Dallas Builders Association executive officer Phil Crone says that the Dallas ordinances on parks and trees need refinement before a final vote.

By Phil Crone
Executive Officer, Dallas Builders Association

On May 16, the Dallas City Council heard separate proposals concerning a new Park Land Dedication Ordinance and revisions to Article X, which concerns tree planting and conservation in the city limits. A vote on each is expected before the council’s July recess.

My personal involvement on the tree ordinances dates back to 2009, when the Dallas Builders Association began to talk with stakeholders about possible improvements. Article X has created challenges for new development, especially in South Dallas. The premise of the ordinance is to assign fees to the removal of trees on private property. Property owners can attempt to reduce or eliminate fees by preserving the existing tree canopy, replanting desirable trees using best practice methods, and/or other sustainable development methods.

The new draft of Article X does provide property owners with more carrots, but it also adds more sticks and lacks transparency on key items such as the fees and how they are used. Another problem

Phil Crone

is that the ordinance now assigns a mitigation fee to nuisance trees such as Hackberries and thorn-ridden Mesquite trees, albeit at a lower rate than others. Hackberries are found in large numbers on property throughout Dallas, meaning that several small fees add up to one large fee when it comes time to remove them. The larger a Hackberry grows, the more brittle and dangerous it becomes. Their leaves attract aphids that drip honeydew on everything below. Eventually, black sooty mold grows on the honeydew. In other words, a Hackberry has no redeeming qualities. The Dallas Builders Association is proposing a measure that allows property owners to remove smaller, less desirable species, defined as Class 3 trees in the ordinance, without paying a fee.

Article X currently lacks the credit for new replacement trees now required by state law. House Bill 7, which became effective in December, was supported by the City of Dallas and the Dallas Builders Association in the most recent legislative session. By focusing on credit for planting replacement trees, we felt this was a better alternative to more aggressive proposals that sought to remove municipal authority from tree preservation entirely. The proposed changes to Article X outline the process that, in most cases, should achieve the result state law allows. However, inclusion of language from the statute would guarantee property owners no worse than the outcome provided for by the legislature.

Our final concerns with Article X deal with transparency. (more…)