AP NEWS
Related topics

Township board candidates field questions at forum

October 17, 2018

Candidates for The Woodlands Township Board of Directors met Tuesday at The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce to discuss issues facing the township, from incorporation to development and growth in the community.

Position 2 candidates Treva Taglieri and incumbent Brian Boniface and Position 4 candidates Francis “Frank” Dargavage and sitting director Bruce Rieser addressed questions.

Both sitting board members heavily advocated in favor of incorporation.

Boniface touted his experience on the board during his opening statement, saying that as a director, he has detailed knowledge of how the process of incorporating The Woodlands into its own city will proceed.

“The voters will have a choice when it comes to incorporation,” Boniface said. “There was never a rush to incorporate.”

Boniface said that the board has done, and will continue to do, its due diligence on every facet of incorporation through its monthly planning meetings to prepare a plan to present to the voters.

Taglieri disagreed with Boniface on the issue. Incorporation, she said, should not be something that is rushed into, and she said she believed the board was moving too fast into the incorporation study — and eventually, a vote — that most residents would have trouble understanding the consequences of.

“I have spoken to many residents that are not clear about how (the board) is moving forward with it,” she said. “And until I’m able to explain that to them, or even understand it myself, I don’t think that we are ready.”

What kicked off talk of incorporation, Boniface said, was the lack of control of the township’s roadways and the inability to receive federal funding as a city for flood mitigation efforts, in particular.

“We are at the mercy of others,” Boniface said. “We’re not able to control our destiny. Time is not on our side with this.”

Candidate Francis “Frank” Dargavage stood steadfastly against incorporation, saying that becoming a city would void the township’s enabling legislation that allows certain policies like covenant enforcement, but his opponent, Bruce Rieser, said it was just a matter of time, saying that the original intention of the founders of the township was always to have it become a city.

“This community is going to be a city at some point,” Rieser said. “The only question is when and by whom.”

Community challenges

In all of the surveys conducted by the Township Board, three things emerged as the biggest complaints from residents, Rieser said — too much development, too much traffic and not enough drainage. As a township, he said, The Woodlands isn’t responsible for any of those issues — the county and municipal utility districts are.

“All we can do as a township is try to persuade those people,” Rieser said, referring to other governmental entities with the authority over roads and drainage.

The main issue, Dargavage countered, is not incorporation, but the flooding and drainage issues in the township as well as road management. He added that the board should work more closely with the responsible entities like the MUDs to ensure a more cohesive flood mitigation plan and infrastructure.

On future plans

Responding to a question about amenities and whether the township should invest in things like the Waterway Cruisers and Swan Boats, Boniface said that should viable third party options arise, the board should look into them.

Taglieri suggested investing that money, and any surplus money intended for the incorporation study, to provide better transport options for senior citizens and residents with special needs who might have a hard time finding transportation elsewhere.

“I think that the hometown feel is important, but I think we should address our residents’ needs first,” she said.

Adjusting covenants

The covenants guiding homes and businesses in The Woodlands are important, Rieser said, but the rules were designed to aid a growing community — today, as the township’s oldest homes approach almost four decades in age and show normal signs of wear and tear, some covenant restrictions may no longer apply.

“We are going to go into a period where we’re going to get tear-downs and rebuilds,” Rieser said of old homes and new construction. “It’s inevitable.”

Dargavage countered that the township’s Development Standards Committee has done little to provide any possibility of addressing the more out-of-date covenant restrictions. In that vein, he added, the board has to commit itself to work with homeowner’s associations in the township to address the needs of both the older neighborhoods and villages in The Woodlands and those of the newer ones or neighborhoods yet to be built.

The Woodlands, Rieser said, is a diverse community and the board should not only work to advance the needs of the more affluent neighborhoods and aid the older villages in refurbishments.

“I’ve been here for 30 years, I’ve seen titanic changes,” Rieser said. “As this community continues to explode, the only way to control our destiny is to incorporate.”

mrincon@chron.com