As of July 22, The Woodlands Township board of directors has not called an incorporation election for Nov. 2, but a local chamber of commerce and a residents' group have asked the board to consider pushing the prospective date back when the time comes to make that decision.
Linda Nelson, the chair of the board for The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, on July 22 presented a resolution from the chamber asking for the township’s board of directors to delay a vote on incorporation beyond this November, and a representative of the group Township Future also spoke on the topic at the meeting. Several dozen members of the chamber of commerce were present at the meeting, filling most of the seats in the board room.
Among other reasons, the chamber resolution cites the need for more education among the public about items such as taxation and law enforcement.
Ted Stanley, chair for Township Future, a residents' group that advocates on various local issues, echoed the comments.
"There is no valid justification to radically changing our government structure at this time," Stanley said.
He also noted residents will need time to absorb information about potential costs and for the township to financially recover from the economic effects of the pandemic.
However, other residents spoke out in favor of incorporation at the meeting.
"Put it on the ballot; let me decide; we need to be respected as a city," said Ana Cosio, who said she has resided in The Woodlands since 1995. She cited local control of roads and the ability to receive federal funding among her concerns.
The board of directors has until Aug. 16 to put an election on the ballot this November, according to state law.
Among the remaining items to be completed following the incorporation study, which was largely completed in early 2020, is development of a model based on current financial information including a tax calculator for residents.
The incorporation discussion was paused in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before the tax calculator and final public information sessions were scheduled.
Several board of directors members spoke about the inevitability of an incorporation election at some point, whether it is now or at a later date.
“Just because we choose not to be ready for the final exam doesn’t mean ... asking the teacher to postpone [it]. It’s going to happen whether or not we’re ready ... you have to get informed,” Director John Anthony Brown said.
Board Vice Chair Bruce Rieser said even if incorporation is voted on and approved, the process of becoming a city will take about five years.
"This whole process will take another five years if and when the public decides that we’ve grown up enough to be a city," Rieser said. "It will be another five years before we are able to implement the entire array of municipal services that a city should provide."
Karen Dempsey, assistant to the president/general manager of The Woodlands Township, told the board the base budget for the financial model has not been finalized because it is waiting on the certified tax rolls from Montgomery and Harris counties. Those should be received in early August, and the financial model can be finalized by about Aug. 13, she said. A community engagement public forum could be held in late September, she said.