The incorporation study begun by The Woodlands Township in 2018, which was potentially headed to a November vote this year, has been deferred for now as concerns over the coronavirus pandemic take center stage in The Woodlands and in the country.

Board of directors Chair Gordy Bunch said at the meeting held via teleconference on the township website on March 25 the matter may be taken up again in the future by another board, but the board’s focus for now must be on responding to the coronavirus crisis, which will have economic and other repercussions in the community.

“The COVID-19 crisis is one of many burdens that alters the timing for governance transition options,” Bunch said at the meeting. “Over the past two and a half years, the board has spent a great deal of time studying incorporation. However, it’s time for the board to spend time focusing on the crisis at hand. ... Based on the uncertainties created by the current international health crisis, I recommend that the township board of directors defer the incorporation process at this time.”

Board of directors members participated in the Zoom teleconference from their homes and residents were able to participate in the meeting by calling in. Several residents talked about concerns regarding the pandemic and others remarked on the need to swivel away from incorporation during the health emergency.

“We are now learning there are things far more important than incorporation,” said Alden Bridge resident Claude Hunter. “[Disasters] pay no attention to whether we’re incorporated or not.”

Bunch said the comprehensive incorporation planning study performed by The Novak Financial Group can be used by future boards, as much of the information will still be usable. The next step in the process will be a community engagement process if a future board picks up the study and updates the financial information, he said.

Bunch said the effect of business and hospitality closings on sales and hotel tax will not be known for several months, because there is a two-month lag in sales tax collections. The community will likely not know the full financial implications of the coronavirus crisis for many months because of the many factors disrupting the economy, he said.

“Our community is not just reeling from COVID-19 business closures, layoffs, event cancellations, stock market crashes, but also decade lows for oil and gas that creates a compounding impact on our local economy,” Bunch said.