The Woodlands, January 13, 2017 – During the November, 2016, Woodlands Township elections, there was much debate and discussion concerning incorporation of The Woodlands as a city. The Woodlands is presently an unincorporated subdivision of Montgomery County. Bruce Tough’s and The Woodlands Development Company’s “70 Percent Tax Increase” campaign argued that incumbent Woodlands Township Board member Gordy Bunch supported immediate incorporation of The Woodlands.
The Golden Hammer staff asked Bunch, who now serves as Chairman of the Woodlands Township Board, to explain and clarify his position on incorporation of The Woodlands. The following is his explanation:
“Incorporation has been a hot subject over the past 5 months with many unfounded assertions made from several intentionally dishonest self serving groups. It is important for our residents to remember why incorporation into the City of The Woodlands is even an option. The annexation of Kingwood brought our hometown together to fight for the right to be self-governed and eliminate the potential of being split in two when annexed into the cities of Conroe and Houston. The interim legislative solution created The Woodlands Township and requires we pay 1/16th of our sales taxes to the cities of Conroe and Houston through 2057 to defer their annexation rights. If The Woodlands Township has not incorporated by 2057 the two cities are free to absorb The Woodlands into their city limits.
“Right now The Woodlands is being governed, served, or influenced by 12 Municipal Utility Districts, San Jacinto River Authority, Woodlands Joint Powers Agency, Montgomery County Commissioners Precincts 2, 3, and 4, Harris County Commissioners Precinct 4, the Montgomery County Sheriff, Montgomery County Constable Precincts 2, 3, and 4, the Harris County Sheriff, the Harris County Constable Precinct 4, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Transportation, Houston-Galveston Area Council, City of Houston (Extra-territorial jurisdiction), City of Conroe (ETJ), The Woodlands Road Utility District #1, The Woodlands area UZA and The Woodlands Township. The Woodlands is not self- governed or in control of its own future. Decisions to extend and turn Woodlands Parkway, Gosling Road and Branch Crossing into major thoroughfares against the will of the people highlighted this concern more recently. Montgomery County, Conroe and Houston all rejected our votes, petitions and board resolutions opposing these projects, because they currently have the road rights and our community doesn’t get a vote on these important issues.
“I do believe The Woodlands will become its own city and the only question is when. Previous Township Boards made zero progress planning for our future or setting aside funds to mitigate the impact of incorporation. Our new board has created and funded an incorporation reserve fund that can be used to pay for qualified tax impact studies, incorporation transition planning, and to offset future expenses at the time of incorporation, lessening any tax impact. If The Woodlands never incorporates, these funds can be used to pay off debt, fund other capital projects, or reduce tax rates. The timing for incorporation is unknown and if you were to request from The Woodlands Township our timeline and transition plan there would be no documents to produce. Our new board will be taking on the initial planning process which we all agree is a multi-year process to accurately study incorporation pros, cons, costs, public feedback and transition plans.
“Incorporating permanently removes the county’s control of our roads, as well as annexation rights of Houston and Conroe. Becoming a city would allow for the creation of a Police Department that would have authority for both Montgomery and Harris County areas of The Woodlands. There would be an option to consolidate the 12 MUDs into the City’s operations when the timing makes sense to do so. The new City would automatically be added as a voting member of HGAC, the regional transportation planning authority, and become eligible for funding and grants currently designated for municipalities only. A new planning and zoning department would have oversight of new construction projects protecting the community from overdevelopment and clear cutting and would provide for a less costly enforcement of our covenants through the adoption of city ordinances.
“I do support reserving funds and planning for the future of The Woodlands.”