|Historical Background on the Regional Participation Agreement
As Mr. George Mitchell was considering a plan for The Woodlands in the 1960’s, many major cities were experiencing a migration of people from declining inner cities to thriving suburbs. City dwellers escaped into small, incorporated towns that encircled many larger cities, leaving the core city unable to grow and vulnerable to further decline. Mitchell traveled extensively and witnessed the plight of some U.S. cities. He held the view that the Houston region would be stronger if the central city retained the ability to grow its tax base. A stronger city, in his view, would produce stronger suburban growth. He wanted The Woodlands to be a part of Houston’s solution, not a part of its problems. Therefore, by agreement with Houston, all of his landholdings that would become The Woodlands (and not already within another city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) were included in Houston’s ETJ.
An ETJ is the area adjacent to a city’s corporate limits and is the only territory that a city may annex. Therefore, having essentially all of The Woodlands within the ETJ of Houston effectively prevented fragmentation of the planned community and its services through annexations which could have been otherwise initiated by other nearby cities.
While it was Mr. Mitchell’s vision for The Woodlands to be eventually annexed by Houston, over the years, that sentiment was shared by fewer and fewer residents of The Woodlands. Then, in 1996, Kingwood, a master-planned community east of The Woodlands, was annexed by Houston without the consent of Kingwood residents. The growing desire to be independent, coupled with the fear that The Woodlands would be the next to be annexed by Houston, triggered a group of community leaders in 1999 to initiate a local governance dialogue.
This dialogue ultimately led to an annexation moratorium agreement which prohibited the City of Houston from annexing The Woodlands through 2011. This was followed by an extensive governance process that was designed and initiated to study, recommend, and implement the community’s preferred and viable governance alternative.
In December 2006, Senator Williams and Representative Eissler, who represented The Woodlands area, announced that they had successfully negotiated a Regional Participation Agreement (RPA) with the City of Houston. In the proposed agreement, The Woodlands would contribute an initial $16 million towards mutually beneficial public works projects such as regional park improvements, Texas Medical Center mobility and a Hardy Toll Road extension, while an ongoing 1/16th of one percent of sales tax generated in all of The Woodlands would be paid towards future regional public works projects of mutual benefit.
In exchange for these payments toward regional projects, The Woodlands would be free of the threat of annexation for a period of 50 years, allowing the community to choose its own form of governance, including the opportunity to incorporate, while still supporting the regionalism originally envisioned by Mr. Mitchell.
Implementation the Regional Participation Agreement required voters to approve the expansion of the Township (formerly Town Center Improvement District) boundaries and a change in the Board of Directors to the seven member-at-large Board that exists today. These two propositions and a third proposition to allow for the implementation of an ad valorem property tax by the Township were approved by voters in November 2007, and were the catalyst for the change from the community associations to the current Township governance structure.
In late 2007, the Township executed the RPA with the City of Houston. The agreement established a regional participation fund or escrow account for mutually beneficial projects within the Houston region; defined payment terms, eligible projects, accounting for deposits, annexation deferral terms, as well as other contractual terms and conditions; and, provided an initial list of new improvement projects or those which will enhance existing public works. To date, the Township has deposited $29.3 million to the Regional Participation Fund, in accordance with the RPA with Houston. This total includes the initial deposit of $16.0 million in 2007.
Request for Concurrence
Periodically, the City of Houston requests concurrence with the use of the Regional Participation Funds for projects deemed to be mutually beneficial in accordance with the RPA. Expenditures and capital outlays from the regional participation fund are recognized as projects are identified and disbursements are made in accordance with the terms of the RPA.
Attached is a letter from the City of Houston requesting concurrence with the use of $650,500 from the Regional Participation Fund to be allocated toward partially funding improvements to Lake Houston Wilderness Park. As stated in the attached letter, this project will make structural repairs to an automobile bridge, a pedestrian bridge, rebuild two lodges and an onsite residence building on higher elevation. Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the City of Houston property formerly known as Lake Houston State Park, which is largely located within Montgomery County, and is named as a priority use of RPA funds.