H I G H D E N S I T Y DILEMMA
Houston’s extraterritorial jurisdiction extends to The Woodlands, and although it is protected from annexation until 2057, the city of Houston is still responsible for approving some replatting. EXTENT OF POWER Houston ETJ Mitchell Island
Previous plans for Mitchell Island on Lake Woodlands in the East Shore neighborhood had the 23-acre island divided into 19 lots. A plan before the Houston Planning Commission in September revised the division to 58 lots, some at a higher density, drawing an outcry from residents.
The island was created on Lake Woodlands in 1985.
The site was previously considered the site for corporate headquarters and condominiums.
• Revised plans for Mitchell Island • A replat request shows the space divided into 58 lots:
• Previous plans for Mitchell Island • An initial land- use designation in 2012 divided the property into 19 lots . • Lower density
15 : 85-by-140-foot lots 10 : 75-by-140-foot lots 33 : 34-by-84-foot lots
• Higher density
SOURCE: CITY OF HOUSTON COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
SOURCES: HOWARD HUGHES CORP., HOUSTON PLANNING COMMISSION, THE WOODLANDS TOWNSHIPCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
BY VANESSA HOLT Island development highlights limits of The Woodlands Township’s governing powers
Melton said the island remained when the Lake Woodlands excavation was completed in 1985. “There was never an intent for it to remained undeveloped land,” Melton said. He said oces and condominiums were among the initially discussed possible uses for the land. The request must go before the city of Houston because The Woodlands is an unin- corporated area partially within the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, said John Powers, the assistant general manager for community services in The Woodlands Township. A portion of The Woodlands is located within Houston’s ETJ, and some is within the city of Conroe’s ETJ, but agreements reached among the entities in 2007 prevent either city fromannexing the township until 2057. Although the replat for the site changes how the land will be divided, the variance addresses the setback of the structures, or the distance of the structure from the road. It requests a 17-foot setback for the garage and 10-foot setback for the principal struc- ture—the standard for urban areas, according to the planning commis- sion agenda. If the replat and variance proposal advances through the city, it has several other hurdles it still must clear, Powers said. “The replat review and approval process is a multistep process and involves multiple agencies,” Powers said in an email among township o- cials, several interested residents and members of the media. “In addition to the city review, Montgomery County
and [the Woodlands Township’s Development Standards Committee] must also approve.” Powers said the DSC deals mainly with the aesthetics and size of devel- opment. The county has its own developmental permitting process as well. The property is also subject to covenants, or deed restrictions, within The Woodlands originally established by The Woodlands Com- munity Association, DSC Chair Walt Lisiewski said. Bunch said in an email the board of directors is not involved in the process. Bunch gathered more than 1,200 resident signatures in September to signal local opposition to the plan in light of what they said they expected when they moved there. “The replat request … alters the expectations established when our residents were sold property in East Shore,” his petition states. Bunch said the township lacks ordinance, building code or zon- ing authority, although 600 acres of undeveloped land remain in The Woodlands. “The Woodlands would need to incorporate to gain authority over our hometown,” he said. Local opposition
consider anyone in their variance request except the people they are trying to provide a product for,” Hous- ton said. In a statement, Howard Hughes Corp. did not address the resident concerns specically but conrmed the replat consists of 58 high-end res- idential homesites, which it said will start at $1 million in cost. The com- pany statement said the proposal was in line with The Woodlands’ founder’s original vision for the land, although the initial land-use designation led in 2012 was for larger lots. “If you look at the market in East Shore, we found a lot of consumers today are moving away from large lots and oversized homes,” said Heath Melton, the executive vice president for master-planned residential com- munities with the Howard Hughes Corp. “The consumer wants what I would call a little bit lower-mainte- The Sept. 17 variance request to the Houston Planning Commission from the Howard Hughes Corp. showed a change from the initial land use designation for the property led in 2012 that designated spaces for 19 single-family houses. The new plan showed 58 units, more than half of which would be built at a higher den- sity on smaller lots. nance lifestyle.” Changing plans
Although incorporation will not be on the ballot Nov. 3 in The Woodlands Township, the issue of what powers it can wield as a township in the face of development came to a head in Sep- tember when a plan for high-density housing on Lake Woodlands rankled nearby residents and ocials. Situated on Lake Woodlands, the 23-acre island is known by residents as Mitchell Island, a scenic, wooded area where eagles hunt and roost, East Shore resident Tami Houston said. She said she gathered close to 200 sig- natures from neighbors opposed to a Howard Hughes Corp. project on the island after she received a notice in September about a variance request there from the Houston Planning Commission, the entity that controls that process. Gordy Bunch, the chair of The Woodlands Township board of direc- tors, also gatheredmore than 1,100 sig- natures online for a petition to stop the 58-home development planned on the island the Howard Hughes Corp. had previously slated for 19 luxury homes. Opposition by residents in the East Shore neighborhood, which includes the island, included concern about the potential for an increase in traf- c, demands on local infrastructure, threats to the habitat of the eagles seen there and other issues. “[Howard Hughes Corp.] did not
In addition to the hundreds of sig- natures garnered on petitions, about a half-dozen residents brought their concerns to the board of directors at the virtual board meeting Sept. 23. Board Member Ann Snyder, a res- ident of East Shore, said in a phone COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM
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