Thank you to all the residents that have contacted us with questions and comments. We appreciate your support. As part of these conversations, we understand there is confusion about the roles and responsibilities of a MUD and an HOA, so before we share an updated status, we first want to bring some clarity.
Role and Responsibilities of a MUD in Texas
When a subdivision in Texas is developed, it is very common for the developer to establish both a MUD and a HOA. The MUD’s role is to be a water related utility. Just as Centerpoint is a provider of electricity and natural gas service, a MUD provides drinking water and water related services. Most MUD’s including MUD 341 operate a water treatment plant to ensure the treatment and delivery of quality drinking water. A MUD is also responsible for sewage service and either directly owns or has a very long–term contract with a regional sewage treatment plant. In the case of MUD 341, we use a regional sewage treatment plant and operate a lift station that accumulates and transports sewage to the regional plant. MUD 341 also provides twice weekly trash service. The final responsibility of all MUD’s is the installation and maintenance of the storm water drainage system. This is the system that takes rainwater from each home and adjacent streets into stormwater drains at the edge of streets. These drains feed into a series of underground pipelines which flow into the lakes of the community. This system is designed to clear the streets quickly, preventing home flooding and allowing effective personal transportation. In the case of MUD 341, when the water in the lakes reaches the design height, the excess water from the lakes flows into Turkey Creek and ultimately the Addicks Reservoir. Because the lakes are part of this stormwater system, the developer puts the ownership of the lakes under a MUD to ensure there is no breakdown in the rainwater removal system. Since the development of this style of stormwater removal system, developers saw the aesthetic value of lakes as another amenity of the subdivision which adds homeowner value. In the case of our community, the visual value of the lakes was so great that it became the name of our subdivision – Lakes on Eldridge.
Role and Responsibility of an HOA in Texas
After a MUD is created and all the extensive pipelines for water, sewer and drainage are installed, the developer sets up a Homeowner Association or HOA. The role of the HOA is to own and/or manage all the amenities of a subdivision with the goal of maintaining or enhancing the perceived property value of the community. In simple terms, they are to keep everything beautiful and functional as well as to ensure compliance with governing documents. Because the lakes must be owned by the MUD, the developer sets up an agreement where a nominal fee is paid by the MUD to the HOA to maintain the aesthetic value of the lakes and adjacent property as part of their responsibility to maintain the entire subdivision. Most homeowners walk around the lakes and enjoy the beauty of the lakes without even considering their stormwater role on the few days of a rainstorm. Because of this significant tilt toward aesthetic usage, MUD’s usually pay a fee that roughly coincides with about a third of the costs directly related to basic maintenance of the lakes and their adjacent property. MUD 341 currently pays the HOA $180,000 per year to maintain the lakes of Lakes on Eldridge.
HOA’s are also typically allowed to use the water in the lakes for irrigation of common area property. To ensure that the HOA balances the need for irrigation with the requirement to maintain aesthetics, the developer installs a water well used exclusively by the HOA to maintain an aesthetically pleasing water level in the lakes. The billing for the water used by the HOA does not come from the MUD. The water well is metered and costs are paid directly to the West Harris County Regional Water Authority.
The Current Drought and Impact to the Community
Now to the issue of the current drought. A drive through our community indicates that most individual homeowners have chosen to maintain their grass and shrubbery through this drought by sufficient watering during the overnight hours. While watering can be costly, the cost of plant and sod replacement is significantly greater. Unfortunately, LOE’s HOA has made a very different choice. An individual homeowner turns on their sprinkler system to water their property. In hot weather as we are experiencing, the HOA would need to routinely turn on their well to provide water into the lakes to feed the common area irrigation system and to maintain the lake levels. For the first time in LOE history, the HOA refused to fill the lakes. Not only has that decision caused appearance issues, but it put the walls of the primary lakes in jeopardy of collapse. The water level was more than 27” below the top of the wall. Our 3rd party structural engineer has said the safe water level should be no more than 18” below the top of the wall. Replacement of the lake walls would cost residents an estimated $12 Million dollars.
Actions by the MUD and Current Status
In response to this critical situation, as of September 7, the MUD agreed to pay the HOA to turn on their well to add water to the lakes to try to prevent a catastrophe. As of September 14th, we have reached a level of 18” below the top of the wall and notified the HOA to stop pumping at the MUD’s expense. The cost of the water will be approximately $26,000. We believe most people would see that as a good investment compared to the risk of $12 Million dollars. As stated in an earlier announcement, the MUD will absorb this cost. The HOA remains responsible for maintaining the lake levels and even raising them to more aesthetically pleasing levels if the community does not get enough rain soon.
Lessons That Should Be Learned
This entire situation would have been easily avoidable if LOE’s HOA had followed the procedures used by Lakes on Eldridge- North. That community was created by the same developer as ours and has the same arrangement for the lakes as we do. Earlier this year, the water well for LOEN failed. To aid the HOA since they couldn’t add water, the MUD associated with LOEN (MUD 370) added some water to the lakes to allow for irrigation and to protect the lake walls. Once the new well went online, the HOA added a float (a device that detects water level) and set the float to ensure their lake levels never fall below 8” from the top. The HOA pays the full cost of the regularly added water. If you tour LOEN, their HOA’s commitment to aesthetics is very clear. In particular, the lakes look nearly full and beautiful.
All the directors of MUD 341 are longtime residents of the community. The five MUD directors have a combined residency of 110 years. We have no desire to argue or create dissention. We stepped in to stop a crisis. If you have issues with the MUD or HOA, please let us or them know.
Below is contact information. The MUD does not have a community manager, because the 5 directors work directly with our service providers. Therefore, we have included the general contact link on our website.
HOA Directors – Bill Rainbolt, Jim Wynn, Julie Applegate, Dave Holzinger and Kevin White
Community Manager – Cheryl Vasquez (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MUD 341 Directors – Russell Rush, Carlon Thorpe, Christine Mink, Bob Wegner, and Warren Renkin (https://www.hcmud341.org/contact)
Thank you for your support.