Sharpstown residents fear annexation could force them out of their homes

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Some homeowners in the Sharpstown subdivision of southwest Houston are asking to be de-annexed from a district they never asked to join.

It's called a TIRZ, short for tax increment reinvestment zone. It's a way of funding improvements in an area, aimed to stimulate economic development. Over the years nearly two-dozen have been created around Houston, from the east end to the Galleria area and the southwest part of the city.

In the case of Sharpstown, the president of the civic association says he didn't learn of the annexation by the TIRZ until June. The annexation occurred last year. (See a map of the affected area)

Jim Bigham says he "has no doubt that the TIRZ notice met the letter of the law." That might involve a legal notice in a publication.

"But if it took me a year to find out it was annexed, that tells you it was done very quietly and that's what happened," he said.

The area was brought into the TIRZ when Houston Baptist University asked to join the reinvestment zone. In return, the university received grants to build a new roadway and entrance to its growing campus.

HBU also commissioned a study to look at ways to further expand the campus. That report included the possibility of expanding into a small section of the Sharpstown subdivision.

Sharpstown also has strongly enforced deed restrictions that prohibit commercial activity in its subdivision. HBU's vice president of asset development, Corky Dragoo, jr., says that dropped Sharpstown from its ways to expand.

It did not, however, drop the 109 homes from the TIRZ district, which has some longtime homeowners concerned. While a TIRZ doesn't have the ability to declare eminent domain, the city can do so on behalf of the TIRZ in the interest of economic development.

With a mechanism in place, some homeowners are concerned the landscape could change over time, and they could be bought out.

A town hall meeting in District J will be held September 3 at the Bayland Park Auditorium to discuss how the TIRZ affects the Sharpstown community.
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