The History of the Kleinwood Municipal Utility District
The Kleinwood MUD was created on May 3, 1972, by the Texas Water Rights Commission, the predecessor to today’s governing body of all Texas water districts, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ. At the time of creation, the District size was about 350 acres – today the acreage of the District has nearly doubled to about 670 acres. The original developer of the District, the Kickerillo Corporation, had a successful record of other subdivisions throughout Harris County, including the Cypresswood Subdivision on the east side of Kuykendahl Road and Nottingham Country in Katy. The first construction within the Kleinwood MUD commenced in 1974 — the first water well was drilled, underground pipes for water, sanitary sewer, and storm drainage were installed, and roads were paved for Kleinwood Section 1. At the time, the only subdivisions that had already been built in the neighboring area were Wimbledon Estates and Memorial Northwest. Champion Forest and Cypresswood Drive would be started later in the decade.
Kleinwood Section 1 included the north-south streets of Kleinwood Drive and Squyres Road, with the east-west streets beginning at Cheyne Circle all the way south to Heathrow Lane. At the time of creation, the southern half of Kleinwood Section 1 was to also have included the land now occupied by Meyer Park. Shortly after District creation, but before any construction had commenced, the Army Corps of Engineers changed the flood plain line for Cypress Creek further north, thereby rendering about 170 acres of the Kleinwood district to be in the flood plain, making development in this acreage not feasible. Initially, Squyres Road was constructed to serve as the only access to the newly constructed regional Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP), in which KMUD owned a roughly 15% interest in the plant. Other original owners of the WWTP included the water districts for Memorial Northwest, the future Champion Forest, Colony Creek, and Klein ISD (for the high school).
As there were no residences or structures yet built in Kleinwood in those early years, the formal monthly KMUD meetings were held downtown at the lawyer’s offices of KMUD, Vinson & Elkins. The first water board directors consisted of non-residents, who legally owned property in the District, but were primarily nominated by the developer, Kickerillo. It would take several years to transition the Directors of the Board from non-residents to residents. The first houses built in Kleinwood were on Squyres Road, from the far north end (next to today’s Day Care Center) south to Fountaingrove. Residents of these houses served on the Kleinwood Water Board as it went through this non-resident to resident transition. One of the first residents – and consequently one of the first Directors – was a native Texan who grew up in the panhandle near Lubbock. Transferring to the area in 1975, he moved into the house on the corner of Squyres and Foutaingrove, will full agreement to serve on the first resident board undergoing this non-resident to resident transition. At the time of move-in of these first residents, Squyres was paved only down to Fountaingrove, with the rest of Squyres being a gravel road down to the new waste treatment plant.
As more and more homes were built, several of the new homeowners began to take an increased interest in the business of the KMUD. One of these individuals was Richard Burchfield, who moved into the subdivision in 1975. Working in the tax department for Gulf Oil (later Chevron), Richard brought a level of experience and expertise to the Board that would prove invaluable in later years. Two of his major contributions benefiting the District and its residents included the Homestead Exemption in 1976, and the policy to reimburse developers only after sufficient tax value had been constructed to pay the premiums due on the bonds that were sold to reimburse the developer. At the time, KMUD was one of the first MUD’s in the area to institute the Homestead Exemption. The policy of “tax value on the ground” insured that the major risk of development be born by the developer, and not by the District itself.
Some of the first consultant companies that worked with KMUD are still with the District today. Jones and Carter, the District’s engineer, began working with KMUD in 1977, and is KMUD’s current engineering company. Larry Carter, one of the original partners of the firm, was the KMUD’s chief engineer for over 10 years, and attended the monthly KMUD meetings during that time. Other consultants still with KMUD include Dick Yale, who in the mid 70’s began with the District as KMUD’s chief counsel while at Vinson & Elkins, and has continued to work directly with KMUD while now with the Coats Rose law firm. Claudia Redden, a long time resident of the area, has been the District’s bookkeeper since the mid 70’s. Both Dick Yale and Claudia Redden routinely attend the monthly KMUD meetings today. Barbara Wheeler has provided tax collection services to KMUD since the District’s inception in the early 70’s. The water and waste treatment operations within the KMUD residential areas were run for several decades by Dub Minter, the owner of a water operations company that served many other Districts in the area. The District has been very fortunate to have experienced continuous working relationships with their primary consultants for over 30 years and counting.
