2021 in review: Montgomery unveils Safe Exchange Zone; groundwater disputes unfold and 8 more top stories in Conroe, Montgomery

Excessive groundwater use from aquifers can lead to subsidence, or sinking of the earth, which can exacerbate the activity of fault lines. Fault lines criss-cross Montgomery County, including this one at the corner of Sgt. Ed. Holcomb Blvd. N. and Hwy. 105 in Conroe. (Eva Vigh, Community Impact Newspaper)
Excessive groundwater use from aquifers can lead to subsidence, or sinking of the earth, which can exacerbate the activity of fault lines. Fault lines criss-cross Montgomery County, including this one at the corner of Sgt. Ed. Holcomb Blvd. N. and Hwy. 105 in Conroe. (Eva Vigh, Community Impact Newspaper)

Excessive groundwater use from aquifers can lead to subsidence, or sinking of the earth, which can exacerbate the activity of fault lines. Fault lines criss-cross Montgomery County, including this one at the corner of Sgt. Ed. Holcomb Blvd. N. and Hwy. 105 in Conroe. (Eva Vigh, Community Impact Newspaper)

From Montgomery County's initial plan to mass distribute vaccines to ongoing groundwater disputes, here are the 10 most viewed stories by Conroe and Montgomery readers in 2021 as of Dec. 30.

1. Montgomery County’s mass vaccine distribution plan includes 5 major drive-thru sites

Community Impact Newspaper reported in January that Montgomery County had developed a preliminary plan for mass vaccination distribution for the general public that could potentially vaccinate up to 5,000 individuals per day once supply becomes available. The county's plan included having five major drive-thru vaccination sites—one in the county’s east side, one in the west side and three along the I-45 corridor—that would each administer up to 1,000 doses per day, officials said at a Jan. 12 Commissioners Court meeting. Read more

2. Home Depot Regional Distribution Center being built at Conroe’s remediated superfund site

A Home Depot Regional Distribution Center is being constructed at 1776 E. Davis St., Conroe, at the site of the former Conroe Cresoting Co., a wood-treating facility. The project is “the worst-kept secret ever,” said Danielle Scheiner, executive director of the Conroe Economic Development Council, at the Lake Conroe Region Outlook on April 30. Scheiner said she is under a nondisclosure agreement and could not reveal the name of the company. The building, which is under construction, has no markings or signage. Read more


3. Montgomery unveils Safe Exchange Zone under 24/7 surveillance

The Montgomery Police Department will launch a Safe Exchange Zone on March 8 at City Hall, according to a March 3 news release from the city. The zone—two parking spaces outlined in blue—will be under 24-hour video surveillance to provide a safe meeting place for residents to exchange goods or avoid an uncomfortable location. The zone is located at 101 Old Plantersville Road, Montgomery. Read more

4. H-E-B-anchored The Market at Willis Shopping Center breaks ground

The Market at Willis Shopping Center, a 69.7-acre development, has broken ground at the southeast corner of I-45 and FM 1097 and will bring the first H-E-B to Willis, commercial real estate firm Fidelis announced in a Sept. 7 release. Read more

5. Gringo's restaurant confirmed for Conroe Waterfront Center

Gringo's is anticipated to open in late 2022 or early 2023. Read more

6. Proposed Lake Celestine development to bring multimillion-dollar homes to Lake Conroe

A multimillion-dollar community spanning 1 mile of Lake Conroe is proposed along FM 1097 in the city of Conroe's extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, Community Development Director Nancy Mikeska said during an Oct. 27 City Council workshop meeting. Read more

7. As ground sinks, debate ensues over Montgomery County's groundwater

Several entities are closely watching subsidence in Montgomery County, including the San Jacinto River Authority, the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District and the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, the entity tasked with regulating groundwater in Montgomery County. However, officials disagree on how much groundwater the county should be allowed to pump and how much subsidence is acceptable. Read more

8. Lake Conroe Association sues San Jacinto River Authority, city of Houston over seasonal lake lowering

The Lake Conroe Association, a nonprofit association that advocates for residents and businesses on the lake, filed a lawsuit against the San Jacinto River Authority and the city of Houston over the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe. The temporary strategy is intended to mitigate flooding in areas downstream, but Lake Conroe residents allege the practice is not backed by science and causes harm to their properties and livelihood. Read more

9. 'Nationally known' water bottling company backs out of Conroe deal

A "nationally known" water bottling company that purchased a tract of land in Conroe Park North has backed out, city officials said. The company was not officially named but is believed to have been Niagara Bottling, according to previous reporting from Community Impact Newspaper. Read more

10. Private property rights at heart of Montgomery County’s groundwater dispute

Private property rights are at the center of a debate waging over groundwater regulations in Montgomery County, and recent regulatory decisions have highlighted differences in opinion on how groundwater should be managed. On April 9, Groundwater Management Area 14—which includes the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, the entity that regulates Montgomery County’s groundwater, and four other districts—voted on its proposed long-term goal for the Gulf Coast Aquifer System. The goal, known as a desired future condition, or DFC, establishes how much groundwater districts within GMA 14 can pump. Read more
By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball/Magnolia & Conroe/Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball/Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.