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  1. Chronicle news - senate committee endorses bill 1012 (step 1a.). One small but significant step forward. Still in House committee



    * Allows simultaneous election for incorporation or alternative governing form

    * Prevents early release from ETJ or annexation by petition

    General News Article With Highlights Above

    A bill to allow Houston and the Town Center Improvement District to establish a regional participation agreement to avoid annexation in exchange for funding regional projects passed its first hurdle in the Texas Senate Wednesday.

    Senate Bill 1012, sponsored by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, was approved by the Senate Intergovernmental Affairs Committee after a public hearing.

    "We're excited," said Williams. "It is the first step in the legislative process. But we have a ways to go."

    Because there was no opposition to the bill, it is expected to go to the Senate floor for a vote next week. A companion bill, HB 2197 sponsored by Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, has yet to go through the House, where is it assigned to the Land and Resource Management Committee.

    "We're excited to get to this point," said Bruce Tough, a member of The Woodlands Community Association, who attended Wednesday's hearing. "We are excited to be in Austin and to go through the legislative process."

    Bill specifics

    With only two months left in the legislative session, a second bill to expand the boundaries of the Town Center Improvement District to serve most of The Woodlands has not yet been introduced. It is expected to be introduced in the Legislature at the end of this week or beginning of next weak, Williams said.

    Williams recently identified the two-bill package as his top priority for this legislative session.

    SB 1012, which was altered slightly in committee to tighten up language, allows cities of a certain size to enter agreements with special districts to participate in funding regional projects in exchange for a release from the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction. The bill is fashioned in such a way to apply to Houston and The Woodlands, without naming them specifically. A court case prohibits the Legislature from passing bills that benefit specific cities or areas.

    Under a proposed agreement with Houston, TCID would pay an initial $16 million for public projects in transportation and parks and dedicate one-sixteenth of the 1-cent sales tax collected annually for projects, which is estimated at $45 million over the first 30 years. In exchange, Houston would agree to release The Woodlands from its extraterritorial jurisdiction, or future boundaries, in 2014 and allow it to pursue its own form of governance.

    The second bill would expand and rename the TCID to serve all The Woodlands, Williams said. That bill is being tweaked to address concerns by surrounding cities that TCID could annex lands in their city limits or future boundaries.

    Transition team

    Meanwhile, TCID appointed members to a transition team that would investigate the role of the new district in providing services in The Woodlands. Three members from the TCID ? its president, chairman and chairman of its Governance and Nomination Committee ? will join three representatives from the Community Associations of The Woodlands in discussing the issues.

    At the Community Associations, the presidents of The Woodlands Association, The Woodlands Community Association, The Woodlands Commercial Owners Association and The Woodlands Community Service Corp. will sit on the committee.

    "The transition team will represent us with how things will shake out when the new district is formed," said Bob Kinnear, chair of TCID Governance and Nominations Committee.

    Top on the agenda for TCID will be which agency will pay for services in The Woodlands. TCID funds public safety, economic development and operations in the Town Center area, along the Texas 242 commercial corridor and on parts of Research Forest through sales and hotel taxes. The Community Association of The Woodlands provides municipal-type serves to residents and businesses in the community through assessment fees.

    The expanded district, which will be able to collect sales tax revenues from village centers and strip centers, is expected to have the ability to collect hotel and sales tax as well as property taxes.

    Issues to consider

    The Community Associations of The Woodlands presented an initial list of transition issues when it adopted a white paper on the guiding principles for proceeding with the governance bills. Among the issues are:

    The impact on the Mutual Benefits Agreement, a contract among The Community Associations, The Woodlands Development Co. and The Woodlands Fire Department that spells out the service provisions in the community.

    What services, assets or liabilities should be transferred to the expanded TCID and when?

    Will all areas of The Woodlands be covered, and what is the obligation to cover areas not within the new boundaries?

    How will the regional participation agreement be funded?

    What impact will this have on The Woodlands Fire Department?

