by: Laurie Johnson, December 7, 2006 5:12:00 am
Under current state law, the City of Houston could annex The Woodlands and incorporate that community in the year 2014. Houston Mayor Bill White says the two areas have reached a regional agreement which would give The Woodlands more self-governance authority.
"We believe that those decisions should ultimately be in the hands of the people most affected and that is the people of The Woodlands. At the same time, we do recognize and -- folks in The Woodlands and in Houston -- that we share many joint concerns."
Under the agreement, The Woodlands would provide $45 million toward joint projects including improvements to parks owned by Houston, regional mobility and infrastructure improvements to the Texas Medical Center. State Senator Tommy Williams, who represents The Woodlands, says residents want the right to determine their own future.
"We will not face a unilateral annexation -- annexation against our will, that we have a method of self-determination as we move forward in this and that we'll have a structure to provide for the transition from our current form of governance to whatever we decide is that final form of governance, as well as the structure to participate regionally in projects that are important to all of us."
There are 85,000 people living in The Woodlands. The number of jobs in The Woodlands exceeds the number of residents, so people actually commute into the area for work. If it were to become a city, it would be the 30th largest in the state -- roughly equal to Tyler, Texas. Williams says the agreement won't require raising property taxes or MUD fees and the community will have stronger representation.
"A locally elected board will provide the residents with the same high-quality services that they've come to expect through the years during the transition period to our permanent form of government."
The agreement, which would require new state legislation, allows residents of The Woodlands to vote in next November's election on whether they want to validate the plan. The Woodlands won't actually be eligible to create their own city government until 2014. Residents could vote to be incorporated into the City of Houston, but that would be unlikely. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.