OPINION: The Woodlands is Going Through a Change
THE WOODLANDS, TX -- I am Peggy Hausman, a resident of The Woodlands since 1981. During this time, I’ve served on a number of organizations involved in the governance and the numerous boards in our Hometown. I have ALWAYS represented the interests of the residents in each capacity and without compensation or any financial benefit or favors to me or my family. These include: The Panther Creek Village Association, The Residential Design Review Committee for Panther Creek, the Woodlands Community Association (subsumed into what we now call the Woodlands Township), serving as President for the WCA for several terms, Chairman of the Woodlands Community Service Corporation, Director of the Town Center Improvement District(which has morphed into the Woodlands Township), and, a few decades ago, serving as a representative on the Regional Resource Council, which was formed in response to the annexation of Kingwood by Houston. As a result of this community service, I have been involved in many discussions and studies over the years relative to incorporation of The Woodlands. By some accounts, thus far over the last 2 decades, over $2.4 million has been spent studying this issue. Based upon what I learned and observed then and now,
I firmly believe that it is in the best interests of residents to incorporate our community as a city.
1. Incorporation into a municipality is the best means of ensuring that “we the people” preserve what we want this community to be, as homeowners, residents, and local businesses; rather than remaining hostage to the short- and long-term interests of the developer of this community, the Howard Hughes Corporation, and other governmental entities that do not prioritize the interests of our local community.
2. As an incorporated city, this community will have a “seat at the table” of regional governmental councils such as the Houston Galveston Area Council, which, among other things, enables us to exercise greater local control over our roadways.
3. As an incorporated city, we will be eligible for direct funding by state and federal grants and not reliant on certain County Commissioners who have shown little interest in apportioning to us that portion of these grants attributable to our community. As an illustration, if The Woodlands were incorporated as a city, it could unquestionably receive up to $30 million from the federal government under the COVID – related American Rescue Plan. Under the earlier CARES Act, it should have received $55 per capita, totaling $6.8 million, of which less than $1 million was received by this district, most of which came from Harris County Commissioners, who compensated The Woodlands based on that per capita formula. Further, if this “special district” (which is what The Woodlands is) incorporates as a city, it could collect franchise or easement access fees from utilities providers (money that it currently is expressly prohibited from collecting under the developer-influenced legislation that created this special district). I’ve been here for 40 years and can’t believe how little our Hometown Community gets back in State and Federal dollars compared to our peer communities that have incorporated as cities. Ask yourself where’s our money going? The Township built reserves and funded them for this reason. Past Directors Robb, Blair, Tough, Hunter etc. set these up for just this reason. I shake my head to wonder why they are now against this transition.
4. As an incorporated city, this community could adopt ordinances that foster our quality of life -- noise ordinances, health and safety such as fireworks regulation, flooding mitigation, land use and density regulation, to name a few. We could form our own police force that would be subject to our enforcement priorities (and use the 90% funding that we currently provide to Montgomery and Harris County for law enforcement services, to defray the expense).
SOME FOLKS ARE QUESTIONING - Why Now? They assert, “we have time” – referencing the unexpired terms of the Regional Participation Agreements this District entered into with the cities of Conroe and Houston in 2007 that permit this community’s incorporation until 2057. But, really, later changes in state law make the amount that we are paying in tax revenue to these cities in exchange for this right to incorporate sort of silly since municipalities can no longer annex unincorporated areas absent the consent of those residing within the area to be annexed.
The whole point of this current debate is not about avoiding annexation. It’s about self-governance. The question that we should really be asking is “Why NOT now?”
And why, after roughly 50 years in the making, this community of over 114,000 is STILL under the thumb of a developer that simply will never let go. While those that work for the Howard Hughes Corporation are generally not evil people – many of them, as residents, care deeply about this community -- their primary motivation is the same as any other publicly traded for profit corporation – to maximize shareholder value. Pure and simple. You are drinking the Kool-Aid (or perhaps have other reasons for wanting to curry favor with HHC) if you believe that the current state of affairs, where the overarching power and influence of this company controls much of what gets built here, sold here, and developed here, is in our collective best interests. IT IS NOT. AND IT IS TIME TO GROW UP AND BECOME A SELF-GOVERNING CITY.
The final decision to incorporate will be made by you, the voters. The Board has set a referendum on this issue in the next General Election (Nov 2, for which early voting starts October 18). You will be asked to vote on 2 measures: (1) incorporating The Woodlands into a General Law City, with an initial tax rate equal to our current tax rate; and (2) the transfer of the rights, powers, functions, and authority to impose taxes from The Woodlands Township District to the City of The Woodlands. When all the dust settles and if incorporation is our destiny, regardless of what you hear, the sun will rise on November 3rd, the 72 Hughes Corporation billboard will come down, you will have law enforcement, your trash will be picked up, your WiFi and all other utilities will work and it will be an orderly transition to formation of a city by a very dedicated group of people that are focused on one thing. GETTING IT RIGHT.
I don’t think Mr. Mitchell’s dream was that our Hometown would be a place where you “You live, work, place 72 large signs/billboards on the developers view in OUR thoroughfares, clear cut and play”
Thank you for your time.
Retired Township Director