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THE WOODLANDS TOWNSHIP

Board of Directors Meeting

STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSION

July 23, 2021

MINUTES

THE STATE OF TEXAS   §

COUNTIES OF HARRIS & MONTGOMERY   §


             The Board of Directors of The Woodlands Township met in regular session, open to the public, on July 23, 2021, posted to begin at 1:30 p.m. The meeting was held in Conference Room 150/152 at the office of The Woodlands Township, 2801 Technology Forest Boulevard, The Woodlands, Texas, within the boundaries of The Woodlands Township.
             
STANDARD ITEMS
             
1. Invocation / Pledge of Allegiance;

No invocation was given. Chairman Gordy Bunch then led the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag and the Texas State flag.
             
2. Call meeting to order;

Chairman Gordy Bunch called the meeting to order at 1:39 p.m. and declared that notice of this meeting was posted 72 hours in advance inside the boundaries of The Woodlands Township, at the office building located at 2801 Technology Forest Boulevard, The Woodlands, Texas, and posted online at www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov. The roll was then called of the duly elected members with all members being present.
Present: Chairman Gordy Bunch; Vice Chairman Bruce Rieser; Secretary Shelley Sekula-Gibbs; Treasurer John Anthony Brown; Director Bob Milner; Director Jason J. Nelson; Director Ann Snyder
Staff Present: Jeff Jones, Nick Wolda, Monique Sharp, John Powers, Karen Dempsey, Palmer Buck, Robin Cross, Todd Stephens
             
3. Receive, consider and act upon adoption of the meeting agenda;

Chairman Gordy Bunch requested that the order of agenda be amended to accomodate guest speakers and requested the agenda items be discussed in the following order: Agenda Item No. 8 would be discussed first, followed by Agenda Item No. 9, Agenda Item No. 10, Agenda Item No. 6, Agenda Item No. 7, ending with Agenda Item No. 11.
  Motion by: Director Bob Milner moved to adopt the agenda, as amended.
  Second by: Secretary Shelley Sekula-Gibbs 
Passed: Chairman Gordy Bunch YES
Vice Chairman Bruce Rieser YES
Secretary Shelley Sekula-Gibbs YES
Treasurer John Anthony Brown YES
Director Bob Milner YES
Director Jason J. Nelson YES
Director Ann Snyder YES
 
             
4. Recognize public officials;

There were no public officials in attendance.
             
5. Public comment;

There were no individuals who provided public comment.
             
REGULAR AGENDA
             
6. Receive, consider and discuss The Woodlands Township Mission, Vision and Strategic Plan;

Note: This agenda item was discussed following Agenda Item No. 10. No action was taken. The Board recessed the meeting during this agenda item at 5:07 p.m. and announced that the meeting would reconvene the following day, July 24, 2021, at 8:00 a.m. to take up Agenda Item No. 7 and Agenda Item No. 11.

Jeff Jones, President and General Manager, shared that The Woodlands Township Mission, Vision and Strategic Plan  (Strategic Plan) was originally adopted in 2014, and that staff would provide an overview of the plan and gather feedback from the Board.

Karen Dempsey, Township Secretary/Assistant to the President, presented an overview of the Strategic Plan. She shared that the Mission and Vision provides a foundation for the Strategic Plan, and has remained unchanged since the Township was transformed into its current form of governance. She noted that the budget process and decisions of the Board tie into the Township's Mission and Vision. She provided a summary of the focus areas, goals, and key initiatives of the Strategic Plan. Ms. Dempsey noted that focus areas of the Strategic Plan include Service Delivery, Communications, Organizational Support, Governance, Economic Development, Transportation and Mobility, Environmental Sustainability, and Fiscal Policy. 

Next, Ms. Dempsey shared that, prior to 2017, an annual review of the Strategic Plan was conducted. In 2017, the Board chose to pursue legislation to provide a clear path to incorporation and the annual review was again suspended, as incorporation and/or changes in future governance became the Board's priority. Board discussion followed.  

Chairman Gordy Bunch requested that staff update the Governance section of the Strategic Plan and return with recommendations for language regarding continuation of high-level services with the ability to govern itself.

Chairman Bunch then announced that Agenda Item No. 7 and Agenda Item No. 11 would be carried over for discussion on Saturday, July 24, 2021. He then called for a recess of the meeting, as permitted under Section 551.0411 of the Government Code (Texas Open Meetings Act).  
             
7. Receive, consider and discuss a citizen survey;

Note: Chairman Gordy Bunch reconvened the Friday, July 23, 2021 Strategic Planning Session meeting at 8:10 a.m. on Saturday, July, 24, 2021. This agenda item was the first item up for discussion. No action was taken.

Jeff Jones, President/General Manager, provided an executive summary of the 2018 Resident Survey and shared an overview of the issues most important to the residents. President Jones shared a highlights of the survey results from each of the following categories.

