Note to Self: Never Buy Along an Expressway and Think the Trees Will Stay Forever

12417 Quincy lane

By now you have probably heard that about 100 trees will be chopped down in North Dallas, trees that line the Dallas North Tollway on the eastern side from Forest Lane north for about a half mile to Harvest Hill Road. All sorts of varieties, too, pines, live oaks — good trees. For 30 years these trees have created a nice buffer between the Dallas North Tollway and the backyards of the folks who live on Quincy Lane in Melshire Estates.

So why are we doing this?

The trees are going to be cut down by Oncor to replace old transmission towers with spotless new towers, because we are sucking so much energy. There is an increased demand for power in this city — one of the many side-effects of our gleeful growth. (And you want Amazon?) Robert Wilonsky over at the Dallas Morning News heard about the Quincy Lane tree-ectomy from homeowners on that little street whose western edge backs right up to the Dallas North Tollway. The trees, writes Robert, are on Oncor’s property, since they own an easement behind the homes, abutting the Tollway. 

The trees have to go because they will make it too dangerous for the electrical upgrade work, which might involve helicopters. They are on Oncor’s property, and state law says Oncor can cut down any tree it wants if it interferes with utility equipment.

“That line isn’t just about the customers on Quincy that like the trees on Oncor right of way,” said Oncor spokesman Geoff Bailey, who also serves as CEO Allen Nye’s chief of staff, “but the hundreds of thousands of customers those lines serve.”

Bailey said, yes, this is all very “unfortunate” and “we understand the passion about trees.” But he said that verdant buffer must go to make way for construction equipment, including, likely, helicopters. They are dangerous, too, he said, as they begin growing toward the power lines. 

Still, it seems pretty drastic. This home at 12417 Quincy abuts the tollway and will likely lose some of the canopy in the backyard.

Still, the yard is very attractive. This home went on the market in January of 2018 for $469,000 and sold in July for $445,000. That’s a nice price, $179 per square foot for a 2,477 square foot, four bedroom home built in 1967. And there is a pool. Everyone in real estate knows that homes backing up to major highways like, say, the tollway, are usually discounted. They also get a break on property taxes. That’s actually good because the “negative” actually makes the home a bit more affordable. And it has some nice trees in front.

Will the loss of those Tollway buffer trees affect the property values of the homes on Quincy? 

As much as I love trees — I once wrapped one in moving blankets to protect it — I remember what it’s like around here during an ice storm, without power. What’s the longest you’ve been without power? After 3 hours I’m stir crazy, mostly because of no internet. I think we lost power for almost two days here in Hillcrest Estates a few years ago and I carried around candelabra like the queen of the manor, I played piano, I read by flashlight, there was no internet. I can cook and boil water on my gas stove, but the exhaust does not work. You use a cookbook IF you cook, there was no internet. My neighbor at the other end of the block was out for nearly a week; don’t know how they did it. No baths for two nights (then cold quick showers), she heated water over the fireplace, dressed in layers, went to bed at eight pm. Also there was no internet which was, she said, the worst.

So I really don’t understand the fuss about these trees. Oh I think it’s sad to see them go. I hate cutting down trees, even the sick ones. (R.I.P. Beautiful Red Oak 2016). But if we like our lifestyle, our computers and gadgets, it takes power and we need those new transmission towers. Why not just ask Oncor to plant a new tree somewhere in Dallas — maybe in these neighbor’s back yards? — for every tree they have to take down?

I know they don’t have to, but you could ask. It’s job security:

Dallas cannot afford to lose trees — these or any other. This city, according to the Texas Trees Foundation, is getting hotter every year — “heating up faster than every city in the country except for Phoenix,” in fact, according to its 2017 Urban Heat Island Effect study. Every day more of this city gets covered in concrete. And every day our urban canopy shrinks just a little bit more.

I like what our chief arborist, Phil Erwin, said about the trees, which were planted about thirty years ago: they shouldn’t have been there in the first place —

“It looks great now, but they should have thought about it 30 years ago,” he said. “You have to be able to maintain the city’s infrastructure, and sometimes it’s just a matter of the trees are in the way.  Unfortunately as the city grows and the system has to be upgraded, well, they have to be removed. It’s a bad situation for everybody.”

Indeed it is. But people who buy homes along a tollway must know that if they are not in control of property right to the edge of the asphalt, they have no say over what happens to that land. If you don’t know that, let this story be a lesson. The neighbors are very sad to see those trees go because they were a visual and acoustical barrier to the Dallas North Tollway. The trees filtered the air as well. And they were aesthetically pleasing. 

Who did plant them? Like most things at City Hall, it’s a secret:

How the city got involved I have no idea — the neighbors, I assume, at least based on a letter I got from City Hall on Monday. 

It’s dated Oct. 30, 1984, and in it the city’s then-director of Public Works tells the Texas Turnpike Authority that in exchange for the land needed to extend the toll road north, the TTA will build a 30-foot-tall wall. The city would also determine what needed to be planted there — at the TTA’s expense. City Hall also agreed “to maintain the landscaping and irrigation system and furnish water for irrigation.”

But no one at City Hall or the NTTA can find any final agreement that proves who actually planted and paid for the trees. And Oncor says it can’t find any documents showing that DP&L was ever notified of the deal between the city and the TTA. 

Shhhhhh.

 

One Comment

  • We lived in Melshire Estates when the Tollway was being completed. At that time we were told that other residential areas which abutted the Tollway (the Park Cities and parts of North Dallas) had enough clout to see that the Tollway was constructed underground where it intersected with cross streets in those areas. Apparently the residents (including us) near Forest Lane did not have enough influence to ensure that the Tollway was built underground at Forest Lane. If it had been, the properties on Quincy Lane would now be more valuable even without the trees.