The Woodlands Township Board of Directors Position 1, candidates Q&A

Gordy BunchGordy Bunch*


Occupation: founder, president and CEO
of The Woodlands Financial Group
Years lived in The Woodlands: 21 years
713-416-0789
www.gordybunch.com



What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing The Woodlands, and how would you address it?


Decisions, planning and solving for the community’s permanent form of self-governance have risen to the top challenge. H-GAC, Judge Craig Doyal and Commissioner Charlie Riley have ignored our 6,000 residents who signed the petition against extending Woodlands Parkway, the May 9, 2015, election results where 83 percent of The Woodlands voters rejected the $350 million bond that included a Woodlands Parkway extension, and our township board resolution against the county’s major thoroughfare plan. These thoroughfares are the same definition as 1960 and I am committed to protecting our community from that kind of gridlock. Diligent planning toward incorporating puts the future of our hometown in the hands of our residents. Planning, reserving and keeping residents engaged will put the community in the best position to be eventually self-governed.



Are you in favor of incorporation? Why or why not?


Yes, The Woodlands will become a great Texas city. The only question is in the timing. There is no permanent option to remaining as an unincorporated township because the annexation rights for Houston and Conroe reinstate in 2057, or earlier through legislative action. The choice comes down to our being divided and absorbed into two cities—Houston and Conroe—or become an incorporated city of The Woodlands. The board of directors need to seek legislative improvements, legal advice, hold public hearings, identify pros, cons and allow the residents of The Woodlands to decide when it is appropriate to incorporate.



What steps should the township board take to alleviate mobility issues in the community?


The township participated in the South County Mobility Plan with Commissioner James Noack and surrounding communities. The board needs to focus on the near-term identified needs and work with the three commissioners that represent precincts in The Woodlands. We should also be funding an incorporation reserve to position The Woodlands for a successful conversion to a city where the infrastructure would become locally controlled and maintained. We do not need to reinstate the misguided ad-hoc transportation committee whose members openly advocated for the May 9, 2015, bond to extend Woodlands Parkway, recommended sending $500,000 to a privately owned airport in Conroe and, recommended a METRO-like bus service. The entire board needs to be engaged in these critical issues with our residents being included as well.



How would you like to see the township board handle resident concerns involving issues like clear-cutting and future development?


I signed the petition originated by Mathew Burton in 2015 because I do not condone developers clear-cutting trees to maximize profits. Retaining our forest reserves is critical to our quality of life and to maintain our initial design standards. We need to look into whether, as a city, a building permitting process would allow us to better enforce the original forest and natural vegetation requirements established when George Mitchell owned The Woodlands. Every long-term resident can see the differences from Mitchell-owned development and the new ownership groups. Our trees, parks and miles of pathways are major attractions drawing residents to The Woodlands. I am committed to reforestation and keeping our trees in The Woodlands.







Amy LampmanAmy Lampman


Occupation: Realtor, national trainer
Years lived in The Woodlands: 2 years
832-457-0511
[email protected]
www.amylampman.com



What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing The Woodlands, and how would you address it?


The biggest challenge facing The Woodlands is growth and mobility. The township is quickly building out the final residential areas on the west end of Creekside Park, and the traffic is increasing. Considering that The Woodlands has no statutory responsibility for our roads and road maintenance, as a governing director I plan to work together with the county in a collaborative effort to create solutions. Presenting a solution to the residents and listening to the majority is critical. Communication is the key when strategizing and problem-solving.



Are you in favor of incorporation? Why or why not?


Incorporation is a complex topic. According to our regional participation agreement, The Woodlands is sheltered from annexation until November 2057. In the meantime, we have special legislation that creates a very efficient form of government and revenue sources. There are many factors to be considered: budget, governance, road enhancements and maintenance, municipal buildings and staff, law enforcement contracts, transition and timeline. I’m in favor of hiring experts, consultants and attorneys that present us with current data so it can be presented to the residents of the township. If the township pays more for similar services and still pays the county tax rate, I do not believe that the benefits outweigh the costs of incorporation.