    How will outside contracts, such as the community policing initiative or labor agreements, be affected?

    How will staff at the Community Associations and TCID be impacted?

    What happens if only one bills passes?

    What kinds of powers will the new board have?

    In another matter, TCID Vice President Vicki Richmond, a Town Center resident, resigned from the Committee of Governance and Nomination, saying she intends to seek the nomination for chairman of the TCID at its May reorganization meeting."

  2. As I recall, you were arguing that people are at least as at risk from crime in The Woodlands as in the Heights on account of there being lots of dead-end streets, wooded trails, and privacy fences that can hide the activities of burglars. I argued that those areas would be subject to planned crimes but that most criminals aren't that well organized and would strike opportunistically, with gridded streets and mixed demographics of the Heights contributing to a property crime rate that was likely higher.

    Architects of The Woodlands agreed with you. That is a primary reason of the convoluted streets design. It is so easy to get lost here. I still can get turned around in some places.

  3. There is no ruse. What good would be done to the economy by keeping people on staff unnecessarily? :wacko:

    Technology and business continously change toward efficiencies. That translates to fewer people to do the same amount of work. Some work is contracted or outsourced.

    I hope these folks get a great severance. A company in the past was able to split the severance over two years to help distribute payment and minimize taxes to the employee but now that appears to have been altered to require payment in the same year. Distributing social security paymenbts over two years also has a nice benefit in earning points and capturing two years of a significant income for SS.

  4. I may not be remember the location right, but isn't the new high rise loft on Post Oak/SanFelipe (where Eatzi's iswas) supposed to have a Whole Foods anchoring the corner? I remember being shocked because there is one right on Woodway. Maybe I have the location wrong.

    Houston (Post Oak)

    Whole Foods Market

    Post Oak & San Felipe

    Houston, TX

    78,000 sq. ft.

    Relocation. Opening date to be announced.

    This is the same size store as in Minneapolis.

  5. Im always sad to hear of layoffs like this. but the only successful mergers and takeovers are the ones that combine opts. and cut off the overlaps--excess fat. The quicker the better. :( :( :(

    I have been through upteen milliion of these oil mergers and downturns and after the last one, decided to get the heck out of Dodge myself. Too stressful. It is good when it is good but when it turns sour, there are better things to do with one's life. Wishing them all well in their new adventures in business life. Some will go to service companies, some to competitors, some to retirement, some to teaching and others to completely new vocations.

    Good luck folks. Best to ya! Meet ya at the Irish bar. Life is just starting another chapter.

  6. I just called Wild Oats and they said that since the completion date of the project is so far in advance that they have no idea what is going to happen. Whole Foods will complete the buyout long before the date and they (WO) never signed a contract so it is up to Whole Foods.


    I have serious doubts about there being a WF or WO there.

    Yes, but the realty company has told us in the past two weeks that the construction of the Wilds Oats is well underway. If there are any changes to the plan, they are not apparent. Whole Foods openly said they were going to not only support the Wild Oats brand, but improve it with the Whole Foods success of retailing. I see no reason at this time to doubt the outcome. I see a store coming.

    I found the following to be interesting reading from the north. A flagship Whole Foods in Minneapolis will be about twice the size of the Wild Oats here.

    Whole Foods, "luxury" condo development planned:

    This just in: Another condo development proposal has been unveiled in Minneapolis. But, hey, this one is notable for a couple of reasons.

    First, the development includes a Whole Foods, bringing a third proposed grocery store downtown. Second, it's going on what has been the the Jaguar dealership site for more than 40 years. That site has long been a potential backup for a Twins Stadium, but apparently that fading prospect is finally no more.

    From the press release:

    "Milliken Development Group today announced it has purchased the property to develop a $180 million mixed-use project in the heart of Minneapolis occupying an entire city block on the corner of Washington and Hennepin Ave. South, featuring a 76,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market, 250 luxury condos and 6,500 square feet of retail space.

    Groundbreaking will begin in spring 2007 for the project tentatively named The Marketplace Tower, with construction projected to take approximately two years. Completion is expected by spring 2009."

