Flower Mound planning and zoning advisers have given their stamp of approval for proposed changes to how developers can account for trees they remove during construction in certain areas of the town.
The planning & zoning commission voted unanimously Monday evening to recommend the removal of a tree mitigation exemption inside a section of land development regulations. The removal was unanimously supported last week by the town’s environmental conservation commission.
The following portion is what both commissions would like to see removed:
“All property zoned for nonresidential use and included within the Lakeside Business District, the Denton Creek District and all specific plan areas as defined in the town’s comprehensive plan relative only to the requirements of replacement trees and or cash equivalents for the removal of protected, specimen, majestic and/or historic trees pursuant to a tree removal permit granted by the town council.”
If this piece is removed, it means that in the future, non-residential projects in the mentioned locations must mitigate for the removal of protected, specimen and historic trees that were approved for removal during the development process. Boiled down, if the exception is removed, developers would have to plant a replacement tree or make a payment instead.
According to Matthew Woods, of the town’s environmental services department, development applicants have the option to plant replacement trees, pay in lieu of planting or a combination of both.
In Flower Mound:
- Mitigation costs $375 for a protected tree
- Cost for specimen trees = 2(caliper inches / 2), so the larger the tree the more mitigation required
- There are three classifications of specimen trees:
- 13″ small
- 19″ medium
- 25″ large
- Specimen tree removal requires a permit process through the ECC and town council and then mitigation.
In Flower Mound SPAs, 56 percent of the land is undeveloped. SPA 8 is takes up about one-half of that area and is not heavily treed. The other SPAs are about 15 undeveloped. The Denton Creek District is about 37 percent undeveloped and the Lakeside Business District is about 40 percent undeveloped, Woods said. Some of this undeveloped land is already vested by law.
But the P&Z approval did not come without some questions from commission and residents.
“I have to be honest I’m torn,” said Don McDaniel, vice chairman of the P&Z. “I love trees, I want to protect as many as I can. And honestly I hate that the SPAs have this exception. I hate that they were drawn this way. But the small government, protector of tax dollars, looking out for the littly guy side of me says, ‘Where’s my bang for my buck?’
“Nobody can tell me what percentage of the land is already vested, nobody can tell me what i’m going to get for this tax expense. And I have to balance those two things out and I’m having a little bit of a hard time with that because I hate the answer of, ‘We just don’t know.'”
But Commissioner Sandeep Sharma (Place 2) said not knowing who the changes might effect could help keep leaders unbiased.
“It evens the playing field for residential and non-residential at least in those areas, SPAs,” he said. “This is getting us back on the right track before those changes were made.”
Resident and ECC member Alton Bowman said that in 2013 almost 500 trees were lost to the town. Over the past 15 years, since the exemption was enacted, Flower Mound has lost about 7,000 trees that weren’t replaced.
During a public hearing with several supporters, one woman said she’s not in favor of removing the exception.
“What are facts we’re using?,” said resident Patsy Mizeur, adding that the town is in the process of surveying its tree canopy. “I think we’re kind of putting the cart before the horse.
“I thought the [town]master plan was etched in stone.When the town changes the master plan it’s OK, but when a business, a tax- providing entity, a services provider, a jobs provider or a home builder wants to change the master plan it’s nefarious and evil. Please explain the difference to me. That’s what I really need to know tonight.”
The proposal will now go before the town council for a final decision.