A community long known for its historic oak trees will soon have new ordinances to protect them after city staff members recently made changes allowing the council to have final authority over the measures.
The city’s Parks Board for months has been considering changes to the tree ordinances, including increasing the size requirement that defines a significant tree from 36 inches to 38 inches in diameter and increasing the fines for those who violate the ordinances, among others.
But several members of the council had earlier objected to the proposals over concern about Texas law, enforcement and who had regulatory authority.
“Before, I had concerns about the hard, red line,” Councilman Nick Long said. “No matter the circumstances, you couldn’t cut down some tress. Because the updates add an appeals process, I can support this as written.”
After a presentation to the council in June, city staff members changed the wording of the ordinances to give the city planner and council the ability to hear resident appeals and the ability to waive mitigation requirements in some instances, Planning Director David Hoover said.
Despite those changes, however, some councilmen said they had some concerns and advocated more changes.
“Who is going to be the tree police of League City?” Councilman Larry Millican asked.
Councilman Hank Dugie asked city staff members to consider adding a registry for historic trees that property owners could volunteer to place their trees on and asked if the council could delay the measure until they made the change.
“I appreciate the good job everyone has done, but we are down in the weeds,” Mayor Pat Hallisey said. “Nothing is perfect, and we’re eventually going to hear about problems with these ordinances. But why would we keep kicking this down the road — we can amend it at any time.”
The council eventually voted 7-0 to approve the new ordinances on first reading. The matter will come before the council for a final reading Sept. 25, officials said.
Residents of the city have been calling for tree ordinance changes ever since efforts to save a historic oak tree at League City Elementary School fell short of raising enough money to move a tree from a construction zone.
League City, with a population near 105,000, has a history of protecting trees from development. In 2012, the city paid $197,500 to move a Compton oak tree so it wouldn’t be cut down for the widening of Louisiana Avenue.
In 1872, George Washington Butler bought 30 acres in what is now League City, including the land where League City Elementary School is, descendant Anita Butler said.