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Flower Mound council amends tree ordinance

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tree in north FMFlower Mound’s Town Council validated the Planning and Zoning Commissioner’s Nov. 14 approval for two additional land-use definition amendments to correct the perceived “density gap” between the current Medium [minimum 10,000-square-feet lots] and High [under 10,000-square-feet lots] Density residential terms.

The new Medium High Density [7,500-square-feet lots] and High Density Single-Family Detached (High SFD) [minimum 3,000-square-feet lots] are the new categories. The new High SFD restricts the property from being zoned for apartment development without a Master Plan amendment.

The revised definition for High Density residential will include five units per acre, including duplexes, townhomes and garden apartments.

“This will create some clarity and reduce some angst,” said council member Don McDaniel. “I think it’s a good compromise and the right thing to do.”

The council vote to approve was unanimous.

Also under consideration by council members were several proposed amendments to the town’s Tree Ordinance.

The town staff and the ECC (Environmental Conservation Committee) recommended: reducing the specimen size for post oak trees from 25-caliper inches to 19-caliper inches; amending the buildable area definition to allow additional tree credits for protected trees outside the floodplain and required buffers; provide credits for upland and riparian habitat to be preserved; and, provide additional tree credits/incentives for preserved post oak trees within the buildable area of a site.

“I know lots of us on council have been pushing for this for many years,” said Mayor Tom Hayden. “And, it’s not just negative reinforcement; it’s positive reinforcement. It’s ‘if you do this, you’ll benefit from it;’ not just punishment—there’s a positive for saving trees.”

Although the council members were enthusiastic that forward movement on updating the Tree Ordinance was in the final stretch, others expressed concern about such a drastic lowering of the tree caliper measurement.

“Lowering the threshold would have a negative impact on the development in the town of Flower Mound, including increased tree mitigation and preservation costs,” said David Lehde, director of government affairs for the Dallas Builders Association, which represents builders in seven Texas counties. “In some areas, the number of trees designated as specimen trees could more than double, depending on the measurements.”

Local developer Reginald Rembert also pointed to the cost impact for protecting post oaks on a larger development site. He said the approximate cost to install a six-foot high chain-link fence around the drip-line for each individual tree to be protected could cost $1,500. And, although that may not be significant for a development on a smaller acreage, it will become astronomical for larger sites.

“I have a 300-acre development in the works farther west with 108 25-inch caliper trees, but if I have to preserve 19-inch caliper ones, there are 289, which means the cost soars,” said Rembert.

Mayor Tom Hayden and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Webb said if a municipality goes too far with restrictions, they may lose their right to regulate it.

Hayden read from a statement about Gov. Greg Abbott not being in support of municipalities enforcing rules on fracking, tree cutting and other ordinances that may be considered too far-reaching, according to Texas State governing.

“I don’t want it to be the ‘Flower Mound State Law,’ where we [lose] municipal control over tree ordinances, because of something that was too far-reaching,” Hayden said.

A compromise of 22-inch caliper post oak tree preservation led to a unanimous approval of the ordinance change.

The second agenda item, concerning tree removal permits being handled by the town staff– rather than the ECC and Town Council—was denied 3-to-2, because it eliminates public review, even though a change would hasten the timeline for developers.

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