Kleinwood Section 1 consisted of roughly 310 lots, and a single builder, Apaco, owned and operated by Vincent Apa, purchased all the Section 1 lots. Homes were initially built along the north side of Kleinwood, including Cheyne Circle, the northern end of Kleinwood Drive, Fountaingrove, and the cul-de-sacs that intersect Fountaingrove, Pilgrims Circle and Courtland Circle. Apa’s sales office and showroom was the two-story garage that is currently part of the house at the northwest corner of Cheyne Circle and Kleinwood Drive. The showroom was on the second floor where new homebuyers would select their flooring, paint colors, lighting and plumbing fixtures.
By late 1976, the developer of Wimbledon, Vernon Hallbeck, approached the Kleinwood Board about an apartment complex on the corner of Lyons School Road and Stuebner-Airline (today the name of the complex is the Mill Creek Apartments). KMUD annexed the property, and the process of annexation of adjoining vacant property for near-term development was begun – the developer deriving benefit from a reliable and cost efficient water and sanitary sewer service, and the District benefiting by increasing the taxable value of the property. Similar annexations took place in the late 70’s including the property where a Safeway shopping center would be built (now occupied by the HEB shopping center), and the wooded property of what was to become Kleinwood Section 2. Kickerillo approached KMUD in 1977 for Kleinwood Section 2, about 150 new residential lots to be located on the streets west of Squyres over to Lobo Lane, Litchfield Lane, and the cul-de-sacs tying into Litchfield Lane. Annexation and development were progressing at a very rapid pace for the District.
By 1978, Kickerillo had completed construction of the Kleinwood clubhouse, pool and tennis courts. Given that there was now a meeting room available within the District boundaries, and the Board wanting to provide better accessibility to any interested residents, the Board moved its monthly meeting location from downtown Houston to the Clubhouse on Kleinwood Drive. Prior to the move, formal district business had been conducted from law office conference tables and padded conference room chairs. After the move, the same official District business was now being conducted on the clubhouse ping-pong table and an array of folding chairs, the Board exchanging downtown comfortability for neighborhood convenience, a decision that was always deemed favorable and not regretted by the Board.
At the end of the decade, KMUD was approached by Harris County about developing the heavily wooded vacant District property within the flood plain into a county park. At the time, the largest Harris County Park was at Bear Creek, and there was no county park that adjoined a residential neighborhood. The plan developed by Harris County was to have this wooded property developed as the new location of the soccer fields for the North Harris County. The location of the existing soccer fields up to that point was on property owned by KISD near the North Hampton subdivision on Spring-Stuebner. KISD had plans to build a third high school (Klein and Klein Forest already in operation), and the KISD property under consideration was where Klein Oak High School now is located. KMUD and Harris County reached an agreement for the County to construct the Elizabeth Kaiser-Meyer Park (later changed to just Meyer Park) and its associated soccer fields and walking trails. The agreement allowed for KMUD to supply drinking water and sanitary sewer to the Park facilities, but no water for watering the soccer fields. In turn, the County constructed a fence suitable to reasonably isolate the subdivision from the park, so that park visitors would not be parking on the streets of Kleinwood.
Development of the KMUD area, and subsequent annexations, continued through the decade, although at a slower pace due in part to the real estate development crisis that occurred throughout Texas in the mid-80’s. The decade also launched the ongoing concern about subsidence caused by the excessive pumping of the area’s groundwater. The creation of what was called “Regional Water District No. 2” focused on the problem on increased groundwater pumping to satisfy the huge increase in population growth in the area. Although RWD #2 was not successful at that time, the problem of subsidence was still prevalent, and other organizations would be formed in future years to deal with the problem and its solution. Much of the work accomplished by RWD #2 would be later utilized by these future organizations – today the governing organization is the North Harris County Regional Water Authority (NHCRWA), who is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to bring surface water from Lake Houston to this area.