  7. thank you for the synopsis. although i haven't attended an association meeting, i'm always curious as to the outcome or discussion that occurs. i feel guilty for having strong opinions and then not attending.

    There are a number of little group discussions before and afterwards. They sometimes discuss totally different subjects, as a social gathering. However I sensed a lot of discussion last night around the primeary subject matter. The association passed two resolutions to totally support the legislative bills, so there would not be any doubt that the association backs the bills outright. They also recognized outstanding volunteers for the year and gave a business synopsis of the preceeding year. I walked back to my truck with one of the VIPs in the Town Center and we talked about what villagers might be concerned about. I explained that from my perspective, the Town Center had a bit too much leverage with the outcome and that bothered me, yet I generally trust the people there to be sufficiently broad thinkers to consider the issues in the villages, as well as their own issues. I am definately on board in all of this and want it to happen. If we do not have politicians working the solutions for self-benefit, we will be better off after all this is completed. Practical consideration of what is really happening and getting residents input is required for success. We also need some strong education of the population. Senator Williams almost forgot to cover this base and that startled me a little. At the end, he did address what he believed to be the issues of the residents, as an afterthought, but noted to everyone that he had just missed some of his notes and apologized for returning to the podium to explain.

  8. There are two bills required in this session. Tonight Senator Williams was the keynote speaker to the annual association meeting. The first bill is currently in committee and expected to be out within days. This is a general bill to enable The Woodlands to execute the agreement made between Senator Williams and Mayor White. The second bill will be introduced afterwards. That will be a specific bill for The Woodlands governance. If all goes as planned, there will be a confirmation vote in The Woodlands in November, saying that residents want this to happen and then five district officals would be elected in May of next year to govern The Woodlands as an interim district solution. The transition will require the Assdociation and the Town Center to have equal partnerhip in moving assets and establishing the details. The association with its services will remain a part of the operational body.

  9. It's like how some people believe owning a gun makes them safer

    I don't believe anymore, I know. This was the second time I had to get the gun since we have lived here. (My son tore down the stairs thinking it was his ride to a sleep over, and before I could stop him he opened the door to some crazy woman. NO, it wasn't a housewife off her Xanex. This one was cracked out and waving her hands everywhere not making any sense. Hubby was trying to get her to move on but she started getting agressive. I got the pistol out just in case. You never know what 'buddies" she had waiting down the street in a car. )

    14 years in the Galleria area I NEVER had a problem. But we do keep it in a pistol safe next to the bed with a finger touch code. We have all the hunting weapons in a gun safe.

    Ralo, nothing beats good dogs!

    Having a gun gives a false sense of security. I have them but try never to pull one out even in a bad situation. Have a beat cop nearby helps remove me from enforcement myself. The utopia is only a perception from the outside. Inside we are all aware of the issues. There are little and big crimes to deal with here. Our kids have ready access to drugs, the traffic races on The Woodlands Race Track are a constant threat, and I am sure there are other ways to look at these problems. Complain about a noisy automobile and you are asked to go out and get the license plate yourself. Need to take my gun with me possibly if I have to go find the culprit myself? NOT! :wacko:

  10. i do not have any recent photos. i will be keeping my camera with me this next week and intend to get more current pictures.

    i read that eddie bauer is opening a 5000 square foot location in market street. it is the plot across from where the hotel is going (across from starbucks and jamba juice) and is under construction. also, gap's "forth and towne" is closing. it opened in november. gap says that it had timing problems rolling out the new concept. market street is negotiating for another gap concept in its place.

    link to story

    It seems to me that Market Street has to be a high end place to shop. One boutique I know is quite successful selling fashion jeans and other specialties at high prices. I see a number of shops I believe will not make it. The secret to success has to be moderate volumes of high cost items in order to pay the rent. In my business, I cannot imagine putting in a store that would require raising the cost of our services 6-10 times to pay the rent. It would be an interesting exercise to forecast the success or failure of the existing stores there, based on perceived business models.

