Signature City Homes Pays $225K for Chopping Down 2 Signature City Oaks

Tree and Home, 1704 Blodgett St., Museum Park, HoustonThe city has extracted $225,000 from the owners and contractors of a Bellaire developer who extracted two 100-year-old Live Oak trees from public property adjacent to 2 separate Inner Loop redevelopment sites over the summer. That’s a little less than half of the amount the city originally sought. The settlement ends the lawsuit it filed in October against Signature City Homes owner Barry Gomel and the demo contractor he hired to remove the 36-inch-diameter specimen pictured above at 1704 Blodgett St. (the home was torn down in July); it’ll also allow the developer to proceed with construction of the 4-townhome development it had planned for that location. The second tree was next to a bungalow Signature demolished at 801 Bomar.

Photo: Allyn West

When Trees Get in the Way

20 Comment

  • Sucks for the developer, but this sends the right message – don’t knock down trees that don’t belong to you.

  • Texas is becoming as bad as California for government shake downs. $20,000 would have been enough to deter others. This seems ridiculous.

  • I hope he had E&O insurance and just paid a small deductible. No, he should not have cut those trees down, but a couple of hundred grand for trees seems a tad EcoTerroristic.

  • I don’t think 20K would be enough to deter lawbreaking developers–they could just add a Juliet balcony or some Polystone-AL, slap a “luxury” moniker on it and ask for $30K more.

  • $225k is a fair price to pay. $20k would be just a cost of doing business that could easily be absorbed when flipping a single family lot into town homes. The trees are usually cut down to let the developer build lot line to lot line instead of having to reduce the size of the construction to give the tree some room. If there isn’t a big penalty, they will do it every time and just pay the bill.

  • Cost of doing business if you ignore the regulations. He should have been fined for tearing down the house itself.

  • Two things here:

    a) law was broken so there is a penalty
    b) what was the replacement value of a couple 100 year old oaks

    $225K sounds fair in my opinion

  • I thought there were some questions about the age and species?

  • So what would be too much? A million? 5 million? First born? I mean they broke the law — no penalty can be too high, right? People in serious accidents don’t get this much for their injuries. Drunk drivers that kill people get probation (eg, the one in Fort Worth yesterday). I realize that it isn’t your money, but I suspect that if you got a $50,000 ticket for running a red light, which is “breaking the law,” you might feel differently. . . .

  • Once again (like I commented on the original Swamplot post) – that is not a Live Oak. Get the facts straight before publishing, please. Sheesh.

  • How much would it cost to plant a very similar tree….? Exactly…..

  • The only thing that these vultures care about is money. It’s their only incentive, and their only deterrent.

  • those trees grew for 100 years, $225k for 2 comes out to about 12 cents a tree-hour. seems low to me.

  • Its interesting that on the 1944 Google Earth pic of the Southmore site, that tree hardly registers a blip considering it would have allegedly been 31 years old at that time. Also as others have said it was not a live oak. It was some kind of decidiuos tree in declining health. Just another in a series of money shakedowns by Mayor Porker.

  • @ Htownproud, you are missing the point. For a developer who does business in the millions a $20K fine is like getting a $20 speeding ticket. It won’t make you think twice about doing it again.

  • The old house and tree still show on google maps for that address. The tree is clearly on the property owner’s side of the sidewalk. How does that make it public property? I thought if the tree was between the sidewalk and the street that it was city property and protected.

  • Nimbys are butthurt…this is Houston its no rules so anything goes…screw the trees!

  • @Superdave and JT,

    The tree at the second property is certainly a live oak. The trees at both properties were in good health. Check your facts.

    If the Southmore tree were unhealthy, there are proper ways to take care of it – this does not include cutting down a tree in the middle of the night. The developers knew what they were doing and deserve to pay.

  • Check your facts Eiioi–live oak trees do not shed their leaves in winter (that’s why they are called LIVE oaks) and the history of pics on Google Earth shows the tree barren in winter. So get your own facts straight. According to Culturemap it was some kind of gum tree.

  • It was interesting to read everyone’s comments. Do any of you realize that developers don’t cut the trees down themselves? That they use subcontractors to do this? If you do your research….the subcontractor cut down the tree by mistake and the developer stepped up to make it right. There was nothing sneaky done in the middle of the night. The developer could’ve easily turned this around and put it all on the subcontractor. Instead, he took responsibility since he hired the subcontractor and then paid out of pocket as well as committing to future eco projects. I am all for justice, and believe the subcontractor should also commit to future eco projects, but it is what it is.