Later in the 80’s, KMUD had a second water well installed, this new well extracting groundwater from the Evangeline Aquifer. This second well was designed to operate in parallel with the District’s first well, which was installed in 1974 into the Chico Aquifer. For KMUD, groundwater was being drawn from two separate aquifers,, a situation that was fairly typical for water districts throughout North Harris County at the time. The rapidly increasing extraction of groundwater by KMUD, as well as other water districts, to satisfy the growing demand for water due to population growth, would contribute greatly to the increasing subsidence problem.
In the early 80’s, the Champion Pines condominiums were built after the property on Theiss-Mail Route was annexed into the District. KMUD was involved with the development of the Randalls shopping center, in that half of total property containing the shopping center had been previously annexed into the Kleinwood District several years before. A three way agreement between the Champion Forest Water Board, the Kleinwood MUD, and The developer of the Champion Forest subdivision, the Greenwood Corporation, was executed to enable the Randalls shopping center to be built. The Exxon service station across from Klein High School came into the District, with Exxon being the first car-wash to be built within the District’s boundaries. Klein ISD began making plans for a new intermediate school, the new Kleb on Louetta, and converting the previous Kleb on Stuebner-Airline to house KISD support services, like the KISD police and KISD food services.
Regular monthly Board meetings were moved from the very active and somewhat noisy clubhouse to a small conference room in the church building on Squyres, near Louetta. After several successful years of meeting at this location, the church decided to use the conference room for other purposes and the regular monthly meetings were moved to the conference room at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Although meetings at this location were not widely attended by District residents, the meeting location did in fact satisfy the District’s policy of holding meetings within the District’s boundaries.
Towards the end of the decade, two significant property developments took shape – the building of the Catholic Church on Cypresswood, and Kleinwood Section 3. The Board was very receptive to new churches being built within the community even though they were exempt from future tax revenues to the District. The Board strongly believed that churches had a very favorable impact on the community and the quality of the area. Development along Cypresswood continued through the end of the decade with the neighboring apartment complex and the professional office complex on the south side of the street. The Board worked closely with each developer to insure that the majority of the native trees were left in place to enhance the attractiveness of the facilities, as well as preserving the “pine tree forest look” of the area.
Kleinwood Section 3 consisted of the southern extension of Lobo Lane to the western extension of Friars court, and the cul-de-sacs that tie into these two streets. Although a smaller development of some 35 homes, Section 3 was significant because it was the only residential development within the Kleinwood District in over a decade. Many different developers had made proposals to the Board throughout the 80’s, but it was a developer by the name of Maury Rubin that brought Kleinwood Section 3 to reality.
As the new decade began, Klein ISD approached the Board about providing service to the new planned grammar school, to be named Mittelstadt Elementary. At the time, KMUD was already providing water supply to both the High School and to Kleb Middle School – this arrangement being made back in the mid 1980’s when the Klein high school water well became contaminated with gas occurring naturally within the earth, and therefore the wells could no longer be used. With the addition of the grammar school, KISD envisioned that the entire property would become a “campus” of schools at this site, with grades Kindergarten through the 12th grade. Although KISD was exempt from MUD taxes, the Board welcomed the opportunity to work with KISD to enable this campus to be built, and the favorable impact all these facilities would have on the community.
Built in the late 70’s, the Safeway store (where HEB is now located) operated for about 10 years until that store ultimately closed, along with many other Safeway stores in Texas. The store remained vacant until the mid 90’s, when HEB purchased and refurbished the store, thereby bringing new tax revenue to the District. The HEB opening completely revitalized the shopping center, and many smaller businesses started leasing available space that had been vacant for years. A decade later, HEB would decide to build a much larger HEB store — the original smaller HEB store was located in the middle of the current HEB parking lot, and was completely demolished when the larger store was opened.
Other non-residential development during this the 90’s included the two churches across from the Kleinwood clubhouse. The Church of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormon Church) owned both the property where the church building itself is currently located, plus the small plot that the Volunteer Fire Station occupied. During this period the Klein VFD concluded negotiations to build a much larger Regional Fire Station nearby on Squyres, and in so doing freed up the property for future use by the Mormon Church. Also during this period, the U.S. Post Office purchased the northwest corner of Squyres to build a new post office facility. It was very evident to the Board that even though the churches, fire department, and post office would not bring tax revenue to the District, the Board readily recognized the value of having these types of facilities in the neighborhood and welcomed these developments to be built within the District’s boundaries.
