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TX Rep says The Woodlands Can No Longer Be Forcibly Annexed; "Mansions Way" to Replace Woodlands Pkwy Extension

by Charles Frantes

At the latest Woodlands Township Board of Directors Incorporation Planning Session, questions were raised about the impact incorporation would have on preventing The Woodlands Parkway extension and a possible threat of forced annexation for The Woodlands in 2057 when its Regional Protection Agreements (RPA) with Houston and Conroe expire.

Steve Leakey read a letter from State Representative Dan Huberty of Kingwood that responded to Leakey’s question about any threat of annexation The Woodlands might face in 38 years.

In the letter, Huberty, who sponsored SB6 in 2017 and authored HB347 in 2019, said that these “recent laws passed by the Texas Legislature have put an end to forced annexation, which means no community in Texas, including The Woodlands, can be forcibly annexed without the approval of its residents today or in the future.”

Leakey went on to ask that the Township post Huberty’s letter on its website because he believes that The Woodlands residents have been misled about any threat of annexation our community could face, especially in regards to how that relates to The Township’s ongoing process of assessing the costs and benefits of potentially incorporating The Woodlands into a city.

“There’s really no need to mention annexation any longer in any part of our discussion about our governance, where we might go, incorporation or wherever. It is totally irrelevant as specified by the Texas law… I have received reports that someone is making the rounds of the village associations…using words like ‘we need to strategically incorporate to avoid annexation,’” he said, saying that he had heard this from four or five people. “It’s misleading and should stop immediately,” he said.

Later in the meeting when the board agreed to add Huberty’s letter to the incorporation website, Township Chairman Bunch acknowledged that The Woodlands faces no immediate threat of annexation. “Nobody on this board believes we’re gonna be annexed by Houston anytime soon. We have until 2057 under the RPA agreements, there is nothing imminently threatening annexation,” he said.

However, Bunch disagreed with Representative Huberty’s statement that The Woodlands will not face any threat of forced annexation in the future because he thinks the new laws that eliminated forced annexation could change. “Our legal counsel’s cautioning was ‘this new law doesn’t necessarily protect you forever because laws change every two years,’…So even though the new law says we have to consent to annexation, we’re talking 38 years from now, so it’s not really the issue driving incorporation…Houston and Conroe have what’s called Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction rights to The Woodlands. Our RPA agreement does not eliminate those…If we incorporate into a city, that does permanently eliminate their ETJ and annexation rights…We’re not using annexation as a reason to incorporate, but if we do incorporate, it does eliminate annexation,” he said.

Mike Bass gave public comment about a new road he said Montgomery County Precinct Two is going to build, instead of The Woodlands Parkway extension, that will connect FM 2978 to HWY 249. Bass brought this up because preventing The Woodlands Parkway extension is considered by members of the Township Board to be one of the most important "triggers" or reasons to consider incorporating The Woodlands into a city.

According to Bass, The Woodlands incorporating won’t prevent the new road called “Mansions Way,” which will have a similar impact as The Woodlands Parkway extension, from being built.

“The Woodlands Parkway extension is dead; it will not happen. Instead, it’s going to be replaced by Mansions Way. What’s the significance of that? Mansions Way is completely outside the territorial boundaries of the Township, and as a city we could never halt it,” Bass said.

“Yes it’s true that the Texas transportation code provides that for any road to be built within a city’s limits by a county, it has to be approved by the city council, but this road is not within the boundaries of the Township, nor does it connect directly to Woodlands Parkway. So this is no longer a rationale for incorporation,” Bass continued. “Even if you look at the extension of Gosling North that was proposed in the thoroughfare plan, that’s been halted by Senator Creighton’s legislation of anti-development that prevents any authority other than TXDOT along 1488 to take any part of Jones Forest.”

“So those two major extensions that we were all concerned about back in the thoroughfare plan have all disappeared,” said Bass

Bass said that although the cost and timing of Mansions Way are not public yet, he has confirmed with Montgomery County Precinct Two that all of the necessary right of way has been acquired and that this road will be built.

“If we’ve got some concerns about roads or extensions in the county, we need to deal with them another way,” he said.

Bass asked the Township Board to obtain a legal opinion to confirm that a city of The Woodlands would have no authority to prevent roads outside of The Woodlands’ boundaries like Mansions Way from being built, and to confirm whether a city of The Woodlands would have the ability to prevent the county from expanding other roads inside The Woodlands boundaries without The Woodlands permission.

Township Chairman Gordy Bunch responded to Bass’ point by explaining that by incorporating, The Woodlands could still prevent the potential construction of a short road that would connect Woodlands Parkway directly to Mansions Way and allow traffic to travel from Mansions Way to Woodlands Parkway without having to drive on FM 2978 for a quarter-mile.

“That area west of 2978 is owned by the development company… and there’s nothing today that would prevent the development company from building a private road…that would be the same thing as The Woodlands Parkway extension…and the old map for the Woodlands Parkway extension is still on the thoroughfare plan,” said Chairman Bunch.

“But there’s a lot of things in the thoroughfare plan that will never happen. I don’t think Flintridge will ever be expanded into four lanes, but that’s on the thoroughfare plan,” responded Bass.

Following public comment, Julia Novak outlined a schedule for the board and its incorporation consultants to follow in order to have an estimate of the maximum initial property tax rate resulting from a potential incorporation ready in November and a Township Board vote in May on whether to have incorporation on the 2020 November ballot for The Woodlands voters.

George Wentz, President of HR Green Consulting, explained his company’s fiscal analysis of the costs The Woodlands would incur if it incorporates into a city and has to start paying for the maintenance and construction of its own roads. Under The Woodlands current governance structure, Montgomery County Precinct Three maintains and pays for most of The Woodlands’ roads.

A full video of the Township Board of Directors Incorporation Planning Session can be found here. ​

This Township Board Special Planning Session was the latest of several meetings as part of an ongoing study to asses the costs and benefits of potentially incorporating The Woodlands into a city. More information about The Woodlands incorporation study can be found here.

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