City Nets $300K Settlement for Late-Night Kirby Dr. Wendy’s Oak-Axing Incident

Partial Demolition of Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, Houston

Update, 1:40pm: A revised press release from the mayor’s office now indicates the settlement was for all 6 trees, not 4 as previously indicated. We’ve updated the story below.

A just-announced legal settlement signed late last week means that the owner of the Wendy’s franchise at 5003 Kirby Dr. will be paying a $300,000 fine to the city for the late-night chopping-down and mulching-up of oak trees in the public right-of-way in front of the restaurant late last month. Six trees lining Kirby and North Blvd. were removed in the nighttime incident (illustrated in the before-and-after photos above), which was first reported on Swamplot. Crews from Freddy’s Landscaping and More carried out the tree-removal work under contract; the settlement, however, is to be paid entirely by Mohammed A. Dhanani and HAZA Foods, the Wendy’s franchise owner. All construction work on the restaurant, which was closed and undergoing renovations when the trees were removed, had come to a stop after city officials became aware of the clandestine street-visibility-improvement operation.


Tree Stumps Along North Blvd., Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The settlement covers only 4 all 6 removed trees, each of which measured between 10 and 20 inches in diameter. The statement from the mayor’s office says the settlement amount was “based on the value of the removed trees.” The city has now recovered more than $1 million in payments for illegal tree removals this year — its highest take ever. A statement from the city attorney conveys hopes that news of the financial penalties will make it clear that developers who take down street trees “will be met with swift, punitive legal action.” The oaks had been planted in the public right-of-way for the Boulevard Oaks Civic Association by volunteers with Trees for Houston more than a decade ago.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Now That’s Better

30 Comment

  • Dang, that’s harsh. Since he settled so quickly he must be flush with cash and he presumably is since he’s buying up Wendy’s all over town.

    I feel like going and chopping down some trees just to restore the balance to the universe, hehe. I kid, I kid.

  • Well, there goes the budget for the meat at THIS location.

  • A great start, now lets see the land owner pull the lease and let that Wendys location die….

  • Do people even eat at Wendy’s anymore? What were they thinking? Oh I know my customers wants to stare right at a busy street and love all those emissions from the cars. Who cares that the trees could help with that pollution! I hope this place is out of business in the first month. Shame on you.

  • This is the right outcome.

  • I liked this story until it involved the government getting money from a job creator. Tree Huggers, prostitutes, drug dealers all up in arms over some trees getting cut down brought a little warmth to my other wise very cold heart.

  • Good for the city on leveling a fine. Serious question—the article states the City has collected over $1 million in fines for tree cutting. Where does this money go? Does the parks department get extra money, or does it just somehow vanish into the City treasury?

  • Yea for the fine. So what about replanting new trees?

  • ShadyHeightster – I think we both know the answer to that.

  • I’m actually surprised the city went for an actual amount. That’s $50K per tree, which is probably less than they’re worth, especially if you’re paying them minimum wage for their ten years of growth. If those trees were working at Wendy’s they would have made more than that, but then again, trees are lazy and they attract lazy people to hang out with them. That would have brought in those Criminal Element guys. I probably would have fired them anyway.

  • I feel like we, the Swamplot comment gang, have accomplished a great thing by just sitting here doing nothing.

  • Either the the guys that cleared 1 acre of park land over in the heights got off pretty light, or these guys got hit pretty hard.

  • No word on whether the cutting company will continue to operate, despite having agreed to remove trees in the dark and while “overlooking” the whole permit thing. Seems like they’re as culpable as the Wendy’s franchise who paid them.

  • I think that I saw the Mayor in a new car.

  • How many pulled pork sandwiches can I get for 300K?

  • Fine for the city but what about the property owner… if the owner was not complicit with the removal of trees then they should also expect a large payment for loss of value. As to all of you who are surprised about the popularity of Wendy’s… I doubt the people who read this blog line up there for square soggy meat burgers; but don’t be fooled at the number of folk who live in a low information & lowest common denominator world, even in Upper Kirby.

  • Don’t be rude, you know as well as I do that mayor rides a broom, a Nimbus 2000 hybrid if I’m not mistaken.

  • Hopefully the settlement requires planting new trees or th city will plant new trees. Presumably he wanted them gone and should not get his way

  • Way to go, Houston! This is great news.

  • Wow…I’m amazed at some of the childish comments here. For a minute I thought I was reading a city-data thread.

    There was a time (not very long ago) when the loss of trees wouldn’t have caused much of a fuss among the city’s citizens. But now, every time I visit the city, I see more and more street trees, flowers, landscaping, less litter, and get a feeling that things are really turning around. A lot of the credit goes to responsible businesses and civic leaders. The franchise owner is not among the group I’m complimenting.

  • Hedge funds would blush at these returns. What did it cost the city to plant these suckers? $1k at most… And they got $50k apiece for them? Now I’m not saying we should celebrate the loss of these trees, but I hope right now some keen eager young city arborist is planning some oak plantings along the most outrage-worthy corridors in Houston, where they will best rankle the franchises of the future. How old does a tree have to be to elicit outrage? Maybe 20 years? At an eye-popping 22% IRR, perhaps some strategic tree-driven investments can make future union pension negotiations a bit easier…

  • Damn, Swamplot should receive a 10% commission on this because had not photos been published
    no one would have known. What about those 3 magnificent ancient oaks on Tuam between
    Louisiana St and Milam that were just cut down for new apts.?

  • TroysArt: The franchise owner hired the contractors, and I will guess he/she/they went with the lowest bid and/or the contractor who agreed to take down the trees. If that is the case, perhaps the franchisee should have questioned why the bid was so low, or maybe why the other contractors contacted said they would not touch the trees in the right-of-way. Either way, they hired this company to do work which was directed by them. Who is the buck supposed to stop with when the law is broken? Are contractors supposed to have some sort of bond or insurance to cover their mistakes? If nothing else the franchisee hopefully learned a lesson that cutting corners is not always the best/cheapest option.

  • great, since this is all about improving the streetscape the city should be forced to use this money to build more bus shelters along kirby and holcombe.

  • By the way, the landscaper’s address is a trailer park in East Houston. Good luck collecting anything from him and a fine job by Haza Foods in vetting their vendors!

  • There are prostitutes in Houston?

  • This story is amazing to me. No one loves Live Oaks more than I, but when you see where those trees are planted it is only going to do one thing…destroy concrete. They should have never been planted there in the first place. In a small frontage area like this they will only bust up the street and parking lot.
    Homebuilders consistently plant these too close to foundations too and they cause major problems sucking the moisture out of the soil on long hot summer, rainless days. How ’bout this, plant the right tree there to begin with, and stay out of the business owners business.

  • I guess, Mike Carlen, what you’re saying explains why North and South Blvds. are so undesirable.

  • Received word via Ellen Cohen’s office that the funding from the $300k tree settlement will go in to the Houston Parks and Recreation Department Special Revenue Fund, which is utilized specifically for tree replacements.

  • That’s great JT, thanks for the update.