FALSE STATEMENT: There were multiple “triggers” to start incorporation planning.
The single trigger (a serious problem that can’t be solved by the parties, contract, litigation, or legislation but can be solved by becoming a city) was the proposed extension of The Woodlands Parkway. The parties resolved the issue by discussing a solution and it never truly was a trigger, but an excuse.
The RPAs with Houston and Conroe waived the cities’ rights to annex The Woodlands and explicitly gave The Woodlands the right to incorporate anytime between May 2014 and November 2057. In anticipation of this date, the Township commissioned a study and found that incorporation would increase taxes dramatically and after extensive public outreach determined that only 11% of the residents were interested in incorporating in May 2014. They also realized that circumstances could change and set up an annual review of any “significant factors” that would change the circumstances and require them to reassess the need for a change in government structure. These significant factors are called “triggers” and were assessed based on 4 levels of seriousness leading to the need to incorporate:
Level 1: The Township can’t solve by itself (i.e. DSC, policy, discussing with neighbors)
Level 2: The Township could not solve by contracts with its neighbors or private parties
Level 3: The Township could not solve by legislative initiatives or litigation
Level 4: The significant factor could only be resolved by a change in governmental structure.
During 2016 some of the Directors advocated planning for incorporation, but it was not until Director Bunch was elected Chairman in November 2016 that the Board focused on incorporation. Chairman Bunch called a Special Meeting held 2/22/17 to discuss incorporation. During Public Comment, John Wertz of the Montgomery County Tea Party raised questions about the cost effectiveness and whether it would be moral, legal and ethical to incorporate.
At that Special Meeting, the Board found that the failure of Montgomery County to remove The Woodlands Parkway extension from the Thoroughfare Plan was a significant factor that triggered incorporation planning and a few months later the Board approved an RFP to hire consultants and start a planning study that eventually cost taxpayers almost $2M. Issues were raised about a city’s ability to control state and county roads and even some city roads that were part of a larger mobility system. We were told that the Board’s attorney assured them that incorporation would solve this issue. Despite repeated requests for the legal opinions the Board relied upon, the Board refused. Eventually a retired attorney researched the issue and found that cities do not have complete control of the roads within city limits and definitely do not control state roads like FM 2978 and roads beyond the city limits. (See TheWoodlandsIncorporationFacts.com for source documents). The Woodlands Parkway extension is no longer possible as it is off the Thoroughfare Plan and the land intended for the extension will be developed and unavailable for a road. As it turned out, this was a Level One problem that could be resolved as a Township because neighbors worked it out. Even more disturbing, the problem could not have been solved by becoming a city.
Anything capturing the attention of the community became another trigger – Hurricane Harvey and flooding, CARES Act funding, Mitchell Island. Each of these concerns are real. However, incorporation does not solve them. We would have not received any additional FEMA or CARES Act funding as a city and we got federal funding from both as a Township. Additionally, flooding is a regional problem that cannot be solved by one city alone. Working with other stakeholders is the only way to address flooding issues. Mitchell Island is another example of working together to resolve issues. If the parties had not been able to come to an amicable resolution, the resident-controlled DSC had authority to scrap the plan.
Incorporation did not solve the triggering issue and there are no other triggers that incorporation will solve.