The recurring theme of development versus oak trees continues to vex some League City residents and officials.
Recently, Councilman Greg Gripon and many residents were calling for change in the city’s tree ordinance after the Clear Creek Independent School District got permission to cut down a 110-year-old oak tree at League City Elementary School to make way for a parking lot.
In another part of town, 18 mature oak trees must go to make room for a canal in a new waterfront subdivision, the developer said. That plan and other aspects of the development have renewed calls for a tightening of the city’s tree ordinance.
Joe Watson, who is developing Town Harbour Estates on Clear Lake near Lakeside Drive in eastern League City, said loss of the trees would be regrettable but necessary. Moving them was not an option, he said.
“It’s not economical,” Watson said Thursday during a parks board meeting.
The board approved the park plans for the subdivision in a 5-2 vote. President Vaness Hamilton and board member Joanna Dawson voted against it. The five who voted to approve the plan were Jay Williams, Chad Tressler, Sebastian Lofaro, Garet L. Nenninger and Sandra Kelly.
The park plan next goes to the Planning and Zoning Commission and then to the city council.
Town Harbour Estates, a planned unit development, is following the city’s tree ordinance and proposes planting enough trees to make up for the old oaks it will cut down, city staff said.
The plans call to cut down about 500 inches of trees. The number comes from adding the circumferences of the trunks of the targeted trees. In accordance with the city tree ordinance, the developer will plant 630 inches of new trees.
But the new trees will be small, some only 3 inches in circumference, while many of the trees being demolished are 21 inches to 26 inches in circumference. The largest oak tree is more than 30 inches in circumference, Watson said.
The larger, older trees are close to the shore and near an old, overgrown road marked on maps as Oak Road, board member Lofaro said.
But the trees have to go to make room for a 143-foot, man-made canal, Watson said.
Town Harbour Estates will be a gated community with 73 to 75 lots on 37 acres, said Mark Linenschmidt, a senior planner with the city.
A 37-acre subdivision would require about almost an acre in parkland, Linenschimdt said. Town Harbour Estates far exceeds that requirement by planning a total of 3.75 acres of park space for recreational use, he said.
But much of the space would be thin borders on the edges of the development, according to maps depicting the plans.
The Parks Board and city staff could rewrite parts of the master park plan to close the loophole of counting thin spaces in the future, city staff said.
It’s not the only loophole board members want to close.
“The loss of historic oak trees in League City has to come to an end,” park board member Sandra Kelly said.
There is very little reason to ever destroy a heritage or historic oak tree that is more than 100 years old, she said.
“We have to balance between development, progress and the preservation of our history and natural environment,” Kelly said. “League City is known to be the city of oak trees. It is our identity. It is important that we readdress the tree ordinance immediately to keep this travesty from happening again.”