San Antonio Officials Blast AG Opinion that 'Tree Ordinances' Are Illegal

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is blasting as a 'publicity stunt' an opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that municipal tree ordinances, like the one the City of San Antonio approved in 2003, are unconstitutional, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"While the opinion suggests there is a fundamental problem with tree ordinances observed by local communities in the state, in truth, there is not," Nirenberg said.  "This is the legislative equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater."

Nirenberg says the tree ordinance has already survived a court challenge, and he is confident it can survive another.

Paxton's four page opinion, which is not law, but indicates where the Office of the Attorney General would stand in case of a legal challenge, determined that 'if a municipal tree preservation ordinance operates to deny a property owner all economically beneficial or protective use of land, the ordinance will result in a 'taking' that requires just compensation."

Paxton said a court is likely to find that the tree ordinance 'imposes restrictions that unreasonably interfere with landowners rights to use and enjoy their property.'

Gov. Abbott has asked the Legislature to pass a law in the Special Session overriding all municipal tree ordinances, which he says is a violation of private property rights.  

City officials say the San Antonio tree ordinance only covers developers, not individual property owners.  It requires that if developers demolish trees preparatory to building homes or commercial structures on the property, they must replant the trees or pay a 'mitigation fee.'

Tree ordinances have also been blamed for the disappearance of 'Ray Ellison style' low cost housing in the City.

The opinion was requested by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) who is one of the sponsors of the bill to eliminate municipal tree ordinances.