Back in June, developers razed nearly an acre of Woodland Park to give their new town homes a better view of the grounds leading toward the bayou.
The city announced a settlement yesterday, finalized on August 15th, wherein the developers are paying a $300,000 fine. The payment was received, via cashier’s check, that same day. They were out a little more than that, as they had legal counsel and have to absorb the cost, in some sense, for the two-month work stoppage.
The big questions:
• Is $300,000 sufficient to restore the park? Obviously, it cannot be restored to the condition it was before, because mature trees can’t be miraculously recovered, but restored to the extent possible/reasonable?
• Is $300,000 sufficient as a penalty? Is it more than they will recoup by being able to sell three houses (or two, if the claims that one developer plans to live there hold true) that now have a lovely, rolling view to the bayou instead of a dense wall of vegetation?
• Is $300,000 sufficient as a deterrent when other developers are making decisions about removing inconvenient vegetation in other public park areas or otherwise altering adjoining property to increase the value of their own developments?
Certainly, $300,000 sounds worse than the $20,000 some men were fined for cutting down 5 trees to improve their view of Lake Tahoe. (Then again, 75 trees @ $4,000 = $300,000, and don’t forget, the reforestation is going to have to include debris removal, re-grading in a flood plain, and restoration of trails in addition to vegetation.)
Houston, too, is notorious for doing nothing/being able to do nothing when it comes to most city versus developer issues, so $300,000 is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. And, at a certain point, the world must move forward.
A part of me howls for something more, however, something that has a bit more poetry than payment via cashier’s check.
In essence, the developers just paid $300,000 + expenses for a lovely view. Within six months, they’ll enjoy the benefit of the city’s landscaping job. I would like to suggest one element to that plan that I think might mollify those of us who were really angered by this episode.
The city should erect a sign. A really big one. One that pretty much blocks the view from all three town homes. And that sign should have a reminder on it, that the reason for the sign was the fact that the three homes were unfairly granted an improved view at the great cost of the destruction of city property that included a mature tree canopy.
Look, I’m flexible. Even if it doesn’t totally block the view, it should dominate the view.Certainly, it should go up before the homes are put on the market. I believe that might be a fitting final gesture.