Woodlands Township decides against potential 2014 incorporation vote

The Woodlands Township Board of Directors has decided to delay a potential 2014 vote on incorporating as a city, a vote that must take place by 2047.

Legislation passed in 2007 that allowed The Woodlands to operate under a township form of government allowed the community to avoid potential annexation by the cities of Conroe and Houston. It also mandated that a vote be held at some point in the following 50 years. The first year that vote could take place was 2014.

The decision to delay the vote was based largely on a study conducted, and information compiled, over an 18-month period by Arizona-based planning company Partners for Strategic Action. In June it announced its findings of a survey that drew responses from about 400 residents.

"We want to continue to educate people," township director Peggy Hausman said. "Everybody wants to be educated about this. In surveys and the information that we received, people wanted us to put it off."

Director Nelda Blair said she received similar comments from residents.

"The feedback I have personally received throughout this determination has been almost totally against incorporation at this time," she said.

The survey reported residents' feelings about the consequences of incorporating, including the blending and subsequent increase of Municipal Utility District tax rates, the increase of the number of city employees, the city having to fund and run its own police department, as well as infrastructural services, and a potential 80 percent increase in property taxes to fund such services. According to the study, approximately 80 percent said they opposed a 2014 vote, with 36 percent requesting to remain a township.

"[The township] can legislatively take care of changes that need to be done," Hausman said. "We feel it's simply not time to put [the vote to incorporate] on the ballot yet."

Although the majority of residents who responded oppose incorporation, 6 percent of responders were in favor of a 2014 vote.

"What I hear people sometimes wanting is ordinance-making authority," Hausman said. "When we have issues such as noise abatements or someone painting their house purple and violating covenants, there's no fining ability; we have to take them through the courts."

According to a July 2012 Governance Options Report compiled by PSA, incorporation would also allow for more local and direct control of services currently controlled by other entities, such as law enforcement services which the township receives through contracts with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Harris County Sheriff's Office and Harris County Constable's Office.

When asked if the Township will perform any more studies in the future, Hausman said the board will conduct studies when they become necessary.

"When the time comes is when we'll vote," she said. "The public will let us know when that is."