We had the opportunity to sit down and interview local resident of The Woodlands Matthew Burton who will be running for a seat on The Woodlands Township Board of Directors in the November elections.
If you’re not already familiar with him, Burton started a Change.org petition in February of 2015 titled, “Stop clear cutting the forest in The Woodlands! Please use selective cutting and forest buffers in new development consistent with the original vision of George Mitchell.”
Burton’s petition did very well bringing in over 2,200 signers in a short period of time and was picked up by Chron.com and Community Impact numerous times who both covered his efforts. It’s easy to see why the petition did so well, being there’s a very valid point in the message. I believe George Mitchell would have signed the petition himself if he saw the way clear cutting was going on. The areas addressed include Creekside and a few newer developments of The Woodlands, that are not consistent with other Villages in the community like Grogan’s Mill, Panther Creek, Cochran’s Crossing or Alden Bridge. George Mitchell wasn’t against development or things that are good for the economy, but he did have a quality set of standards he put in place for The Woodlands. Those standards valuing a lot of forestry around development and blending nature with everyday life in a modern urban area made it what it is today.
Burton moved to The Woodlands in May of 2013 from Northern Nevada to take a job in Oil & Gas after a downturn in his previous industry which was mining.
“The Woodlands was developed in a manner unlike any development most of us have ever seen, and that’s why people move here, we need to uphold those standards. I could have chose to live anywhere in Houston, but I chose The Woodlands because I fell in love with it.”, said Burton.
On top of the petition Burton also had a meeting with TWDC addressing his concerns and asking for something to be done about it. His efforts proved worthy after receiving a response to his petition from them. Matthew did give credit to the The Woodlands Development Company owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation for thier response to the petition, stating they would make some changes in the way development was taking place in Creekside. This was a major milestone in progress for Burton’s petition, but he still wants to fight for the people of The Woodlands on causes and issues like this and others that he believes are beneficial to the community, which is why he has decided to run for The Woodlands Township Board of Directors. You can read the official response below.
Click here to read: Official response from The Woodlands Development Company listing out landscape improvements they agree to >>>
There’s no doubt The Woodlands Development Company and Howard Hughes Corporation do a great job in many areas of development, but this is one area I believe they could use the voices of the residents in upholding the image and standards of what people want, are paying for and buying when they move to The Woodlands.
Here are some questions we were able to ask Matthew Burton:
Woodlands Journal – “When did you first move to The Woodlands?”
Matthew Burton – “May of 2013”
WJ – “What brought you here or attracted you to the area?”
Matthew Burton – “I moved here from Northern Nevada where I was in a career of mining, which was experiencing a downturn at the time. I switched over to the oil and gas industry and that actually brought me here to Houston. I could’ve lived anywhere in Houston, and I chose The Woodlands, I just fell in love with the place. It’s so different than anywhere else in Houston, and it’s worth the premium to live here.”
WJ – “What are some of your favorite things to do in The Woodlands?”
Matthew Burton – “I’m part of The Woodlands Rowing Club, I love to go out early morning when the mist is rising on Lake Woodlands and row up and down the lake. I love to go to the pool and on bike rides with my family, you know the things that all Woodlands families love to do”
“I’m also very involved with my church as well, I go to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which is over on Glen Loch road.”
“You know, that’s another thing I love about The Woodlands, originally George Mitchell had the philosophy of, he wanted churches to have land because he knew if we get good churches in the area, we’re going to get a good community to follow, it doesn’t matter what religious denomination you go to, but he knew if you get healthy church communities in an area, it’s going to prop up the community as a whole and it definitely has.”
WJ – “When did you first come to the conclusion that The Woodlands Development Company’s clear cutting approach to development in Creekside was not in line with what The Woodlands was founded upon by George Mitchell?”
Matthew Burton – “It’s really simple, all you have to do is drive through a neighborhood in Creekside Forest and drive through a neighborhood north of Spring Creek, and you can just see the stark contrast. If you drive through a neighborhood in Creekside many of them don’t have any trees left in the front yards, many of them don’t even have trees left in the back yards, which is not consistent.”
“The Woodlands Development Company likes to highlight the good things they’ve done in Creekside, like they planted trees 20 years ago, Thank you, and they leave some trees, Thank you, it’s still better than Katy or Houston, but that’s not the standard we’re going by here. The standard is The Woodlands.”
“It’s obvious in the original development standards the rules were enforced upon the builders, but in Creekside they’re not, and the builders are allowed to bulldoze all the trees cause it’s easier for them.”
WJ – “At what point did you decide to get serious about the issue and start a Change.org petition against the clear cutting development methods being used today in Creekside Forest?”
Matthew Burton – “One day I was just thinking, that’s not right, and I don’t know if it’s going to go anywhere, but I want to try to do something about it. I was sold The Woodlands, I bought The Woodlands, there is a big premium to live here, but was being built and given Katy.”
“That’s not good business practice. That’s a deceptive business practice, so that’s the impetus for our petition, for our continued involvement, we’re not saying don’t develop anything. What we’re saying is, don’t change the rules, don’t take short cuts, do the things the way you you said you would do them, cause that’s what you sold everyone and that’s what we expect. That’s why people move here.”
WJ – “What was the pivotal moment that caused you to take a stand and start the petition?”