What steps should the township board take to alleviate mobility issues in the community?


The township partnered with the Houston-Galveston Area Council in 2015 to create an extensive transit master plan. The next step should be to budget money to expand services that reduce local traffic. The Woodlands Express Park & Ride, Town Center Trolley and Demand/Response transit services for seniors are in high demand, according to the study. A short-term and long-term plan is needed to mitigate congestion, provide multiple commuting services to Houston and increase mobility while preserving the quality of life in The Woodlands. Additional bike trails would alleviate congestion and give accessibility to numerous locations throughout town. Adding bike parking zones so residents could bike then shop, work or dine would add convenience.



How would you like to see the township board handle resident concerns involving issues like clear-cutting and future development?


Enforcing the covenants that require 27 percent green space is imperative. Residents should be required to reforest in order to maintain the aesthetics of The Woodlands. Selective cutting, rather than clear-cutting, should be required of developers. The newest village of Creekside Park has the biggest issue with unnecessary clear-cutting, and I believe this should be addressed with current builders prior to its completion.







Bob LeilichBob Leilich


Occupation: retired professional transportation consultant
Years lived in The Woodlands: 10 years
281-298-1399
[email protected]
www.bobleilichcampaign.com



What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing The Woodlands, and how would you address it?


While maintaining George Mitchell’s community vision of sustainability, livability, mobility and recreation is high on my list of challenges, I, trained as an engineer, choose traffic, transportation and mobility as the biggest challenge. There are new, proven technologies that offer great promise to speed up traffic flows, eliminating needless delays at stoplights. We need to test this technology as a potential upgrade to our present traffic control system. Mobility for aging and impaired residents needs to be significantly improved. We need to implement at least some recommendations in the bicycle master plan. We need to reconstitute the Transportation Ad Hoc Committee to address mobility-related issues.



Are you in favor of incorporation? Why or why not?


While incorporation may be appropriate in the future, there is no demonstrated urgency for doing so now. We will gain relatively little for the significantly higher cost of becoming a city—a cost that no one has a handle on. The 2012 study was a little more than an educated guess. At this time, the potential costs—and higher property and/or sales taxes to pay for it—far outweigh the benefits. Governance as a township has generally worked well, and additional tweaks, negotiations and perhaps legislative amendments, can make this form of governance even better without the high costs of incorporating. At only six years old, with no precedents in Texas, the township is still maturing. I fully support slowing the push to irreversibly incorporate until we have a firm understanding of the costs, benefits and tradeoffs.



What steps should the township board take to alleviate mobility issues in the community?


I would invite vendors to submit proposals for the installation of a Real Time Traffic (signal) Control System as an overlay to the present Northstar Traffic Control System on one or more selected corridors for testing. I would like the Township to conduct a statistically significant origin-destination traffic study to help determine what transit improvements can be made to entice more people out of their cars. Additionally, I would develop a short- and longer-term bikeway improvement and conduct strategy meetings with providers to implement improved transportation service seniors and others with special needs. Finally, I would re-institute the Transportation Ad Hoc committee to help get these things done.



How would you like to see the township board handle resident concerns involving issues like clear-cutting and future development?


I propose the creation of informal town hall meetings in each village—at a school, church, or other facility. These meetings would avoid travel to township meetings, limits on time to speak and promote more personal conversations between township directors and residents. I would also like to see The Woodlands Township Facebook page be more widely advertised and used. The focus on future development should shift to commercial development, ensuring that traffic and drainage issues are properly addressed. Clear-cutting should not be permitted without proper vetting and resident inputs. If issues between residents and developers cannot be resolved through negotiations, then I would side with residents.


*incumbent

By Marie Leonard
Marie came to Community Impact Newspaper in June 2011 after starting her career at a daily newspaper in East Texas. She worked as a reporter and editor for the Cy-Fair edition for nearly 5 years covering Harris County, Cy-Fair ISD, and local development and transportation news. She then moved to The Woodlands edition and covered local politics and development news in the master-planned community before being promoted to managing editor for the South Houston editions in July 2017.