  11. Agreed. Mitchell should have put in the well ignored bi-laws that palm trees are strictly forbidden in the Piney Woods.

    I agree. At least visible from the street. One of my neighbors said her lawn did not have a theme and planted palm tress to go with her swimming pool in back. Now her tropical theme is a stand-out for all the neighbors to view daily. Of course the Yaupon had to go and some small trees had to be cut down to make way for the palms which are now at the front curb. It onl;y take about 6 years for a pne to start looking like a pine and a yaupon to start spreading out like a native forest plant. Only 14 years until a forest takes shape again but with moderately sized trees. All that is taken away in a single day by the forest killers.

  12. All the ones I have been to lately (only two) have been at least as large as a regular Kroger. I do not know how they could build one smaller and still call it a Whole Foods. I believe some of the older ones may be smaller however, like on Richmond. I have been to that one only once. To be a total Whole Foods, let's see, maybe we can count the types of food, a fresh venegtable market, a fish and meat market, wine market, groiceries markey containing cereals and dry foods, canned foods, breads, soups,ready-to-go salads, prepared food delicatesan, cheese market, hmmm, I am missing a lot but these come to my mind first. I remember being able to get everything that a Randalls or Krogers has, but at higher prices. I liked the prepared healthy foods and have been looking forward to Wild Oats for that difference in local shopping diversity. Randalls has taken a new approach to a market but cannot meet up to the Whole Foods shopping experience.

    The model of a grocery store has a large volume of gods being stocked, large trucks delivering them, lots of people in and out, lots of refuse to be discarded. Most of the truck and refuse activity is typically in the night when restocking and cleaning occurs. That generates noise and lights.

  13. The villages have to conform to a master plan. The acquisition by Whloe Foods was not a merger but a purchase of stock byt Whole Foods. Therfore, the store is a Whole Foods store but not as far as I know, a Whole Foods store outright. Whole Foods has committed to improving the brand of their new acquisition, but it is my understanding that there is one and only one major grocery store allowed in each village by that plan. I believe the Initial Land Use Designation will prevent anything near the size of a major grocery store being placed there. Those constraints are filed already I think. Personally I know of no change in the permit nor the plan. Wild Oats remains on the plan but how it is organized and architected is probably affected tby the Whole Foods buyout. Technically, onw can say a Whole Foods is being put there, but logically, I can not see Whole Foods as we know it being constructed. There are reasons for keeping the plan as it is. One of those reasons is the effect of a major grocery store on the nearby residences. The other is an agreement made with the other grocery stores. I see major hurdles not yet jumped if someone is planning to change thie land use designation.

  14. those metal roofs are very well made, they will oxidize with age and will last a lifetime. they are a high end look. i'm disappointed at all of the hoopla from villagers who aren't up on really great materials. if they are not reflecting in the eyes of passers by on woodlands parkway or blinding homes on the west shore, i think they are great.

    don't get me wrong, i'm all about the "vision" thing, but c'mon. east shore is not full of forested areas, it is to be a more formal setting; giving a nod to east coast waterfront, southern colonial, georgian, mediterranean and federal styles.

    the roofs will be a dull gray in time and will not be so "shiny".

    I get upset each time I go by them. You have started my motor. After passing by the area for 8 years, I am very disappointed in the outcome. HIgh end maybe for the northeast and even Houston downtown, but this place is different and has been gradually and consistently architectually misguided by the yankee influence and the "wildness" of this development company. Just think, this was a place where the eagles nested and cared for their young on the grass next to the lake! Now there is a risk to anything that flies low. The development company wants to build higher rise parking garages, even in the villages. That is not acceptable. We see the area decaying in quality rather than improving. Quality materials is a perspective within. The shiney roofs just do not fit The Woodlands. Like putting together red and green exterior paint to blend with the green trees. And a competent professional designer did that? I wonder where that person came from, New York City? If the place was set in the forest away from the entrance to the community, I would be more complacent, but where it is makes it an eyesore.