Matthew Burton – “It really became a good teaching moment for my kids. My oldest son he’s seven, and every time we’d drive past the lots that they were clear cutting, he would say “Dad I know that clear cutting bothers you, but what are we going to do about it?”
“That really got me to thinking, well lets try to do something about it, so one day I took $100 out of our family budget and went and got some signs printed up that said, “Dear Woodlands Development Company, George Mitchell called, he wants his forest back.”
“Then I’d go out and put those signs up around the properties that they were clear cutting, and my son and I would go out and do that, it was great teaching opportunity for him. I said son, if you see something that you don’t feel like is right try to do something about it. Then one day people started taking pictures of them and they kinda started to go viral, and I thought, we’re onto something there are many more who feel the same about this.”
WJ – “How much success has the petition or campaign had since you started it? We see it has 2,271 signatures as of today”
Matthew Burton – “I think it’s had a lot of success, and the development company deserves credit for the good changes that they’ve made. We want to encourage them to continue to do those good things. They’re planting larger trees then they used to.
“The verdict is still out on whether they will stop clear cutting on the future commercial development over there, but I really hope that they will. They told they will, I can send you their OFFICIAL RESPONSE for what they committed to”
“They committed to some concrete changes. They deserve credit for the good changes they have made, but we have to keep up the effort for the good changes. The Woodlands needs to have elected officials that will stand up for these same issues and resident issues consistently.”
“We stopped promoting the petition a while ago, those 2,000 plus signatures all came within a couple of weeks of it’s launch. People can still sign the petition if they want to, but at this point the petition has kind of served it’s purpose. The next step is to actually get representation on the board of directors that will continue to fight, and continue the advocacy. I will do that.”
“Directors who signed and supported the petition were: Gordy Bunch, John McMullen and Peggy Hausman.”
“No directors came out totally against the petition, but I went in front of the board and I directly asked them for help, “I said here’s the petition, I handed them the list of all of our signatures and comments from people who had signed the petition asking for help.” “I said here’s 2,000 of your constituents who are asking for your help on this issue, that’s clearly very important to our community, please use your influence to help up.”
“Gordy, John and Peggy all signed the petition. They were just phenomenal in how they supported it.”
“Mike Bass, did not sign the petition but he did get involved and did help in his own way and I’m appreciative of that. He actually introduced me to the development company and we were able to have some meetings that were very productive to come to a solution.”
WJ – “Was there anyone who seemed to be against the petition?”
Matthew Burton – “It seemed pretty clear, or at least I thought that Bruce Tough was against us. He just kind of completely ignored us. I reached out to him multiple times directly and just got back radio silence. I get it, he’s got close ties to the development company you know, but if you’ve got 2,000 signatures from some of your constituents and you choose to ignore it, as an elected official, I don’t know how you do that. I get it your a busy guy, but if you’ve got 2,000 signatures on a petition and you still ignore it, that’s big. I understand he probably didn’t want to ruffle feathers, but the development company doesn’t elect you, your constituents elect you.”
WJ – “What are a few major things you would focus on or address if elected into Township Board of Directors?”
Matthew Burton – “Zoning standards, Upholding development standards that are consistent with the founding of our community. Not going to stop development or anything like that, but we’re going to do everything I can to make sure that development is done in a The Woodlands / George Mitchell type of way.”
“I would like to help keep the new sections of The Woodlands consistent with the other villages of The Woodlands.”
WJ – “When will voting take place for the next election and where can residents vote?”
Matthew Burton – “November 3rd, it’ll be on the ballot. Everyone can go to their normal precinct polling stations in November.”
WJ – “How can The Woodlands residents support your Change.org campaign / possible Township Board of Directors position?
Matthew Burton – “Message me on Facebook at my Matthew Burton for The Woodlands Township Board of Directors account and asked to get involved. We’ve got a lot of people volunteering to help, and I love that. I’d love all the help I can get.”
Matthew Burton for Township Board of Directors
Jul 7, 2015 — Hi everyone,
Many of you have suggested over the past several months that I run for Woodlands Township Board of Directors. I’ve put a lot of thought into it, and I’m ready to announce that I’m in. Let’s do this.
By no stretch of the imagination would I ever consider myself a politician. However, I recognize the need to have local elected officials here in The Woodlands who will stand up for the residents–and not just deliver favors to builders and development companies. We made great progress with our petition against the clear cutting in Creekside Park, and we helped defeat the Woodlands Parkway extension in the road bond, but there is still much work to be done. I will continue to fight those battles for you!
If you recall, three Township Directors supported our petition from the beginning: Gordy Bunch, John McMullan, & Peggy Hausman. Thank you once again! Others on the Board ignored us or even worked against us, so it’s clear that every seat matters in this upcoming election.
Peggy Hausman is retiring from public service this year. We are grateful for all she has done for our community over the years and will miss her greatly! I am running for her vacant position so that we can keep this board seat friendly to resident causes. We cannot lose this seat to an “establishment candidate”.
Please follow the link below to my campaign Facebook page and then LIKE and SHARE with other Woodlands friends. Any establishment candidate for the position is going to be very well funded, so our grass-roots efforts to get the word out are essential.
And if you’d like to be involved in the campaign or have suggestions for me, I’d love to hear from you!
Talk to you soon,