Amendment designating 30-home maximum for The Woodlands' East Shore island to go before committee Nov. 4

East Shore residents and the Howard Hughes Corp. came to a compromise on the development of the island in the community's midst on Lake Woodlands. (Courtesy Howard Hughes Corp.)
East Shore residents and the Howard Hughes Corp. came to a compromise on the development of the island in the community's midst on Lake Woodlands. (Courtesy Howard Hughes Corp.)

East Shore residents and the Howard Hughes Corp. came to a compromise on the development of the island in the community's midst on Lake Woodlands. (Courtesy Howard Hughes Corp.)

Following an agreement between residents of The Woodlands Township's East Shore neighborhood and developer Howard Hughes Corp. on how an island in the community's midst will be developed, a revised initial land-use designation for the property will be considered Nov. 4 to set the maximum number of residential units for the land at 30.

Attorney Bret Strong said at the township's Oct. 22 board of directors meeting that the township's development standards committee will review the proposed ILUD amendment, which states that the property would be used exclusively for up to 30 single-family residences with not less than 3,000 square feet of living area not including garages or other appendages. The proposed ILUD amendment states no part of the property would be used for a nonresidential or multifamily dwelling.

In September, residents of the East Shore neighborhood in The Woodlands had voiced concerns at meetings and through petitions about a planned development on an island—referred to as Mitchell Island or Eagle Island—in the community's midst. Residents raised objections to a proposal before the Houston Planning Commission replatting the island for 58 units, citing reasons such as density of housing and possible effects on the area's eagle habitat.

Howard Hughes Corporation officials met with residents to come to an agreement, and on Oct. 19, the developer and residents released a joint statement about the compromise reached between the initial proposal of 19 units on the island and a subsequent replat proposal. The compromise of 25-30 units was one with which residents felt comfortable, according to the release.

The process by which a property is platted, or divided, and eventually developed is a complex one in The Woodlands; it involves several different layers of government because it exists within parts of two counties, and portions are subject to the extraterritorial jurisdiction of one of two municipalities: the cities of Conroe and Houston. Township officials addressed some of the potentially confusing aspects of this process at the Oct. 22 board of directors meeting, when Strong walked the board and audience members through a presentation of how the process works.

Board Member Ann Snyder said at the meeting she felt the company had acted as a community partner in working with residents to find a compromise.

Chair Gordy Bunch, who had gathered signatures opposing the 58-unit development in September, was critical of how the process unfolded in his remarks at the meeting. He credited residents with bringing the details of the development to the township's attention.

"[Howard Hughes] did develop an awesome community, and 99% of what they do is great, but for 1% of people, that's not their reality," Bunch said. "If it hadn't been for a resident who ... saw a sign that development was occurring, no one would have known this request went to the city of Houston."

Jim Carman, president of the Howard Hughes Corporation's Houston Region, said in a statement the day after the meeting that he felt Bunch's criticism was misplaced.

"The East Shore development issue was resolved because Howard Hughes and the residents of East Shore came together to listen to each other and arrive at a solution," Carman said. "Rather than acknowledging a very collaborative process, Chairman Bunch instead chose to criticize the company. We were disappointed that not once during our discussions with East Shore residents did Chairman Bunch reach out to us."

Carman said in the statement that Howard Hughes has a history of working closely with residents, village associations and homeowners associations to address concerns over development plans.

"The Howard Hughes Corporation is based in The Woodlands, our employees and their families live here, and we will continue to work closely with and give back to this community that we love and have helped create," Carman said.

Although the township board of directors does not have the power to approve plats for development, Snyder said in a phone interview that the township has a role in supporting communication between the other entities.

"We can support and work together with all entities in our community," she said. "The history of The Woodlands, includes ... successful resolutions for all involved."

Snyder said the Mitchell Island discussion was one of many instances in which a constructive community dialogue has taken place.

These issues were resolved through discussion, through collaboration among [us], the residents, and the developer," Snyder said. "The results of the process are evident in this first-class community where we all live, work, play and pray every day."
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.