not start or will fail.  We are encouraged by this action taken by Skanska.

Memorial Thicket and other neighborhood representatives had a successful rally on Monday which was covered by Channel 26-FoxNews on Monday night.  

There was more picketing along Memorial Drive on Tuesday, during the 8AM rush hour and again during lunch hour rush, and much attention was received. Posters and signs remain along Memorial and we have posters in several businesses along Memorial Drive.

Donna Paredes is serving as our Rally and Picketing chair; she plans to be getting more posters out and has handouts available to distribute. Please volunteer to assist, if you can.  
Bob Batten has agreed to be our WebMaster for the new webpage:   www.SaveLakeThicket.org

Houston Chronicle reporter Patti Hart met with Phil Richardson, Rachel El-Saleh, Kyna Agerton and Geralyn Cornelius on Wednesday and is expected to run an article with our story in this Sunday’s Chronicle. 

Our momentum is building.  While we are pleased with the recent change of Skanska’s plans, there is much work still to be done.  We must not only continue to build additional awareness of the potential loss of Lake Thicket and the wildlife habitat it has provided for many decades, but also update all of our contacts of these recent positive actions by Skanska.

We continue gathering facts, researching the history of the area and determining what steps are required to strongly discourage draining Lake Thicket.  Wildlife habitat, storm water drainage and runoff and Buffalo Bayou preservation are among the areas we need more expertise.  If you are aware of anything that can help us with the foregoing or know someone who may be able to help, then PLEASE contact one of the committee members right away.

Regards,
Next Door Committee;
Phil Richardson, Chairman; philrichardson@pdq.net
Geralyn Cornelius; corneliusrg@earthlink.net
Simon Kanaan; slkanaan@sigmamarble.com

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Defenders of Lake Thicket worried

By Patricia Kilday Hart , Chron.com

"As his lunchtime crowd filtered in last Wednesday, Vahid Navissi, owner of the CafĂ© Benedicte on Memorial Drive, nodded to the wooden deck of his charming restaurant overlooking Lake Thicket. "The Chronicle named it one of the top five patios in Houston for dining out," he boasted of the shaded space overlooking a two-acre pond flush with wildlife.

Naturally, he's been disheartened to hear that the commercial property developer, Skanska, which recently bought the adjacent building, was considering draining the lake ...."    . Read the entire article

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rally - Terry Hershey Park, Jun 2, 9:00 am

SAVE LAKE THICKET
Join us to pass brochures to raise public awareness of the importance of
SAVING LAKE THICKET
TERRY HERSHEY PARK PLAYGROUND
9:00 AM
 SATURDAY, JUNE 2, 2012
Contact Donna Paredes
281-531-0030 

Lake Thicket - Do a Good Job

From: Pierre Latour
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2012 11:37 AM
To: Jessica Murray, Skanska
Subject:  Lake Thicket - Do a Good Job

Jessica,
Thank you for this prompt, thoughtful reply to my text to Skanska, Matt Daniel, below. I particularly noted your fourth bullet.

Since I walked your property 2x/week for 30 years, I am well aware of the deterioration after Transocean moved out, Ike hit and summer 2011 drought damaged flora. I welcomed your purchase to fix up the place.

Like most MTHA residents and neighbors, I want your investment to succeed long term, enhance my property value if you can. Be proud to have an attractive and profitable development next door.

One rule 101 of real estate investing is check the neighborhood, talk to people, confer with them about your plans that could affect them, allay fears, convince them you know what you are doing. Many big developers offer a rendering and model of their proposed project, to win buy-in and enthusiasm from those interested and affected. So I encourage you to communicate with Phil Richardson and MTHA representatives.

I am not your adversary, I wish you well and success. I help finance keeping Memorial Thicket and my own yard in pretty good condition to attract corporate developers like Skanska. So does BP-Amoco and the Energy Corridor.

Our area is known as Westlake for a reason; nature gave us lakes and natural wildlife. This was once a giant thicket. You are surrounded by creeks, bayous, drainage ditches, natural and manmade ponds and Harris County park. Make the most of it.

