Kingwood is a 14,000-acre (57-square-kilometer) master-planned community in northeast Houston, Texas, United States. The community is mostly in Harris County, with a small portion in Montgomery County. It is the largest master-planned community in Harris County and the second largest in the 10-county Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metropolitan area. It is known as the “Livable Forest.” During the 1990 census, it was designated as a “census-designated place,” with a population of 37,397. It is located on the San Jacinto River’s east fork.
Friendswood Development Company and King Ranch formed a joint venture to create Kingwood in 1971. As a result of that collaboration, its name was derived.
The Foster Lumber Company originally owned a portion of the land that was later developed into the Kingwood community. The Fosters had owned the property since around 1892. The land was sold to a joint venture between King Ranch and the Friendswood Development Company, an Exxon subsidiary, on December 28, 1967. Exxon’s Friendswood Development Company hired John Bruton Jr. as Operations Manager, where he was in charge of the planning, development, engineering, and construction of Kingwood. Greenbelts, shopping centers, schools, churches, recreational facilities, riding and hiking trails, and a boat ramp with access to Lake Houston were all planned for the community.
In the 1960s, the City of Houston annexed portions of what would become Kingwood, but by the late 1970s, those portions had been de-annexed, leaving them unincorporated.
Kingwood was established in 1970, with the first village opening in 1971. Since its inception, the community has been known as “The Livable Forest.” Kingwood had a population of a few thousand people in 1976. Between 1980 and 1990, the community’s population grew by 40 to 70 percent. The community had 19,443 residents and 204 businesses in 1990. In 1992, the population increased to 37,397. In 2005, the population was approximately 65,000, with nearly 200,000 people living within a ten-mile radius.
The City of Houston began the process of annexing Kingwood in 1994. According to Texas state law at the time, a home-rule city could annex an unincorporated area without the residents’ consent if the area was within the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. The annexation of Kingwood, according to Bob Lanier, then-Mayor of Houston, would result in a $4 million annual gain for the city. Lanier argued that bringing in Kingwood would increase the city’s tax base. On Wednesday, August 21, 1996, the Houston City Council directed the Planning and Development Department to develop service plans for Kingwood and Jacintoport, two additional Houston annexations. The annexation of Kingwood and Jacintoport added approximately 43,000 people to the city’s population. The annexation meant that areas that had been de-annexed by the city in the 1970s were re-annexed.
According to Renée C. Lee of the Houston Chronicle, residents of Kingwood “fought an uphill battle for two years.” Residents of Kingwood offered the city $4 million in exchange for not being annexed. Residents also filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Houston, alleging that the city was taxing them without their consent. Many residents assumed at the time that the City of Houston would not follow through on the state law requirement that annexing cities provide the same services to annexed areas as they do to their original territory. Some residents objected to the city annexing their neighborhood without their permission.
In 1996, Thomas Phillips, a retired longshoreman and Bordersville resident, joined forces with representatives from Kingwood to sue the City of Houston in federal court, claiming that the city could not legally annex areas if certain services were not provided to some of its existing areas, including Bordersville, which had never had city water. In a 1996 editorial in the Houston Business Journal, Imad F. Abdullah, President of Landmark Architects Inc., criticized residents who opposed annexation, arguing that a “not in my backyard” mentality in specific communities has a negative impact on the entire metropolitan area. On December 31, 1996, at 11:59 p.m., Houston annexed Kingwood, adding approximately 15,000 acres to the city limits.
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