Woodland Heights Neighbors Accuse Townhomes Developer of Clear-Cutting Parkland

Note: Read more on this story here.

Some neighbors seem pretty darn upset with the developer of these Woodland Heights townhomes for “egregious clear-cutting” of about an acre of vegetation from nearby Woodland Park, reports the blog Nonsequiteuse. The report, posted yesterday, claims that the developer acted in order to improve the townhomes’ view of Little White Oak Bayou. Bill Workman, the owner of the property and developer of these City Homes of Woodland Park, wasn’t immediately available to give a different side of the story that the photos taken at the site suggest.


That view shows the fence behind the under-construction townhomes at the corner of Houston and Wrightwood St., just north of I-10. The development backs right up against Woodland Park — one of the city’s oldest, dating to 1903.

Below: The view further along the fence:

And here’s the view that sparked the “outrage:”

Blogger Andrea Greer reports, “As I was taking pictures, another neighbor pulled up to check out the devastating view. He said that the developer’s response to the outrage was to explain that the clearing was done to give the condos a better view, and that besides, all they took out were invasive species.” Greer updated her post this morning, writing that council person Ed Gonzales and the parks department are “on it.”

We’ll update the story with more details as we have them.

Photos: Andrea Greer

43 Comment

  • It is not just an accusation, apparently the developer admitted clearing public lands to benefit the townhouses built in the floodway. “He said that the developer’s response to the outrage was to explain that the clearing was done to give the condos a better view, and that besides, all they took out were invasive species.”

  • My outrage is that I am sick and tired of developers treating our town as a profit center. That park does not belong to the developer, it belongs to all of us.

  • “But here’s where it gets really, really egregious”

    I keep coming back to this part of the blog post, I don’t know why……

  • This sounds like a perfect situation to employ community service as a punishment for unauthorized destruction of the park. There is a group called Friends of Woodland Park who work very hard and have removed upward of 500 tires from this bayou, they are always looking for volunteers to get their hands dirty.
    On the other hand, the Parks Department is the reason people think they can say “invasive species” to justify use of a bulldozer and concrete to restore the natural balance. Forget this nonsense, the most common tree in the area is the tallow tree and it’s not going anywhere. Invasive species are here to stay.

  • It looks like they missed a privet or two or 35,000.

  • The builder must be pretty dumb. Cutting down city trees can be expensive. According to an HPD officer, the fine for the unauthorized cutting down of a street tree can be $30K depending on the size. Not sure about shrubs and brush.

  • I seriously doubt they hired a botanist to come out there and analyze the area plant species. While we’re talking about invasive species, these guys should be taken to task just because it sets a really bad precedent to allow developers to modify public land willy-nilly, much less tearing up a park just to give a better view to someone who won’t even appreciate it anyway.

  • I guess this is developer with a true concern about the proliferation of invasive species?Ok then the city needs to kindly request that he plants mature native species trees to cover the cleared acre, or fine him enough to cover the cost for the city to do it.

  • For all the outrageously outrageous outrage, the developer will just plant some trees elsewhere, donate some grass, and it’ll be the end of that. End result… he got what he wanted for a very low price, it’s quite an effective tactic.

  • So, if a private developer can go on public land to remove invasive species at will and without permission, then members of the public should have the right to go on to the developers private land and remove invasives too, right? We can pull up the St. Augustine grass and knockout roses, leaving behind a mud pit once the developer does the landscaping on the property, right? The developer wouldn’t dare call the police on us or file a lawsuit against us because we were making an important contribution to the community by removing invasive species.

  • Can we get townhomes declared an invasive species?

  • The appropriate punishment would be to make him keep going.

  • More stucco monstrosities for DB’s.. Just what we need, I’d prefer the trees still be there of course..

  • I have a very time believing that every species in that tract they cleared is invasive. Even where there are invasives, there are usually native species interspersed. If anyone is in the area, cares enough about this issue, and has loads of free time, maybe you could pick up scraps of what they cleared to show that they cleared native plants too.

  • More vertical mobile homes..yippee!

  • The only invasive species I want to get rid of are the developers.

  • So his idea of a better view is ugly brown dirt?

  • Force the developer to pay a fine and also to fund the re-planting of the area with native species. Developers are bad enough on the properties they own; lot after lot leveled. Do they not understand that trees make their often ugly houses look alot better?

  • This happened very recently, not sure what they had planned for it. Hopefully a heavy fine will be leveraged on this developer, I do like these units however, and I imagine the view from the rooftop terrace will be nice.

  • He should’ve definitely worked through proper channels.

    On the other hand, I do wonder whether anybody was taking enjoyment from the land area that was cleared. If not, then I am unsure why we should care except in principle. Principle is damned cheap, often flawed.

