Proposed House Bill could challenge Austin's Heritage Tree Ordinance

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by SHELTON GREEN / KVUE News and Photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Bio | Email | Follow: @SheltonG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on March 20, 2013 at 10:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 21 at 10:41 AM

AUSTIN – Austin has long been known as a city which treasures its trees, however, some city arborists are now concerned about a proposed bill by a state lawmaker which could trump the city’s present Heritage Tree Ordinance.

State Representative Lois Kolkhorst, (R) Brenham, is sponsoring House Bill 1177, a proposal which questions how far cities can go when it comes to trees ordinances.

A spokesperson in Kolkhorst’s office said Wednesday that the state lawmaker realizes the issue is delicate and said she is meeting with all sides trying to find a delicate balance, mainly from a property owner’s point of view.

The city has had a Heritage Tree Ordinance for almost three years. Any tree that’s 24-inches in diameter or more cannot be removed without city approval.

An Austin developer who did not want to be interviewed said that while he sees both sides of the issue, he believes that the Heritage Tree Ordinance is an overall bad thing for Austin because it slows down development dramatically. He also said in some cases developers have doled out millions in dollars for tree removal and replacement.

Wednesday night, members of Austin’s Urban Forestry Board were briefed on the Heritage Ordinance as they are in each of their monthly meetings.

A city arborist said that a group of them will be sitting down with State Representative Kolkhorst next week in hopes of finding middle ground on the issue.

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