  15. the woodlands villager annual "outlook" insert (feb 22nd) reported that the 70 room boutique hotel with retail (at market street) could break ground the third or fourth quarter of this year. also, the empty plot across the street from the hotel on the south side commons will begin construction in "february". i haven't been over there in a week or two, so i can't say if construction has begun. good news none the less.

    Have you seen the roofs of the condos? They are sooo ugly with reflective roofs. My understanding is that the roof's color was shown to the committee and approved but they had no idea that it was a reflective material. Vision has a big gap in more ways than one.

  16. Bach I don't think they even realize they are at a stop or even pay attention to the order of those coming to the 4-way. They have a cell phone in one hand, a Starbucks in the other and how to finish their child's science project, with that collegiate look, on their mind.

    Yeah, last week I saw a guy talking on his cell phone with one hand and eating breakfast with the other, all the while speeding and swerving from edge to edge to stay on the road. One wonders just what is going on in those little warped minds. Obviously not much awareness of the road , much less other people on the road.

  17. i think the new police force will provide, for the most part, a new revenue stream. yes, they will respond to complaints and over zealous busy bodies. but mostly, they will pass out traffic violations and arrest non violent drug offenders. maybe they will reduce thievery at new construction locations and provide a visible deterrent to parking lot burglaries............ but i can't see the necessity of an entire police force. vandalism, flashers and parties will still occur. there will simply be a quicker response time when the authorities are called.

    I am looking forward to the beat cops. I will personally get to know whoever is normally in our neighborhood. Maybe the threat of a speeding vehicle on Woodlands Parkway will be diminished and the police can stop a car going 100 MPH on The Woodlands Parkwaybefore it arrives in Austin. Why is it that so many people refuse to obey the law unless there are enforcers present to deter them from breaking it? I am not sure who gets the revenue stream. I think the county, although The Woodlands is paying for the contracted service.

  18. I used to help my dad on the farm in White Hall, Texas and you can get there to a developing Magnolia in less than 20 minutes.

    We also used to come up 249 to 105 and that took forever because it was two-lanes and nothing to look at..not anymore..

    I believe sprawl has a limit proportional to the cost of transportation+ time to commute. Since we can expect gas to continue to rise and car prices to continue to rise, the sprawl is likely to subside drastically over the next 10 years for middle income families. On the other hand, communte time to places on the northern end of Lake Conroe will be more available in two years with the completion of I45. If there is fast and cheap mass transportation, the sprawl will continue at a fast pace, but along the main arteries like I45. The city of Houston however will not be a part of the equation. Suburbia remains a preference for higher income people. As Mexican business folks continue to migrate to The Woodlands, those in The Woodlands will likely migrate further north. Just my opinion.

  19. The next agenda item for consideration is segment "G" from I45 to I59. Segment "F2" which passes south of The Woodlands now has another alternative that passes south of the Northampton area and just south of the railroad tracks on Gosling. Although the preferred location passes between the schools in Northampton, it now appears that the more southern alignment will be actually selected. That is only my impression of the proceedings. Anyone else have a handle on the selection of a route from the proposed alignments? This parkway will considerably enhance accessability of The Woodlands and provide a much needed alternative means to access the eastern, northeastern, northern and northwestern areas of Houston without dependence on I45 or Hardy toll road.

    Segment F-2


    Map of segment F-2


  20. Considering that this board will have representation from The Woodlands Community Association homeowners board, The Woodlands Association homeowners board, The Woodlands Commercial Owners Association, Montgomery County Precinct 3 and the cities of Shenandoah and Oak Ridge North along with five members elected by the people of The Woodlands, I believe that they are perfectly fit to govern The Woodlands.

    I have reservations about this. I attended ameeting recently and was not happy with the the behavior of one or two members. There ihas been insufficient representation in the elections, much lower than would be in a city election. We are talking about a different beast here, not some volunteers who have less time than needed to get the job done properly.

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