You should take comfort that your new MT neighbors care so much about what you plan to do next door. You know retirees and families will pass by your property walking, jogging and riding bikes to Terry Hershey County Park, Langham Creek and Buffalo Bayou, with lots of wildlife. Surely you can understand the affection for Muscovy Ducks that hatch up to 24 ducklings annually, only to lose half within three months to natural predators (hawks, raccoons) who have a natural right to be predators. Those Texas Vultures may not be Endangered, but they are Protected Species. I saw a big flat turtle in Exxon-Mobil’s lovely lake on 26May12; Lake Thicket used to have them too. Look at those brown tree ducks standing like soldiers at attention, attached 16TreeDucks.

Besides preserving Lake Thicket to delight your future tenants and support premium rents, be sure your engineers know about the 12 inches in 4 hours rains your property has experienced every decade or so for thousands of years (that would be 100/millennium). Water drains off in several directions, hopefully to Langham Creek across the street. Some does flow through Memorial Thicket and a big pipe under my back yard. I have seen it at capacity 3x since I invested in MT. I advise you not to increase drainage flow to Memorial Thicket, to avoid damage and anger from MT property owners. But of course you already knew that and would never do such a thing. Elementary.

Seems reasonable for neighbors to expect Skanska to be a quality outfit, creating a first class development next door. Hope you find this helpful.

Pierre R Latour
Memorial Thicket Homeowner Since 1982




Sunday, May 27, 2012

RALLY TIME - At gatehouse, May 28, 3:00pm

RALLY TIME!!!
Tomorrow you and your families will have the opportunity to rally to show how much you want to “Save Lake Thicket” and its wildlife.

We are scheduling a 3:00 PM May 28 rally beginning at the gatehouse and continuing as late as 5:00 PM.

We will have some signs for you to carry as we register our concerns.  You are encouraged to bring your own signs that express why you want to “Save Lake Thicket” and its wildlife. 
 
Don’t forget also to bring American flags to show how our neighborhood honors our soldiers.  And bring some drinks to share with your neighbors. 

Happy Memorial Day!!!!!

Your busy Next Door Committee

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lake Thicket - Is Skanska Really Green in Houston, Texas?

From: Don Johnson
Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2012 11:08 PM
To: Karin Lepasoon, Skanska
Subject: Is Skanska Really Green in Houston, Texas?

Attached is a letter with two photographs which make a case for us, your future neighbors, to call into question Skanska's commitment to conscientious stewardship of the environment and to sustainable development. Hard copies of these attachments should arrive at your office early next week.
We neighboring homeowners do not understand the discrepancy between the stated commitment to the environment on your website and the actions of your company in regard to the treatment of our beloved Lake Thicket in West Houston. On one of your webpages Skanska praises itself at least fifteen times as being a "green" company, yet, as the attachments show, your actions have definitely not been "green".

This is especially shocking to me, for I lived and worked in Norway for six years and was president of Conoco Norway for three of those years, and during that period I came to know how deeply Scandinavians respect the environment. I recall discussing this over lunch with Gro Haarlem Brundtland, the Prime Minister of Norway and later the United Nations advocate of sustainable development. I mention this because I note that your website frequently refers to Skanska's commitment to sustainable development.

Please understand that our group is quite serious about the deterioration and probable abandonment of Lake Thicket. We have already publicized the issue on Houston television news, and an article on this subject is scheduled to appear in tomorrow's issue of the Houston Chronicle newspaper. Further action is underway, as I write, involving the United States Corps of Engineers and our elected officials.

We would like not to have these differences with you, for we want our relationship to be one of mutually respectful neighbors. Therefore, I invite you not to oppose us but to join us in our effort to protect this beautiful, natural (not man made) lake, its associated wildlife, and its wetlands by incorporating the lake into the design of your development, as the previous developer did.

