Shenandoah approves 2019 budget and tax rate; OKs permit for new Hampton Inn
The Shenandoah City Council on Wednesday night tied up some loose ends in their budget discussions and also approved a special use permit that’s been in the works for two years.
The council unanimously approved a $10 million budget and a lowered tax rate totaling 18 cents per $100 of home valuation, one of the lowest in Texas.
“I think it’s a great budget,” said Council Member Byron Bevers. “I think the staff did a great job.”
Staff members and department heads made several allocations to capital projects — more than $178,000 for three fully-outfitted police Tahoes; $50,000 for a dog park; $30,000 for drainage and landscaping improvements to the Mary Pat Case pool; and $1,500 each for next year’s Independence Day celebration and a “Goodbye Summer” party at the pool before it closes in two weeks.
New Hampton Inn OK’d
Shenandoah is also getting a new Hampton Inn.
The council granted a conditional special use permit to franchise owner Grace Jacobson, ending a years-long process to begin construction of the Hampton Inn property on Interstate-45 and Wellman Road, granted that the limited-service hotel be a Hampton Inn property and have a bar and bistro on-site.
“We will manage every process of the hotel,” said David Hale of the Paramount Hotel Group, which will partner with Jacobson to run the hotel.
The vote was tabled twice from the June 27 and Aug. 8 council meetings, originally done to give Jacobson and her associates time to revise the business plan and avoid a 6-month waiting period before being allowed to reapply. Jacobson was awarded a similar SUP in 2016, which then lapsed, and was denied one in October 2017.
Council members Bevers and Ron Raymaker initially moved to deny the application, but the motion was shut down and replaced with a motion to approve, which they both voted against.
Mayor Ritch Wheeler and council members Mike McLeod, Charlie Bradt and Ted Fletcher spoke about their hesitations to approve the permit, saying it came down to quality of life concerns from residents.
“It’s not personal, it doesn’t have anything to do with whether it’s a Hampton Inn or a Ritz-Carlton,” Wheeler said. “It boils down to not wanting more hotels backing up to our residents.”
The five-story property is set to feature 106 rooms, a fitness center, a pool, spa and a 1,200 square foot meeting space. According to Jacobson’s most recent application, the hotel can potentially bring in $4.3 to $4.5 million in revenue and would contribute $300,000 in hotel occupancy tax to the city on an annual basis.
“Welcome to Shenandoah,” Wheeler said.
Grogan’s Mill Road underpass plan draws complaints
Several Shenandoah residents voiced their opposition to a proposed overpass or underpass at the intersection of Grogan’s Mill Road and Research Forest Drive during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting. The residents also criticized the council and mayor for their reactions to the issue at a Sept. 5 town hall meeting, saying their casual attitude failed to reflect the severity of the issue at hand.
“Who in their right minds would desire that Shenandoah would put an overpass at that location?” said resident Janeu Houston.
The town hall was focused on — among other subjects — a redesigned thoroughfare plan and drew a standing room-only crowd to City Hall.
The City Council had unanimously passed a resolution of support on May 23 for a $14 million underpass to be funded by the Montgomery County Precinct 3 and The Woodlands Road Utility District 1.
Houston and others at the public comment called on the council to rescind their support of the plans.
“Please don’t continue to ignore feasible options,” Houston said. “You should revoke the resolution until The Woodlands takes care of its options.”
The intersection ranks as the worst for accidents in The Woodlands and the second worst county-wide, said Public Works Director Joseph Peart at the townhall meeting.
Resident and former council member Jean Teague joined those who attended the town hall and were dissatisfied with the council’s representation of the citizens’ will.
At a city council meeting earlier this year, Teague said, the wife of council member Ted Fletcher advised citizens opposing the construction of either an underpass or an overpass to voice their complaints in Montgomery County Commissioner’s Court.
“We are prepared to take our opposition to a higher level,” Teague said.
Many of those at Wednesday night’s meeting also criticized the council’s presence on social media and complained that Wheeler’s late arrival to the town hall signified non-transparency on the part of the members present, drawing a rebuttal from council members later in the meeting.
“I will say that the mayor and council have lost the citizen’s trust after (the townhall),” resident Sarah Warmath said.