Special meeting covered possible effects of new legislation on The Woodlands' incorporation planning

The Woodlands Township board of directors held a special meeting June 25 to discuss recently passed legislation and whether it could affect the township's ongoing incorporation study.

Municipal Attorney Monte Akers reviewed a few pieces of legislation passed during the recent legislative session that could potentially affect the study but declared that, in his opinion, no bills that passed seem to directly affect incorporation planning in the township.

Before the agenda items were discussed at the special meeting, resident Amy Lecocq spoke on the subject of annexation. Incorporation would prevent the possibility of future annexation of The Woodlands by the cities of Conroe and Houston, but township officials have said the possibility of annexation—which in 2007 was contractually deferred until 2057—was not what prompted the current incorporation study.

Lecocq discussed Senate Bill 6, which was signed into law in 2017 and requires a public vote for annexation to take place.

“Senate Bill 6 … prohibits annexation by cities in counties with populations of 500,000 or greater unless a majority of registered voters agree to be annexed; and if the registered voters own less than 50% of the land, a majority of the landowners agree to annexation by signing a petition,” Lecocq said.

House Bill 347, signed into law this year, extended this ban on unilateral annexation to all counties but did not change previous contracts The Woodlands has with the cities of Houston and Conroe, Akers said.

Akers addressed those concerns about annexation in his comments.

“The question being, … Is The Woodlands still in danger of unilateral annexation by Houston or Conroe?” Akers said. “In my opinion, that risk is greatly reduced but not eliminated because the argument remains that the city of Houston, Conroe and The Woodlands entered into contracts in 2007 that the legislation is constitutionally prohibited from impairing. Those contracts deferred annexation [to 2057], and the argument would be, presented by Conroe or Houston, that … [when] we are ... in 2057, … we are now guided by the law as it existed in 2007. And in 2007, unilateral annexation was still possible.”

Board of directors Chairman Gordy Bunch repeated what he has emphasized at previous meetings—the township has not used the threat of annexation by Houston or Conroe as the reason for its incorporation planning studies.

The Woodlands Parkway extension and other major thoroughfare plans in the area as well as hurricane and flooding issues prompted the current study into incorporation feasibility, he said.

“Annexation has never been the reason for this planning process,” Bunch said.

Other legislation discussed included Senate Bill 2, which concerns property tax rates, but Akers said this does not affect incorporation planning.

“It does not change the law as far as incorporation and voter-approved tax rate,” Akers said, adding the law could affect the process for setting the tax rate, the number of hearings required and other administrative elements, but it would not affect the incorporation planning study.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.


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