Texas Legislature Moving On Tree Bill

Trees on their way to lobby in the House.

On this day, it is not just our local city ordinance which is addressing matters of tree replacement.  In Austin, the State House heard HB 2052, which is their version of the companion Senate bill (SB 744) recently approved on April 5.

The Senate version to Sec. 212.905, 'Tree Mitigation Fee Credit For Planted Trees,' has multiple important factors from the Dallas perspective, including the following:

  • It applies to a municipality that imposes a tree mitigation fee for tree removal that is necessary for development or construction on a person's property;
  • The person (owner) must be allowed to apply for a credit for tree planting to offset the amount of the fee;
  • A credit is applied by planting minimum 2-inch caliper trees on the property;
  • The amount of credit provided to the person must be applied in the same manner as the tree mitigation fee assessed against the person, and be at least 50 percent of the amount tree mitigation fee;
  • As long as the municipality allows the above, this bill does not affect the ability of, or require, a municipality to determine the size, number, and type of trees that must be planted to receive credit, the requirements of tree mitigation fees, or the requirements for tree planting methods and best management practices to ensure the tree grows to the 'anticipated height at maturity.'  

Based on the testimony given, the large municipalities are showing up to support or stand neutral on the bill. I'm not currently in a position to speak openly on the actual bill's merits or shortcomings and its relationship to the Dallas city ordinance.

The initial bill's concept, however, is not new to me.  In some degree, the state bill is similar (a distant cousin) to a new proposal being discussed in Dallas to provide credit for the projected growth of a healthy conditioned tree planted into the landscape.  The local proposal recognizes the investment of time, money, and land area by the developer in establishing a robust tree canopy on their property for the future.  In short, we create a legacy for future citizens with each enhanced tree site.  The planting environment is as critical as the tree itself.

Under the proposed Article X amendments (not yet reviewed by Commission or Council), the 'legacy tree' proposal would allow for an owner to apply for a credit for new landscape trees planted in an enhanced soil environment which will have a greater potential to grow to a level of maturity.  In order to qualify, the owner must also undertake significant efforts to develop their property through sustainable design and construction (and maintenance) processes.  Multiple factors must be considered throughout this effort:

  • Soil environment for legacy trees must attain a minimum of 500 square feet and 1500 cubic feet of volume per tree.
  • The credited tree canopy projected area (which offsets the diameter inch mitigation) for a large tree is 1200 square feet of tree canopy coverage and a medium tree is 750 square feet of coverage.  An owner attempts to attain a 'goal' canopy coverage on the property.
  • A legacy tree can also be planted in some developments to project for a 12-inch diameter growth, this being a partial maturity level. This correlates to a direct reduction of mitigation requirements.
  • The tree planting area must be unencumbered so the tree roots and canopy may grow freely.

The State bill must pass through the House, re-confirmed by Senate, and then be signed by the Governor before it becomes law.  Its impact would vary with each city based on how they address these matters locally.  A single municipality has not yet tried this particular concept, or exercised it as yet, so the pursuit of this in the legislature can be a bit intimidating.  I'll have more to say on this as I can provide it.