Southlake Journal

April 7, 2014

Colleyville looks to protect trees

City staff hopes to encourage tree conservation and strengthen penalties.

City leaders want to make sure the Colleyville of tomorrow has plenty of trees.

City staff sought council feedback on a direction for amendments to tree preservation regulations at the April 1 meeting.

Community Development Director Ron Ruthven said staff decided to revisit the regulations at a time when development has picked up.

With a large amount of development occurring in city limits, council members want to find a way to ensure developers preserve as many trees as possible.

Mayor David Kelly said he wants more punitive measures for developments that remove trees they should not have.

“My concern is, mistakes are going to happen, but when it’s willful, when they’ve been told several times and they still do it,” he said. “That’s willful negligence and I think they should get hammered for it.”

Ruthven said currently if a developer removes a tree without a tree removal permit, the most restrictive action a city can take is cite the violation as a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,000 per day. The city also has mitigation fees that impact if a developer removes select trees, the developer has to either pay into a fund or replace the loss with new trees.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Taylor said it seems like developers are budgeting for penalties and fines for removing trees they shouldn’t rather than actually saving trees.

“We seem to be erring on the side of forgiveness rather than permission,” he said. “Maybe we’re not handling the enforced provision side of it.”

City staff surveyed neighboring cities for ideas and discussed those with the Council.

While still in the works, Ruthven said staff has drawn inspiration from other cities that also charge mitigation fees in addition to issuing Class C misdemeanors.

Ruthven said city staff is looking at ways to encourage tree conservation.

“When a tree gets taken down you can’t easily replace it,” he said. “You can mitigate for it, but once you lose an old mature tree it’s gone.”

Councilwoman Carol Wollin supported more detailed requirements for developers to discourage the removal of trees.

“That’s the one thing we hear from our citizens, they appreciate our urban forest,” she said.

Ruthven said staff hopes to bring more detailed ideas back to council soon.

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