Respectfully,

Don Johnson, President of the Memorial Thicket Homeowners Association

(Click Letter to Enlarge)

Lake Thicket Current Conditions

Lake Thicket Prior State

Houston Energy Corridor - Thicket Lake and wildlife to be destroyed

From: Melissa Lukens
Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2012 3:32 PM
To: Skanska
Cc: (various government officials)
Subject: Houston Energy Corridor - Thicket Lake and wildlife to be destroyed

I am writing about an urgent matter and grassroots efforts involving one of your sites in Houston, TX - 15375 Memorial Drive 77079.    

Concerned neighbors, local residents & former workers who care about the lake and wildlife on this property have been communicating  with local SKANSKA personnel in efforts to preserve this wonderful community feature and amenity.  This lake and ecosystem sustain habitat of valued native wildlife.  However and unfortunately, the efforts and requests have fallen on deaf ears - concerned citizens have been put off and given little information regarding the plans for the lake - and for their plans for the wildlife.    Your personnel say the lake will be filled in.  There have been reports that several ducks have already been killed.  As a result, and as a final resort local media,  local government officials and wildlife rescue agencies are being contacted to get involved.   This lake and wildlife are a valuable part of this community and deserves to be afforded consideration of being saved.  We care about this neighborhood, environment and the wildlife that call it home.  The SKANSKA media rep response to a television news report came off as less than sincere and only exacerbated the belief that SKANSKA has no concern for the surrounding neighbors or the environment.   Perhaps, SKANSKA does not stand behind their website representations to value the environment...the following are pieces of your website - 

1)  Community Outreach - Skanska is dedicated to the idea of serving the communities in which we build.   

2)  The SKANSKA Code of Conduct says a key SKANSKA responsibility is "...our responsibilities toward the communities and environments in which we operate..."    "...we have defined some key foundations for our performance:..   - We respect...and recognize our responsibility to observe those rights that apply to...the communities in which we operate."    AND "We are open-minded in dialogue with those who are affected by our operations.  We respond to inquiries from external parties and communicate with affected parties in a timely and effective manner."

3)  A SKANSKA article and claim from the website regarding Environmental Policy touts:

POLICY AND STRATEGY

Skanska’s approach to Local Impacts is to focus on things we can directly control and directly influence.  Our Environmental Policy states that we will “….reduce harmful emissions to the air from projects, road vehicles, mobile and stationary equipment and processes” and “…….mitigate the impact of our operations on flora, fauna and related ecosystems..."   In the interest of keeping this short, I will just say that many other website articles also emphasize the goal and value of your company to be a friend to the environment.

4)  Your Case Study and Project profile on the 2005 development of the CSOB Headquarters in the Czech Republic states: Urban Redevelopment:  "...construction on a brownfield site to avoid...destruction of natural environments...Local people were informed about the site development by information boards."   The article goes on under the section titled "Sensitive incorporation into the natural environment - ...Existing trees were preserved and 730 quick growing and local species of tree have been planted on the site and in the nearby forest park..."

To the contrary, on this project, SKANSKA has not provided any development plans or information to the local community as it did in the Czech Republic.    If SKANSKA is so concerned about preserving and replacing trees - why not wildlife?    If SKANSKA is open minded to dialogue - why not work with the community to preserve the wildlife and cooperate in relocation if that is the only option?   To date, SKANSKA appears to only be interested in progressing with destruction in the name of construction - now hastily attempting to remove the wildlife on it's own to an undisclosed location - not being a good neighbor and considering preservation of the lake and it's longtime animal inhabitants.   Your representatives as recent as yesterday refused to agree to relocation to homes which have been arranged for these animals; one SKANSKA rep refused to divulge where the animals will be "relocated" to.  We believe the intent is to do away with these animals and the lake - quite contrary to SKANSKA being "dedicated" to the communities -  this is not a friendly response or an environmentally responsible stance at all.  I am hopeful this message reaches you all for your immediate consideration and response.  There can't be such an urgent or financial requirement of a company your size - to move forward so quickly with the demolition and re-development of the property, which has sat for years without tenancy in foreclosure.  

I implore you to allow time to consider alternatives to preserve the lake - and as a last resort -to at least allow the wildlife to be rescued and relocated with the assistance of the community in a humane and ethical way.
Thank you for your consideration of this request and any involvement you can afford to this urgent matter.