Gov. Abbott's bid to strip tree preservation power opposed

- If the shade blessed City of West University Place could select the perfect spokesman, it would probably be that little guy Dr. Seuss called "the Lorax" who has taught millions of kids to preserve and protect.

"I speak for the trees! Let 'em grow! Let 'em grow!" urges the cartoon character.

But over in Austin at the Texas State Capitol Governor Greg Abbott has a much different priority.

"Prevent cities from micromanaging what property owners do with trees on their private land," said Gov. Abbott as he placed the issue on the agenda for the legislative special session.

With Gov. Abbott's full support, Senate Bill 14 would strip municipalities, like canopy-covered West University, of their local power to regulate which trees can be cut and which must be kept.

"We are talking about maintaining a way of life. The essence of a community," said Chris Peifer, West University City Manager.

Peifer says in his town where well-tended trees have become an invaluable trademark, Abbot's proposal has drawn zero support and plenty of protest.

"We have a zoning ordinance and we have a tree ordinance and they move here because of it, not in spite of it," said Peifer.

Gov. Abbott has predicted economic benefit if measures like Senate Bill 14 reach his desk.

"They are stifling our economy, interfering with job creation and undermining private property rights," said Gov. Abbott, referring to local regulations like tree ordinances.

Peifer believes the opposite is true. In other words leave the trees and they will come.

"That's what our residents are looking for, what they expect and what they expect to have maintained," said Peifer.

The amended version of SB14 which passed the full Texas Senate preserves tree regulation power for deed-restricted sub-divisions and neighborhoods, most notably The Woodlands which has been protecting its trees for more than 40 years.

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