City Hall

At City Hall, the Maples Scream Oppression, And the Oaks Just Shake Their Heads

Bob Curry, chair of the city's Urban Forest Advisory Committee, came to the council's Quality of Life Committee this morning with a warning: Come spring, we'll learn how many Dallas's trees will be lost to devastating summer weather. He said: Look no further than Houston. Down there, he said, there are 660 million trees -- and it's expected that 66 million will be lost due to the drought. Maybe more. Dallas, he said, will also lose many millions of trees. Cue the audible gasps.

Which is one reason among many Curry came to the council committee with a proposal to revise the tree and landscaping ordinance -- an ordinance that is supposed to either keep developers from clear-cutting large areas of land or force them to repay or replant elsewhere. But as Sandy Greyson said: City Hall's not enforcing that. At all. "I've been told that part of the problem with the existing tree ordinance is a lack of will to enforce," she said. "I don't know if that's the case or not, and if it is I'd like to see something in writing that doesn't give them the flexibility."

Greyson and Curry pointed to familiar sites that have seen their tree populations decimated in recent years: Timbercreek, Walnut Hill and Central Expressway, Grady Niblo. Said Greyson of the Walnut Hill site: "It's [been] left there for years and years and years and is unacceptable." (Update: Trammell Crow Company would like to remind that it "fully complied with the city tree ordinance," even exceeding it, when developing Timbercreek.)

As it stands now, developers are supposed to replace or pay into the reforestation fund for trees they cut down when they develop a site. But they don't, not always. And, Curry said: Developers forced to mitigate tree decimation scoff at the high costs and insist certain pieces of property are rendered undevelopable, "especially in Southern Dallas." So we're stuck, he said. Stuck. Unless, that is, city staff is given further leeway to interpret the ordinance. The council's not prepared to do that. That will take some convincing.

And this discussion, like the one surrounding the street-vending ordinance, didn't get past the introductory phase this morning. Angela Hunt wants more folks to chime in -- from Sustainable Development, from Housing, from all over. "We don't have a beach," said Hunt, or mountains. "But we do have trees, and that makes a difference to our neighborhoods."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky