Residents near tree-cutting say city should have acted sooner
Some Fort Worth City Council members seemed to have gotten the message: the city needs to more aggressively monitor development and apply tougher penalties when builders break rules.
Tuesday, District 5 Council Member Gyna Bivens told the city manager and council she wants to look at strengthening enforcement of the tree ordinance adopted in 2009. That discussion should take place this spring.
Residents in Bivens district and this Star-Telegram editorial board have demanded better citizen access to permit information and changes in the policing of development following D.R. Horton’s excessive cutting of trees on 51 forested acres on Randol Mill Road.
“The idea that D.R. Horton could do this mass clear cutting and in the eyes of my constituents get away with it, with a slap on the wrist is awful. It’s an insult and we’re all still very upset about it,” said Bivens.
City documents detail a series of early permit violations at the future Trinity Oaks subdivision that should have sent up red flags and prompted the city to require corrective actions before tree cutting and runoff problems got out of hand.
The city is requiring D.R. Horton to plant five times the trees wrongly cleared, but that seems like pocket change for one of the country’s largest home builders.
“(The citizens) believe a back door deal was done,” said Bivens.
Bivens wants the city to prevent development errors by arming citizens with online permit information and by conducting in-person tree inspections before construction begins.
She also wants the city to expand its two-person urban forestry staff. We’ve suggested the city might pay for that with fines that grow larger with successive violations or with increased inspection fees. Offer incentives for developers playing by the rules, and shut down projects immediately when there’s an infraction. Time is money and that should get their attention.
The city recently stopped work at one residential subdivision where the builder started grading with no permit and cut down too many trees. The company is correcting errors and paying $9,500 to the city tree fund.
The city has identified a total of six urban forestry violations in the past six months. There are no doubt others we just don’t know about.
We like where Bivens is headed with her suggestions for protecting trees. And with the city's rapid growth we hope the council will expand the discussion to include stronger standards for all aspects of development.