Comment of the Day: Unincorporated Harris County Ought To Start Incorporating

COMMENT OF THE DAY: UNINCORPORATED HARRIS COUNTY OUGHT TO START INCORPORATING “Since the population is booming in unincorporated Harris County, it may approach a tipping point where the representation may need to be increased on the Commissioners Court. As it stands now, there are 4 Commissioners plus the County Judge, a total of 5 elected officials for this burgeoning population. Conceivably, we could have 8 Commissioners plus the judge so that each ‘slice’ of the county could be fewer people and theoretically, there would be more responsiveness from the county office to a given resident. That being said, I don’t mind more townships or small cities being created to mop up the unincorporated areas so that each burg could work to benefit its taxpayers. Basically, a divide and conquer approach (or ‘zone defense’ if you want another metaphor), but to provide responsive, efficient service to its own residents. There is only so much that the county can do when it has to cover the whole of Harris County.” [Wolf Brand Chili, commenting on The Astonishing Rise of Unincorporated Harris County] Illustration: Lulu  

6 Comment

  • I agree with the premises, and especially that the County increasingly has to do stuff that county government in Texas simply isn’t set up to do, but two legal issues exist.
    1. The state constitution fixes 1 judge and 4 commissioners per county, regardless of population. Having more than that would require statewide voter approval of a constitutional amendment.
    2. Most of unincorporated Harris County (at least the Spring, Klein, and Cypress areas) is in the City of Houston’s ETJ. So the City would have to agree to release their “hold” over it before incorporation could occur. But, it’s not even that simple, since Houston has already annexed most of the commercial property along roads like Jones and 1960, so the unincorporated (residential) areas are disconnected islands. It’s not impossible to create a “City of Cypress,” for example, but it’d be pretty difficult for multiple reasons.

  • Am I the only one that doesn’t quite understand the difference between a city or a county or a town or a municipality or how you have these ‘cities inside of cities’ (is “West U” a city, or a neighborhood like Montrose?). I don’t get this stuff about commissions or unincorporated or any of it. I just assumed all land everywhere was in some city. Based on the conversations I feel like I’m the only one that doesn’t get it.

  • In Texas the county is a creature of the State and the whole State is divided up by counties. A municipality generally refers to a city or town that is incorporated. Montrose is a neighborhood. West U is not a neighborhood but a city, it’s real name is City of West University Place. After WWII and the investment in infrastructure by the Federal government small towns in Harris County began to incorporate. As Houston began to boom in the 50s and 60s, many other cities would incorporate as a defensive maneuver against annexation. A city can’t be in anther city’s ETJ as this is an area outside a city’s incorporated city limits and the city that lays claim to it’s own etj has little power over the area, collects no taxes, but may have to provide for some services. There are territorial disputes fro time to time, but a city can not annex another city. There have been master planned communities that were self managed but we’re not cities and they have been annexed, such as Kingwood. The Woodlands is a unique situation where a corporation basically got the Texas Congress to grant them a special district status but they are not a city, though function like one in many ways. Texas is an unusual place :) BTW school districts are their own entity and independent of the city and county. Hope that helps.

  • Not all of the land in Harris County lies within an incorporated place.
    The following cities are actual incorporated cities, independent of the City of Houston. They just happen to be wholly or partially surrounded by the CoH. They have their own city government and city services, although some of the Villages share a police department.
    West U is the incorporated City of West University Place.
    Bellaire is the incorporated City of Bellaire.
    The Memorial Villages are the incorporated cities of Bunker Hill Village, Hedwig Village, Hunters Creek Village, Piney Point Village, and the oft-forgotten north-side Hilshire Village and Spring Valley Village.
    OTOH, Montrose is a neighborhood within the City of Houston, and Cypress is an unincorporated area within Harris County. . Also, not all of the City of Houston lies within Harris County; there’s an elbow of CoH in Fort Bend County.

  • @Cody: I’m sure there are others who don’t get it. All land is in a county, unless you live in Louisiana or Alaska, where they call counties “parishes” and “boroughs”. Some county land is also in a municipality, which is called a city, town, village, hamlet, etc. depending on its size. Some municipalities are entirely surrounded by other municipalities, like West University Place, which is a city surrounded by another city. Municipalities have their own governments. Neighborhoods generally don’t.

  • @Memebag — “All land is in a county…” also excludes Virginia, where the incorporated cities such as Richmond, Norfolk, etc. are not part of any county.