  • So people come onto a real estate blog to all developers in the same basket as bad people? The irony is painful.

  • I should add that what this PARTICULAR developer did is not only stupid, but poor business practice. I am hardly on his side.

  • @Niche: Hundreds of hours have been spent clearing trash out of that park and cutting a short trail down to the bayou by the community center. And you might want to visit a fifth grade science class so you can learn about an ecosystem. Turns out that parks are not just intended for people to enjoy but are also there to preserve what little is left of our natural ecosystem. You know, that thing that is vital to sustain life on the planet that actually isn’t a developer’s profit margin.

  • Many of us use that park daily. And as mentioned, the Friends of Woodland Park volunteers work in that park probably once a month to improve trails and clean the bayou. The developer cleared an area very close to the trails that group had recently worked on (I heard they went as far as removing some of the trails, but I cannot confirm that scuttlebutt). By removing trees that shaded a trail, they definitely affected people using the park. No one wants to walk or run in a park full of cleared dirt – especially when (if) it rains and it all turns into a muddy muck.

  • Actually there was quite a bit of “enjoyment” being “enjoyed” on that land…there were some nature trails through that cleared area that were being frequently used for hiking.

  • “On the other hand, I do wonder whether anybody was taking enjoyment from the land area that was cleared.” The worst thing is not having any parks to enjoy. The next worst thing is having a park that is way too crowded at any given time.

  • Not sure how the Developer made it better after looking at the photos. Much rather have seen those “ivasive species” looking out my 4th floor window than the brown dirt patch.

  • Where did all that destroyed vegetation go? Yes they just pushed it into the flood way. So next big rain event it could move, become dislodged and stuck in one of the two or both bridges down stream. Potentially damaging infrastructure, causing flooding up stream, more flooding to houseS near this area.
    All the builder/contractor most likely had to do is ask. Now he’s messed with City of Houston, the parks department, Harris county flood control, state of Texas(the state owns all water and waterways) maybe even FEMA, EPA, TXDOT,

  • he definitely should have gone through the proper channels, but this may be a no harm, no foul situation. It looks to me like he keep the mature trees in place (I see no stumps that indicate he removed any). Seems very similar to what is going on on Buffalo bayou.

  • This appears to be another Preston Wood development, the same architect/builder husband and wife team that got blown out of Freeland historic district a few years ago when they tried to tear down a house on Granberry and build their dream home.

  • Anyone with even a basic understanding of invasive species should realize that cleared land that isn’t replanted or reseeded in desirable native species creates the perfect habitat for quick establishing non-native plants. You can’t simply remove invasives and call your job done. Invasive are successful because they can out-compete native species for clearings like this.

  • Where I live it would transition to ragweed probably and then back to invasives (although, around my house, where I’ve done a good deal of removal but not a formal restoration, the sunlight has allowed native forbs and grasses to flourish without much effort on my part, and these plus a ton of yaupons, bumelia, and soapberry have held their own against exotics pretty well).
    But the city should take the golden opportunity handed them by the developer to restore it – it looks practically scraped – so it would make a good demo. I’m guessing this is not something they would have been likely to ever do, at least not without years of “data collection” and planning and handwringing over best practices, blah blah blah.
    I think I have a little residual bitterness, because Saturday I attended a daylong invasives workshop that I thought would earn me a license to kill, but instead I got a license to monitor, to do transects all summer: a colossal waste of time and volunteer hours. Kudos to the Ladybird Johnson National Wildflower Center, though – they’ve got a great invasives person.

  • From MaxC:

    More vertical mobile homes..yippee!

    LMAO – that’s perfect.

  • Whether or not the change in the park is beneficial or detrimental is a separate issue. What matters is that property rights were violated – in this case, the violated property belonged to the Houston taxpayers, as represented by its agent the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department.

  • Knowing that it is extremely likely that he DID get rid of invasive species, and unlike Frank, I do everything I can to get rid of Chinese Tallow, I am not going to spew false outrage where none is warranted. I do see it as a win for the city and neighborhood, as we can demand that the developer plant native trees to replace those lost…you know, the ones we did not want anyway.

