City of Houston Sues Developer for Cutting Down Protected Trees
The City of Houston is suing Signature City Homes, its owners and contractors, following the removal of two large, healthy and valuable trees in the public right-of-way. The lawsuit filed in Harris County District Court claims a conspiracy by the defendants to act intentionally and with full knowledge that they would be breaking the law.
City law prohibits the removal of a tree when at least 50 percent of the trunk is in the public right-of-way. On August 17, 2013, the defendants cut down and removed a 100-year-old Live Oak with a trunk measuring approximately 36 inches in diameter from the city’s right-of-way at 801 Bomar Street. It was then discovered that defendants had also cut down and removed another tree of similar age and size at 1704 Blodgett St. The defendants have refused the opportunity to make appropriate reparation for their acts, leaving the City with no choice but to seek relief in court.
City Attorney Dave Feldman calls the developers’ actions wanton and malicious. “The timing of the destruction of trees on a weekend raises the suggestion that the developer cut the trees down in an attempt to escape detection and avoid certain community protest and legal action,” said Feldman. “It is also particularly disturbing coming on the heels of the well-publicized destruction of vegetation at Woodland Park and the price that a developer had to pay for its acts in that instance. These defendants placed their own commercial interests ahead of our citizens’ right to enjoy these trees. We have to make it clear to everyone that the public will simply not tolerate this type of conduct.”
The lawsuit alleges counts of negligence, gross negligence, conversion, theft and trespass. The city seeks $500,000 in actual damages, as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees as allowed for under the Texas Theft Liability Act.