The lone residential development for the decade was a narrow stretch of acreage next to Memorial Northwest, located due north of the HEB shopping center. At the end of the decade, a developer representing Memorial Northwest approached the Board about Memorial Northwest building homes in what was to be referred to Memorial NW Section 19. KMUD had no underground facilities that far north to serve this small acreage (Champion Woods would not be built until many years later). This small piece of vacant property however had actually been annexed into KMUD back in the early 70’s when there were no plans for any immediate development, and Texas state law prevented previously annexed properties to be “de-annexed”. KMUD and the water district representing Memorial NW (MUD # 114) worked out an amicable legal arrangement that allowed the project to proceed. Thus, Kleinwood MUD is currently serving some 40 residential homes physically located in the Memorial NW subdivision, but for taxing purposes, located within KMUD – a somewhat complex but workable solution, and enabling property development within the District to move forward.
The decade also brought another opportunity to the Board – again with no tax revenue but clearly a value to the community. The Kleinwood Homeowners Association approached the Board about the purchase and refurbishment of the abandoned Kleinwood Clubhouse. The Clubhouse and adjoining pool had been permanently closed in the mid 80’s by the current owner, the YMCA, for budgetary reasons. After years of decay and neglect, the facility had become an eyesore and a safety hazard, and was a growing problem for the community. Under Texas law, Water Districts are permitted to purchase property and structures within the District’s boundaries for the purpose of conducting formal District business, and owning recreational facilities for the benefit of residents of the District. Thus the opportunity to acquire a regular meeting place, physically centered within the District (KMUD meetings up to that point were being held at the Waste Treatment Plant, clearly a less desirable location) was eagerly pursued by the Board. Once the entire clubhouse and pool facility was completely refurbished, the Board elected to allow the Kleinwood Swim Club to use the pool facilities for their competitions, and open up the pool use to District residents during the summers. KMUD leased the recreational facilities to the Kleinwood Homeowners Association, but still retails responsibility for the Clubhouse itself.
Clearly this decade had seen the majority of the residential development within the District for the past several decades, with the building of The Falls at Champion Forest and the development of Champion Woods. Both developments were the result of successful negotiations between the District and John Lightfoot, the Developer. The tax revenue from both of these developments will benefit the District for years to come. At the same time, the size of the acreage of both developments greatly reduced the amount of vacant property either within, or adjacent to, the District’s boundaries. Except for some smaller parcels along Stuebner-Airline near Cypresswood, some commercial plots along Louetta near Randalls, and a few plots on Stuebner-Airline north of the HEB, the District is essentially “all-built-out”
Reaching this build-out enabled the Board to drill the District’s third water well, this one at a different site on Louetta Road, nearly opposite where Kleinwood Drive intersects Louetta. The District now has three fully functional wells, able to serve all of the residents and commercial businesses within the District. The three wells are also suitable for providing adequate fire protection to the District, as well as neighboring Districts during emergency situations. KMUD is currently interconnected with water supply to (or from) Memorial Northwest, and Wimbledon. These two districts are further interconnected with their neighboring Districts, enabling a large number of Districts all along Louetta to be “connected” to one another. Water is not free, however – at each interconnection for KMUD, there is a valve and meter to determine how much water was used by the purchasing District. Legal contracts designating water purchase rates between KMUD and each interconnected District were put in place at the time the interconnection was made. The interconnections are intended for emergency purposes only, and the water rates reflect this premise.
Perhaps the most significant event in recent years is the state mandate for Water Districts to convert to the use of surface water, which will greatly reduce the pumping of groundwater. Beginning in 2010, Water Districts in North Harris County will be mandated to receive 30% of its water supply from surface water, the source of which will be Lake Houston. Over the next 20 years, KMUD and other Districts will be mandated to receive 70% by the year 2020, and 80% by the year 2030. What started 20 years ago as Regional Water District #2 has ultimately culminated into what is today the North Harris County Regional Water Association. (NHCRWA). Over the past several years, large underground distribution pipes have been installed along major roadsides, to deliver water from Lake Houston to water districts throughout north Harris County. The water itself, and the facilities built to treat and deliver the water to the Districts, will ultimately be paid by the users themselves in the form of higher water rates. This is the future of North Harris County.