Oops! Mistakenly Cleared Parkland Costs Woodland Heights Townhouse Developer $300K

Yep, it was a costly mistake: A $300,000 fine was paid to the city on Friday with a cashier’s check signed by Bill Workman, the first-time developer who says a miscommunication with a subcontractor led to the clearing of almost an acre of trees and stuff near Little White Oak Bayou in Woodland Park.

Though neighbors accused Workman of ordering the slashing to improve the view of the 8 townhouses he is building on Wrightwood St., he denied those accusations, telling Swamplot in June that one of the reasons he chose the site for development was its proximity to the park. Seeing what happened, he says, left him “devastated.”

Apparently, the fine isn’t quite enough to satisfy Andrea Greer, who originally reported what she called “egregious clear-cutting” on her blog:


In essence, the developers just paid $300,000 + expenses for a lovely view. Within six months, they’ll enjoy the benefit of the city’s landscaping job. I would like to suggest one element to that plan that I think might mollify those of us who were really angered by this episode.

The city should erect a sign. A really big one. One that pretty much blocks the view from all three town homes. And that sign should have a reminder on it, that the reason for the sign was the fact that the three homes were unfairly granted an improved view at the great cost of the destruction of city property that included a mature tree canopy.

Look, I’m flexible. Even if it doesn’t totally block the view, it should dominate the view. Certainly, it should go up before the homes are put on the market. I believe that might be a fitting final gesture.

Photo: Andrea Greer

34 Comment

  • The developer guy should’ve just got a bunch of Facebook people together and had them plant small fruit trees and vegetables there after clearing it and called it guerrila gardening and he’d probably be ok.

  • 300000 –what a joke–worth every penny to this asshole—he gets to sell the views and the trees the city plants won’t be mature for 25+ years, plus half will die for city neglect anyway –they should have fined him 10 times this sum—not only is this 300000 not a deterrent, if I were a developer and trees on parkland blocked views I’d knock them down claim I was just an innocent idiot pay the paltry fee and collect all the extra money if get for selling better views –this is laughably pathetic as an attempt by the city “punishing” this guy, he’s laughing all the way to bank –good job Houston

  • *whistles*

    There goes his profit margin. I think this is largely a fair outcome.

  • Dang, that’s harsh. He’s definitely a first time developer, any professional would have fought the fine, dragged it out till everyone forgets, and settle for 1/10th the amount with the city.

  • The only other thing I could think of is if his Errors and Omissions insurance paid for it or the subcontractor’s liability insurance kicked in. Nobody in real life pays that kind of fine.

  • The builder should be required to restore the land as well as paying the fine. I am sure he is grinning all the way to the bank.

  • Regardless of the developer’s intention, trees grow back. Left unmowed, there will be first growth trees just as tall and obstructive within a few years (quicker if we ever get rainfall like we used to, before the drought).

    The fine (and quick payment of it) achieves the following:

    1. Sends a message to other would-be vigilante lumberjacks that the city will enforce against these types of violations going forward.

    2. Punishes this developer for destructive trespass on a green space (don’t care how rich you are, you wince when you have to drop a 300k check to the gov’t).

    3. Settles the matter quickly and efficiently, without protracted legal action.

    This was a neat and quick resolution, which you don’t always get in an age of rampant over-litigation.

  • Thankfully, Greer is in charge of nothing. This is the best possible outcome, under the circumstances. No protracted fighting and the trees should be replanted, IF the City does its job. And that’s a big if.

  • he accidentally cut down overgrown brush and a few trees. anything short of sacrificing his first born is too little. this would have never happened if the walmart had not been built and if we had more apartment complexes with ground floor retail. and it goes without saying, but another rail line would have cured this problem immediately.

  • For those of you who think this guy is ‘laughing all the way to the bank’ do you really think that he will be able to charge $100k more per town home for the view he created?

  • “I would like to suggest one element to that plan that I think might mollify those of us who were really angered by this episode.” The job of justice isn’t mollifying angry people.

    Admittedly, using paychecks in lieu of punishment ticks me off as a general concept because it means the wealthy can get what they want, but in this case I think it’s warranted, and here’s why: I think the fine will hurt. Most builders pay this week’s contractor from the check they got last week, or possibly the one they’ve been promised next week. This guy owes a loan or a favor, or he’s dug into some very nonliquid assets to come up with this cash, but it will hurt.

  • Maybe Greer would also want to drag each of the new owners of the townhomes by the collar and rub their noses in the dirt as well.

    Nothing a little ketchup, mustard, and flour can’t solve, right?

  • Ask for forgiveness..not permission..typical scumbag T/H developer

  • Accident? Lets be real, this was no accident. Ask his business partner who intends to live in the unit that now has the best views. In fact, I’d ask her why it was her brother that did the cutting in the first place. Aside, I think the settlement is fair. But it was no accident thats for sure

  • htownproud nails it. Could possibly add “and people should listen to the Smart Development ones.”

