Efforts are underway in the Texas legislature to prohibit cities from enforcing tree saving ordinances in the Extraterritorial Jurisdictions (called ETJs). If the proposed legislation is passed, Austin’s efforts to protect trees in the outer rim of the city may be nullified.
According to a story in the Austin American-Statesman, the two cities that would be impacted the most would be Austin and San Antonio which both have existing protections in the city-level laws to prevent clear cutting to avoid soil erosion and to maintain some of the natural beauty of the land when developers come in to build. Of course, saving trees is more expensive than clear cutting, which is why some builders and developers are speaking out in favor of the new legislation. Currently, Austin’s rules require developers building a subdivision to get a permit before clearing vegetation that could lead to soil erosion.
The question comes down to protecting the environment versus protecting personal property rights. Recently, other efforts have been made to increase the protection of personal property rights including an important piece of legislation that is pending regarding eminent domain. In this case, however, only a few people would be impacted. Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) is trying to add language to the bill that would exempt Austin from the new rule, though it is unsure whether he will be able to succeed in that effort.
Another tree-related bill that has been filed in the current Texas legislative session seeks to reduce or remove fees for improperly cutting down trees, which would counter Austin’s recent ordinances to fine those who cut down any of Austin’s oldest and largest trees. It remains to be seen if either measure has the support to make it’s way to the Governor’s desk, but the fight for ETJ rules appears to have strong backing.
Stayed tuned for further information about this measure that is important to the real estate industry in Texas, and especially in Austin.