  • In a nut shell the way I see it, Daily, because I live very close. Very close. clear cutting is never good, yes we could plant all the right plants, do you or the city have it in your/their budget? Conservatives? Should me those that conserve.
    I think but may not be correct, but we all remove invasive species all the time, dandelions, weeds, freaking vines from heck. Does that constitute what was done here? Really, walk down there and really see what was done, not just the removal of plant life, alleged invasive s, but the removal of all plant life that would absorb water, produce oxygen, provide habitats for those pesky Hawks, Herons, Egrete, Turtles, bugs, birds, raccoons, opposums, rabbits, coyotes and bats. YES REALLY!!! The huge pile of debris HUGE, that will soon become a flood problem,flooding along highway(killed 2 people2001) potential damage to bridges( ike washed out 1/2 of bridge) and immediate area flooding(killed 1 young man2001) utilities under bridge, Enviromental issues, emergency access, the second oldest park in town scarred for years. Builder wins by saying, “I’m sorry it wasn’t me it was that guy” and he gets a $100,000 upgrade in the park “view” maybe next time it’s your yard, your park, OUR CITY. Where else have you seen variance signs that make little to no sense? At least they took the effort to do it legally.
    I’m all for progress and development but be wise, be respectful and be concerned about what really it means to thinkabout the future.
    Maybe we should name toxic waste sites like high schools.
    Welcome to the “Exxon Valdeze dead park and no life reserve” notice the lack of life.
    I love Houston and I want to see the best for our city. Now and forever.

  • For my own sanity I’m trying to discern, in this upwelling of concern for some vegetation that would furnish a suitable set for filming a jungle combat scene, a latent vestige of love for nature, but … just, no.
    Pillory the developer — productively — all you want, but his “culpability” for opening up a viewshed to the bayou is the least-distinguished aspect of this situation (if nothing else, this is strongly suggested by a very rare transit of Dave and luciaphile).
    “Outreach is very important, try to raise awareness among your neighbors,” etc. — sigh, okay:
    “Hello Invasive Species, Goodbye Texas” – I think it’s catchy, I’m told Carter Smith came up with it.
    At invasive workdays, armed with our loppers and weed wrenches and little hand saws — the occasional guy with a chainsaw is much sought-after — we leave stumps everywhere, which will assuredly stump-sprout unless someone with an herbicide applicator’s license comes out afterwards and diligently paints everything. Worth doing, but a little depressing knowing you’ve done your best and exposed yourself to lethal amounts of poison ivy but the result was still kind of lame.
    Trust me, if someone brought a Bobcat, we would use it.

  • I just don’t get the “outrage” and the “massacre” that everyone is so put out about. This seems like a witch hunt. It was a mistake to be sure, but that land was covered largely in bamboo, and thick with trash. Did those of you commenting really “hike” that area and enjoy it THE MOST of any area of the park? Why weren’t you spending your time picking up that trash that the developer did? The developer seems genuinely sorry, and why can’t this be seen as an opportunity for beautification, instead of outrage. “A crime against Houston”…..that is just hyperbolic and inflammatory. What is done is done, and surely improvements can be made. Why jump on the finger pointing, and public humiliation bandwagon and turn this around. The developer has already said they will do what is needed to correct this unfortunate situation. Let’s let our council members and the Mayor focus on more important city issues instead of this.

  • @Enthusiast
    Several of the people in these comments have done exactly that, carried old tires from the bayou, collected trash, pulled up invasive plants and developed trail system through this park. The bozo who did this destroyed one of the trails that FWP recently cut and mulched.
    If you had an overgrown part of your property would it be OK for your neighbor to bulldoze part of it because he didn’t like the way it looked?

  • Meh…who cares I hope the developers destroy more things just make these NIMBY Yuppies mad…

  • To Enthusiast:
    Yes I do walk that park, yes I do pick up trash, yes, I do plant trees yearly with other neighbors. No it is not mostly bamboo, but amazingly that was left untouched, hmmmmm,(yes there is trash, how does that get there?) no, he is not concerned about the park he is concerned about his wallet. If you think that is genuine concern do you also think that superman is real? It’s called acting and he’s not that good it.
    El Seed, really, maybe with time your seed will grown to a mighty oak just to be cut down for someone else’s pleasure.
    If this happened any where in town I would care but I would hope neighbors would be the catalyst to bring it to our attention.
    Hopefully this will lead to further beautification, would it have been better to do it the right and be the hero not the villain? i believe the parks in our nation need help rather than being the first ones on the budget cutting block.

  • Here comes Hurricane season. COH better giddy up and plant something after returning the original contour of the area. At least 3, 40 ft trees have 8 ft of dirt piled around them along the faux inbankment created to give the developer bigger free backyards.then send the bill to Preston Woods and Mr. workman.

  • #41: Agreed that his methods were certain to bring a storm down on his head, when I imagine he could have very easily organized a workday there for the Friends group, supplied lunch and equipment, etc. Very likely, being a builder-type, he has little patience. But are you sure it’s a sin to want a view of the bayou?


    Odd if true as you say that that forest of bamboo plainly visible in the photo — enough to supply every child in Houston with a fishing pole — stopped just at the edge of his property.
    If he took mature trees, which would have framed his view very nicely, the mystery is why he left that one mama privet.