  • I bet the developer already had a decent amount of cash in his budget to landscape the section he clear cut. I actually went down to the site. It looks like they were trying to cut out an area for residents of the townhomes to be able to go down to an overlook by the bayou. I could see someone wanting to put in a little deck or some picnic tables on the overlook. They certainly were not just going to clear out all of that vegetation and leave a mud pit behind. So, it is a fair criticism that the developer is getting thrown into a briar patch of his own choosing in this settlement.

  • Toasty, as there were 8 townhouses (and not three) your math is a little off …. yes, with a good view he should be easily be able to get an additional 37.5K from each

  • Who was the sub-contractor: name, business name and phone number?

    And what is his official version of the story….what documentation did he have that would show this was ordered or this was a mistake? How much was he paid?

    this is the stuff i still want to know.

  • Accident or not, I’m sure the developer would rather have the $300k back. That’s a large sum of money to any developer, let alone to this tiny independent. Let’s not forget to mention that COH is sponsoring the same exact clear-cutting on a scale x1000 along Buffalo Bayou. The fascist soccer-mom crowd on that blog is equal parts hilarious and terrifying.

  • I think what he did was wrong, but the faux outrage over a bunch of scrub brush, weeds, and a few desirable trees is laughable. Just another Heights person complaining about EVERYTHING. Get over it. $300K was more than adequate as punishment, I’d even say its overkill. From a legal standpoint, what are the real damages? No huge trees were demolished…money can replant trees,…brush/weeds are free…I mean comon. There just is not a real large value assignable to this type of damage. Ms. Grear probably objects to the townhomes as much as the trees and just wants to complain…its what Heights residents do best – Complain!

  • …or the city could use the money to improve the park, woman. Everyone needs to calm down!

  • As things go in the city of Houston, and given the sums the development community contributes to local politicians, I’m rather surprised the fine hit six figures.
    Legally, the value of the fine is supposed to serve as a deterrent to others from doing the same thing in the future. I’ll leave it to others to say if this is a big negative impact on this guy’s profit margin and would stop him from pulling the same stunt again with another piece of land.

  • I hope the Friends of Woodland Park use the $300k on other parts of the park and relocate some fire ants and poison oak to this section.

  • It’s not the trees–it’s this mans disrespect for city parkland –he knew exactly what he was doing and he knew he’d probably get fined–I’m sure he’s already made that paltry 300 grand back and then some–next thing you know he’ll clear cut Memorial for a great view of Transco and claim he was out of town and had no idea–he’ll be fined 600000 and be one his way (yes I know, the Pine Beetle has already clear cut Memorial, but still)

  • @ #18, DanaJennings

    Go back to the original Swamplot thread about this happening. A lot of information will be found there.

  • W R, what are you talking about it is just 3 units. I believe the first time builder also intends on living in one for his personal home, and I believe another one is going to be one of his business partners. The 300k fine seems like a fair amount to me, but I would have liked to see a bunch of hours of mandatory community service as well. There are so many green/plant projects going on in Houston, it would be nice to force him to volunteer at these (or face more severe fines/imprisonment). If the developer wants to save face (which he should do if he actually plans to live there) at all he should get involved with some reforestation projects.

  • Oh for crying out loud, could The Heights just secede already and form their own little incorporated Utopia filled with all
    of the control freaks and pie in the sky idealists and let the rest of us live in peace? Someone tell me why a view of a glorified trench is so much more desirable than some woods? Also, stuff grows back fairly quickly here. Look at Upper Kirby where all the wingnuts wailed about losing the live oaks. Looks better than it ever did. If all the $$$$ is put back into the greenbelt, do you really think Ms. Speer and her sycophants will nuture the new saplings etc….? Hell no.
    Its much to be easier a bunch of whiny

  • Irregardless of what Andrea Greer believes, the real question still is, was this an honest mistake or not? And the only person who knows that is that sub contractor who did the actual bulldozing. That person needs to be queried to determine if it was his/her screw-up or if the contractor told him/her to do the destruction. Also, it is indicated that this is this contractor’s first project. What did he do before? Does he have a history of bad actions? Etc. etc. etc.

  • that is much of the profit from a project of this scale so 300K certainly eats at the bottomline unless insurace pays for it. also, calling for prison time and more drastic action is way over the top. is this what the neighborhod has become?

  • In Australia used to walk past a couple of signs on my daily walk that blocked views of the river and said words to the effect of “bushland was removed by irresponsible homeowners. This sign will remain in place until natural bush re-growth occurs”. Ugly sign, effective message.

  • get Ms. Greer some cheese to go with her whine. that clear cut shit will be a jungle in no time.

  • How does not having trees behind the houses improve the view? My guess is that he’s telling the truth and it was an honest mistake. I applaud his willingness to risk his money on a development. Developers are not guaranteed a return. That’s why it’s called RISK.

  • IMHO the developer lost, the greenspace lost, but the city won. Just 300k more for them to waste away. I would have made sure every penny went back into the greenspace in that area, not to be lost in the city’s coffers.

  • He was following the age-old principle of, “It is much easier to ask forgiveness and pay for atonement than it is to ask for and gain permission.”