Economic Development - Traffic, mobility, public transportation, community appearance and natural beauty were rated as most important to residents in the community.
Township Services - The survey indicated that services which the Township may wish to focus improvements on included: Improving mobility and reducing congestion, sustaining trees and natural environment, Planning for the future, and Maintaining medians pathways, streetscapes, parks and other common areas.
Law Enforcement - Thirty-two percent (32%) of respondents commented that law enforcement could be improved by an increased law enforcement visibility and additional patrolling.
Convenance and Deed Restrictions - Residents rated Convenants and Deed Restrictions as a 9 (out of 10) in effectiveness of maintaining residential areas.
Communications - Residents noted that they receive community information through The Woodlands Community Magazine, the Community Impact newspaper, The Villager newspaper and/or by word-of-mouth.
Transportation/Mobility - President Jones shared the three ratings listed as most important to 83% of residents are providing safer ways to ride bikes, reducing congestion in Town Center, and improving pathways.

President Jones shared the top three areas that residents rated as the most important issues facing The Woodlands: 1) Traffic, mobility and public transportation, 2) Incorporation as a City, and 3) Too much development/overpopulation. He then shared the top three areas that residents liked best about living in The Woodlands: 1) Natural areas, beauty of area, trees, and greenery, 2) Parks, woods, pathways, and open space, and 3) Quality of life/lifestyle.

Next, President Jones shared the results of the survey of The Woodlands in comparison to other communities on a national and regional peer cities level. He noted that, in the National Benchmark comparison that The Woodlands Fire Department was highly ranked, at 65 of 381 communities, while Speed Limit and Traffic Signal Enforcement rated lower at 324 out of 365 communities. In the Texas Benchmark comparisons, the school system was rated highly, at 3 out of 12 communities, while The Woodlands Fire Department ranked 7 out of 36 cities, and Speed Limit/Traffic Signal Enforcement ranked 23 out of 26 cities. Board discussion followed.

President Jones informed the Board that the current Township budget included funding for a new survey, however, the survey was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He shared plans to conduct a survey at a later date. Board discussion followed. President Jones concluded that staff would bring this item back to the Board in November for further discussion and decision.
             
8. Receive, consider and discuss an overview of demographics within The Woodlands;

Note: This agenda item was discussed after public comment. No action was taken.

Chairman Gordy Bunch introduced guest speaker Dr. Chris Hines, Deputy Superintendent with the Conroe Independent School District (CISD). Dr. Hines presented a high-level overview of CISD's most recent demographics study from 2018, and shared additional information specific to The Woodlands area. Dr. Hines shared information regarding the large diversity of languages in the community. He shared that CISD continually prepares for growth by following market trends, projected new housing occupancies and subdivision development, and noted a significant increase in both apartment and multi-family housing.

Dr. Hines shared that CISD has approximately 61,000 students enrolled and ranks 6 of 15 school districts with the largest enrollment in the Houston Metro Area. He reported that CISD is ranked the 4th fastest growing school district in Texas. He noted that student growth (by type of housing) shows a 75% student growth in families living in actively built homes and a 25% student growth in families living in apartments.

Next, Dr. Hines shared charts noting both a moderate growth scenario of projected enrollment and three scenarios of student growth for years 2018 through 2028. He shared the process of expected growth projects through a variety of factors, such as the economy, projected housing, students per home, and recent trends. Dr. Hines then shared maps, noting the ratios of students per occupied housing and planning units, as well as comparative maps of projected growth in residents with high school, junior high, intermediate and elementary students in Montgomery County. Board discussion followed.

Next, Todd Stephens, Intergovernmental Relations Manager, presented a demographic overview of The Woodlands community, highlighting the 2020 Census and current data. Mr. Stephens shared that on April 26, the Census released state level data for apportionment on congressional districts. Remaining redistricting data, which will contain more community level information, is expected to be released in late August or early September. Mr. Stephens presented the Census' Annual American Community Survey Data for years 2010 through 2019, and demographic data provided by the Howard Hughes Corporation. The Woodlands population is estimated to be about 119,000 residents, over 43,000 housing units, and 2,140 employers within the Township.

Next, he provided a breakdown of residents by age and noted a large growth in population, of which, 83% are 65 and older, followed by the 35 to 64 year old population. He also shared that Educational Attainment indicates educational increases over time and that Economic and Social Characteristics show a steady increase in number of households, household size, and income levels, with the median income level at $127,000 per household. In the area of Housing Characteristics, Mr. Stephens shared data from the Harris County and Montgomery County Appraisal Districts which report that the total of housing units in The Woodlands stands at 43,449, with 28,045 being owner-occupied and 13,774 renter-occupied. He then shared data from the Howard Hughes Corporation related to Employment Characteristics, reporting that employers have steadily grown over the year to 2,140, providing over 66,000 jobs in the community.
             
