Sunday, June 7, 2009

Developing role of the village associations in The Woodlands

Here we are in the middle of the last year of our alphabet soup associations. The primary resident associations, homeowner associations, the TWA and WCA, will no longer be available for residents as a means of action on issues. Additionally, they will no longer manage deed restrictions. These associations have in the past managed the budgeting process and monies collected as association fees. They also, on the most part, have managed the service company, the corporation formed to provide us daily services such as garbage pickup, green area and park maintenance, area improvement projects, service contracts, area-wide events such as fun runs, nature lectures, deed enforcement, maintained a database of issues and parsed them to appropriate service entities, provided a community website, and other services. Our associations have listened to major resident issues and been the owners of community property. Deed restrictions have been and will continue to be governed and managed by a cooperative and structured group of people elected by residents. Residential and deed restriction enforcement services will be provided by the Township starting in January. The service company provides monitoring and analysis services for those elected officials in the community. The service company employees will be transferred to our governing body, The Woodlands Township in January.

Our village associations, on the other hand, have helped residents on minor issues and have functioned as social organizations to bring the neighborly and hometown spirit to neighborhoods. Village associations have directors and representatives elected just like the Residential Design Review Committee's (RDRC/DSC) with one major and significant difference. RDRC's and their umbrella DSC are official government entities and must conform to the Texas Open Meetings Act whereas the village associations are not. Some of our association presidents have stated their position is that they do not want to have to conform to the act. Their position is based on the fact that the village associations do not carry any decisions on taxpayer money. They have a budget appropriated by the association and in the future, the township to spend for social activities, including scholarships, school projects or other events for the good of the community. Therefore, the more relaxed informal atmosphere of a village process must be considered in the context of a governmental function as we explore the role of the village in the future of The Woodlands governing processes as a whole. A summary of the act is presented in this link.

A couple of months or so ago, a team was commissioned by the township chairperson, Mrs Blair, to come up with a workable proposal to provide a communication link between the Township and residents of the community. With the loss of the Woodlands Association (WCA,TWA,...) and the imminent transition to a new governing body, the need to define how this should work became more urgent. A business interface had already been established through the Chamber of Commerce, but there would no longer be an organized government channel for the residents. How would the residents get to the board of the Township with significant issues? The township board has many significant issues and cannot handle day-to-day issues at their board meetings. These folks are volunteers, elected to govern the community, and many of them have full time day jobs also. However, it is essential that they understand residents' issues in order to make sound decisions for budgeting and for approving expenses. So this committee was commissioned to solve the issue. On this committee are a number of people who have influence in the community, especially in the village associations, and have an interest in setting a path for linking residents to the township board of directors. There is representation from every village on the committee to make sure the diversity of The Woodlands has some voice in the outcome. There are two areas not actively represented - the exclusive gated areas such as Carlton Woods who generally take care of themselves, and the elderly section, off of SH 242. Steve Lackey is the project leader.

After a review of the draft proposal by some of the members of the township board, the project moves forward this week, as members of the committee begin taking the near finalized proposal to their respective villages for comments. The proposal is presented below and a survey for your input is included after that.


“The Parties acknowledge and agree that the Village Associations of The Woodlands have played an integral and significant role in providing for grass-roots resident input and representation related to the operations of the Associations…” The Woodlands Township Transition Agreement dated February 1, 2008.

To develop a framework to facilitate effective communication and meaningful interaction between The Woodlands Township Board of Directors and the Boards of Directors of The Woodlands Village Associations.

Presently the interface between the village associations and the governing residential boards, The Woodlands Association (TWA) and The Woodlands Community Association (WCA), is based upon TWA and WCA board members participation generally as non-voting members of the board of directors of the village association from which they are elected. In addition, the village association presidents give an informal verbal report during the monthly meeting of their appropriate governing board. Individual residents are entitled to address all boards during the “public comments” agenda period.

The Woodlands Township was approved by the voters as the eventual governing entity for our community. The major responsibilities of TWA and WCA are being transitioned to the Township in phases defined by a written transition agreement between the boards.

Once this transition is complete, and TWA and WCA cease to function as major governing boards (and in fact may dissolve entirely), the present linkage between the village associations and their parent boards will concurrently disappear.

Therefore, to ensure/improve the present village association role, a formal communication and interaction linkage must be established between the Township Board and the village association boards of directors. It is the purpose of this project to develop, in partnership with appropriate stakeholders, this new linkage.

Project Team
A project team comprised of twenty-two elected directors/officers representing the seven present village associations has met five times to formulate this communication linkage. Ideas have been solicited from all village association directors and many other Woodlands leaders. Senior Woodlands leadership has served as project team advisers. Following is the proposed board linkage structure as of June 5, 2009. It is important to note that this is a work in process and that future changes/revisions may be made.

Village Associations
A Village Association Township Representative will be assigned by each village association, at its discretion, to interface with the Woodlands Township Board. Candidates should have a high interest in community involvement, have good communication skills, and be available to attend most Township Board posted meetings. Duties will include reporting to the Township Board on significant village news, critical issues, major events, etc.; and Township Board news to their respective village association. The representatives may meet on an occasional, as-needed basis, but will not constitute a formal group with any responsibilities.

The currently successful Parks and Recreation Advisory Council (which is assumed will continue) should be used as a model to devise appropriate Woodlands Township Advisory Councils, both “permanent” and ad hoc in nature. Each village association may assign a board member to a council at its discretion. Council leadership will have authority over the final composition of a given council. Councils should be devised to provide informal support to senior Woodlands Township personnel and will have no authority. It is anticipated that they will be few in number. Potential areas that may be appropriate for consideration include transportation, public safety and finance.

Village association board members could serve, at village association board discretion, as non-voting members on appropriate Township Board committees and/or Township staff teams. Candidates should have relevant expertise and/or interest in the particular area of focus and be able to make the time commitment required. It is understood that committees may or may not be necessary when the transition to a seven member Township Board is complete. But working with appropriate Township staff, teams would still be of value to our community. The Township budget process could be a target area.

Woodlands Township
The role of the Village Association Liaison persons currently representing the Woodlands Community Associations should be revised to include Woodlands Township news and information. It may also be appropriate to expand the liaison role to include problem solving functions currently provided by community association directors that will discontinue upon transition January 1, 2010.

Woodlands Township Board Directors and/or senior staff members will attend, and report at, village association meetings. While it is envisioned that this would occur on a regular monthly basis, a particular village association may elect to do so less frequently. Furthermore, senior Township staff members may also attend village association meetings on an as needed basis for a particular subject of interest.

Woodlands Township Board should host periodic evening Town Hall Meetings similar to the session held in November, 2008.

A “Receive and consider reports from Village Association Township Representatives” agenda item should replace the current “Receive and consider a report from the Community Associations of The Woodlands” agenda item at all posted, regular Township Board meetings. Village association reports will be given only on an as-needed basis so not all village associations may report at any given meeting.

Next Steps
This proposed plan will be presented to each village association during June, 2009 for consideration and approval. Following the village reviews, the project team will meet to review and make appropriate adjustments. The plan will then be presented to the Township Board for consideration and eventual action. Implementation of the final linkage structure will occur January 1, 2010.

Your input
You may provide your input to the "experimental" poll below anytime throughout this month. I will freeze input on July 15th and report the results to the committee.

Poll at Click Here to take survey

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