Like the Lorax before her, mayor Annise Parker speaks for the trees . . .
As area real estate continues to thrive, the City of Houston remains dead set on protecting trees and foliage growing on public land.
Parker announced a $225,000 settlement with Signature City Homes after the developer toppled a large gum tree in the Museum Park area as well as a century-old live oak in Montrose that measured three feet in diameter. Each tree stood within the public right of way, allowing city officials to completely halt construction at both sites until an agreement could be reached on the fine.
"Developers cannot put their own commercial interest ahead of the law."
Though it's less than half of the City's original $500,000 demand, the payment marks the second major settlement with a local builder that destroyed portions of a tree canopy still recovering from an extended drought. In August, City Hall recovered $300,000 from a first-time condo developer that leveled nearly an acre of 100-year-old forest in Woodland Park just southeast of the Heights.
“We are fortunate that both commercial and residential development is booming in Houston to meet the demands of the strong economic growth in our city," Parker said in a statement. "However, developers cannot put their own commercial interest ahead of the law."
City ordinances prohibit the unpermitted removal of a tree when at least 50 percent of the trunk sits within the right of way. The mayor says she hopes the financial penalties will "send a strong message" to area builders, adding that officials will not tolerate the destruction of city trees with proper permits or approval.
In a message to the Houston Chronicle, Signature City Homes attorney Brian Cweren claims the tree removals were unintentional and that the company simply wanted to do the right thing, "even it if meant paying far more in settlement than the trees were actually worth."
The Houston Parks Department will use the Signature settlement funds to help restore natural vegetation in the neighborhoods affected by the developer.