9. Receive, consider and discuss an Economic Overview;

Note: This agenda item was discussed following Agenda Item No. 8. No action was taken. The Board recessed the meeting during this agenda item at 2:30 p.m., due to technical difficulties, and reconvened the meeting at 2:45 p.m.

Nick Wolda, Director of Community Relations and President of Visit The Woodlands, shared a high-level presentation of an economic overview of The Woodlands area and the local region. Mr. Wolda shared that home prices are up 23.8%, compared to 2020, and that home inventory is down 67%, due to high demand in the real estate market. Mr. Wolda shared an overview of the year-to-date real estate market performance, real estate median price trends of The Woodlands, compared to the City of Houston, and Harris and Montgomery Counties. He noted that, in commercial real estate, the total vacancy rate is slightly down, at about 17%, and the forecast is positive with a return to office space.

Next, Mr. Wolda shared visitor information from the U.S. Travel Association, noting an increase in domestic travel for both business and leisure. He shared that there has been an increase of international visitors to the area, with 83% of international travel from Mexico, as reported from the visitor services area on Market Street. Hotel recovery outlook is favorable, with meetings and conventions planned for Quarter 3 and 4, and leads for years 2022 and 2023 which are expected to come back strong. Hotel bookings for corporate travel has experienced a decline, while leisure travel has been the highest segment locally with great turnouts on weekends.

Mr. Wolda shared that Visit The Woodlands staff continues to promote The Woodlands and will be visiting a number of tradeshows to invite meeting planners to our area. He shared that staff continues to work with major publications through advertising to bring awareness of The Woodlands.

Next, Mr. Wolda shared additional statistics on international tourism with a focus on leisure travel from the Mexico Market. He noted that staff with Visit The Woodlands recently returned from Mexico where they met with travel writers and editors of major glamour and shopping retail magazines who plan to visit The Woodlands this fall. Market Street retail growth is currently down 9% for 2021, compared to Quarter 3 of 2019, however, statistics indicate that shoppers are spending more time and money in establishments. Mr. Wolda shared that eight new retail stores are currently under construction, and six new leases are being anticipated by year end. Retailers have also reported that overall sales have increased by 4% compared to 2019, and The Woodlands Mall anticipates a positive future outlook in retail sales. Board discussion followed.
             
10. Receive, consider and discuss the status of Board Committees and roles;

Note: This agenda item was discussed following Agenda Item No. 9. No action was taken. The Board recessed the meeting during this agenda item at 3:40 p.m., due to technical difficulties, and reconvened the meeting at 3:47 p.m.

Chairman Gordy Bunch introduced guest speaker Mike Conduff, President and CEO of The Elim Group, a leadership training and governance consulting firm headquartered in Denton, Texas. Mr. Conduff gave an inspiring and motivational presentation to the Directors on their roles in local government and service to the community through leadership and policy governance.
             
11. Receive, consider and discuss a legislative update;

Note: This agenda item was discussed after Agenda Item No. 7. No action was taken.

Todd Stephens, Intergovernmental Relations Manager, presented a brief overview of the regular state legislative session that occured from January through May of this year, followed by an update on the special session. He shared that the Township Attorney is reviewing adopted legislation to ensure that the Township meets all of its required obligations. Mr. Stephens shared information on a number of key bills filed, passed, vetoed and tracked throughout session, including bills related to Property Tax, Community and Economic Development, Purchasing, Elections, Other Finance and Administration, Open Government, Personnel, and Emergency Management.

Next, Mr. Stephens shared information on the State Constitutional measures expected on the 2021 ballot, as well as local measures involving the municipal utility districts. Board discussion followed.
             
CLOSED MEETING (if applicable)
             
12. Recess to Executive Session to discuss matters relating to real property pursuant to §551.072, Texas Government Code; deliberation of economic development negotiations pursuant to §551.087, Texas Government Code; discuss personnel matters pursuant to §551.074, Texas Government Code; discuss IT network or critical infrastructure security pursuant to §551.089, Texas Government Code; and to consult with The Woodlands Township’s attorney pursuant to §551.071, Texas Government Code;

Chairman Gordy Bunch shared that it was not necessary to recess to closed session.
             
13. Reconvene in public session;

It was not necessary to reconvene in public session.
             
14. Adjournment.
  Motion by: Secretary Shelley Sekula-Gibbs moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:22 a.m. 
  Second by: Director Ann Snyder 
Passed: Chairman Gordy Bunch YES
Vice Chairman Bruce Rieser YES
Secretary Shelley Sekula-Gibbs YES
Treasurer John Anthony Brown YES
Director Bob Milner YES
Director Jason J. Nelson YES
Director Ann Snyder YES
 
_____________________________________
Shelley Sekula-Gibbs
Secretary, Board of Directors

    

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