Compromise Limiting Tree Cutting on Private Property Okayed by Committee

Developers would be free to clear cut most trees on property they buy for development, under a far reaching state tree law approved on Tuesday by a State Senate committee, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The vote in the Committee was a narrow 5-3, with some Senators saying the bill goes too far, and others saying it doesn't go far enough to rein in city laws which prohibit the cutting of trees on private property.

San Antonio Development Director Michael Shannon says this local tree ordinance doesn't affect private residential property at all.

"San Antonio's ordinance doesn't regulate homeowners," he said.  "Your house, you can do whatever you want with that tree."

State officials say local tree ordinances are a violation of private property rights, and say restricts on cutting down trees are part of the reason why the price of new homes is skyrocketing.

Cities like San Antonio say trees are scenic, help cool the temperature, make the city a much more attractive place, and help counter the environmental damage caused by motor vehicle exhaust fumes.

David Claunch, the former mayor of the Austin suburb of Westlake Hills, blasted the proposed state law.

"Without sensible local regulations, these bad actors can damage the communities they operate it," he said, referring to developers.  "This Senate bill would give them free rein to do so."

And Claunch blasted claims that local tree ordinances are a violation of private property rights.

"Prohibiting the removal of large heritage trees, it is not a 'taking' it does not violent eminent domain, it does not deny you the full enjoyment of your property as described in the Constitution."

The compromise bill, which was written with an eye toward appealing both to a House substitute and to Gov. Abbott, would ban the cities from prohibiting the removal of trees which are less than 24 inches in diameter, and would cap any 'mitigation fees' imposed by the city for tree removal.

Abbott had wanted to a law that completely bans all local restrictions on tree demolition, and it is unknown whether he will accept this compromise, which now goes to the full Senate.

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