Incorporation planning begins in The Woodlands Township

The Woodlands Township may soon be ready to pave the way for incorporation now that the Texas Legislature has cleared a path.

The township board of directors met July 26 for a special meeting to talk about what it would take for the city to incorporate, including providing city services, infrastructure and changes to local government. 

“The Woodlands now has the defined ability to incorporate if an election is called by the township board of directors and the incorporation ballot initiative is approved by a majority of voters in an election,” township General Manager Don Norrell said.

The approval of Senate bills 1014 and 1015, authored by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and state Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, provided procedures to follow should it decide to incorporate into a general law—and eventually home rule—city.

Township begins incorporation planningThere is still no specific timeline for when the township may incorporate. However, because of a 99-year regional participation agreement with the cities of Houston and Conroe, the township could be annexed by either city if it does not incorporate by 2057. 

What would change

Should voters approve incorporation, the township board would serve as a temporary city council until a new governing body can be approved in a special election. After that time, the township board would be dissolved to ensure no overlap in government exists.

One major change involved in incorporation would be the scope of services a city has to provide that a township does not. Some existing services, like law enforcement, are provided by the county or other contractors, although the township does supplement many with local tax revenue. 

Although the potential city of The Woodlands would be responsible for providing services, the city could use a third party to carry out services rather than hiring new city personnel.

“There’s a number of those we could choose to do through a contract,” Norrell said. “Some services may continue through other agencies, such as water, sewage and drainage through the MUDs.”

Next steps

Before incorporation, voters must approve two measures listed on a ballot: one for what type of city The Woodlands would be, and another setting the maximum tax rate.

The township board did not identify a timeline for when an incorporation election might take place.

“I don’t think any of us would call for a snap election for incorporation,” township Director Bruce Rieser said. “We’re going to have to do a ton of work before we can even get to the point where we can identify what the potential tax ramifications might be.”

For now, the township is compiling a list of outside consulting companies and universities to partner with on studies to determine the cost to implement and operate a city government, including the tax rate, law enforcement and maintenance and construction for city roads.

“We can articulate our stuff all day long, but we really have to get someone in charge and start the process,” board Chairman Gordy Bunch said.

By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.