Residents near tree-cutting say city should have acted sooner
The City of Fort Worth has a problem that will only grow as new residents and businesses move to the area.
The City currently has too few inspectors and staff to make sure developers will do what they promise to do when they build new housing and commercial projects.
The excessive tree cutting by D.R. Horton in its clearing of 51 acres on heavily-wooded Randol Mill Road is just an example of how limited resources and oversight by the city can lead to irreversible damage that affects the quality of life in a neighborhood.
In August, 2016, the City of Fort Worth warned D.R. Horton their future Trinity Oaks subdivision with 219 residential sites lacked the required protective fencing used to separate trees to be preserved from those approved for removal.
These weren’t just any trees. They included post oaks, blackjack oaks and other hardwoods, some more than 100 years old, a remaining pocket of the ancient Cross Timbers forest where Native Americans found shelter and food.
A city staff report also documented heavy equipment “parked in critical root zone of preserved trees,” something that could damage or kill them.
These two warnings alone should have been red flags that the city needed to more closely monitor the developer. Instead, the incremental permit violations continued.
In March 2017, a 70- foot buffer of trees required by the developer’s permit had been reduced to just 40-feet.
Eight months later the city learned developers took out additional trees to accommodate retaining walls.They ultimately determined the portion of the original tree canopy that remained was less than the 25 percent developers had agreed to keep.
A D.R. Horton executive apologized, telling the Star-Telegram, “We are sorry for the mistake that occurred.” He said they wanted to “make it right,” though the company initially asked the city for a waiver with no penalty.
We’re pleased the City and it’s Urban Design Commission said “no” to no penalty. Their own report notes a series of instances where the developer violated the city ordinance or its permit. It says not putting up the protective fencing when they were warned “resulted in the unnecessary loss of canopy.”
The city is requiring D.R. Horton to replant five times the number of trees erroneously cut down and maintain them for two years.
But this is all after the fact. The old, urban hardwoods are gone. Habitat is lost and the city says the tree removal has contributed to flooding on Randol Mill Road.
We believe city staff are doing what they can with just two urban forestry professionals and limited staff devoted to inspections.
So what’s the answer? It begins with elected officials making this a priority.
▪ Find money to hire additional staff for monitoring development. It might come from steeper fines for violations or increased fees for inspections.
▪ Shutdown projects immediately when there’s an infraction.
▪ Offer incentives for developers who do things correctly.
The Trinity Oaks tree cutting isn’t the only case of a developer making mistakes or cutting corners. We’ve learned of another developer who began grading his Fort Worth subdivision with no approved permit and also cut too many trees. Glad to hear the city has ordered that developer to halt work.
We know Fort Worth is growing, but it’s important we do it right. What our city looks like in 20 years depends on how we handle this now.