Parkland Cleared By Mistake, Says Woodland Heights Townhomes Developer

According to developer Bill Workman, the clearing of parkland behind his Woodland Heights townhomes stems from a miscommunication: “I never intended for this to happen.” A subcontractor, he says, was hired last week only to grade the land as dictated by a city plat for drainage purposes. In fact, Workman — a first-time developer — was out of town when the so-called “egregious clear-cutting” went down. Returning to the site on Wrightwood St. on Sunday, he saw the missing vegetation, he says, and was “devastated.”

That might be because one of these townhomes Workman is building for himself, and he bought the property in 2011 because of its views of and proximity to the park. Coincidentally, he says that he’s a member of Friends of Woodland Park — the organization tasked with protecting the very land that was — well, overzealously groomed. And he claims that he never said he was trying to improve the townhomes’ view — as blogger Andrea Greer reports that she was told by a neighbor.

Since the weekend, Workman and his general contractors have been meeting with the parks department and flood control management to begin resolving the situation; he says he intends to follow their recommendations.

Photo: Andrea Greer

38 Comment

  • “Uh, did I do that?”

  • Might want to rethink living in the neighborhood after this “mistake”.

  • ask for forgiveness..rather than permission.

  • I’m pleased that Bill Workman is stepping up to take responsibility. I think everyone will feel more comfortable with the sincerity once it moves from words to actions. I have no reason to think he’s not being sincere. Looking forward, the better thing to focus on is how quickly an effective restoration plan can be put into action. Even more long term, I hope this incident adds to the conversation about how we, as a community, want to empower our elected officials to regulate development, and what sort of penalties we’d like to see for violations.

  • It only became a mistake when someone discovered it. What he did is trespassing, plain and simple, and I hope he gets taken to court!

  • Right on, roadchick. Punitive fine and re-forestation at his expense. I don’t believe him for a second.

  • Well, he sure learned that not overseeing important work can have dire consequences. Now fix it!

  • I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the challenges facing developers since I am one myself, but I call B.S. on this one. There’s no way that the subcontractor doing the work would have proceeded without a clear mandate from the owner as to the scope of work.

    Grading a site and clearing it of perhaps dozens of trees are two very different things. Unless he just told them, “make it flat, and bill me whatever it costs afterwards,” which he wouldn’t do unless he’s just a terrible businessman, I find it difficult to believe they did that at their own initiative.

    When I ask for bid to clear or grade a lot, the sub comes out and looks at the site and we negotiate the price based on the amount of work needed, number of trees to knock down, etc.

  • An honest mistake….uh huh…..sure. I call BULLSHIT.

  • Just curious to what people think Workman’s motive or intent would have been to do this on purpose?

  • This is the developer-equivalent of “my dog ate my homework.”

  • @mike His intent is to create a better view for his four story townhouse of course.

  • Exactly, I call bullshit on this one…I went down and inspected the site myself…there is no way that a contractor would take a bulldozer down to the lower part of that park area without being told to, it’s too deep in the mud and would have taken some serious effort. The developer can’t sweet talk his way out of this one.

  • So, he is going to live in one of the units. Which one? Let me guess, The one with the best view? Let me tell you one thing that we already know. There is absolutely no way that his crew was clearing the lot. That was done a few months ago when they readied to pour the slab. This destruction was done after the cyclone fence was installed, after the 3 of 7 houses were past the 2×4 stage. Just about the same time the 4th&5th floors were able to be walked on and the VIEW determined.
    So he’s a member of FOWP? I’m certain they will confirm the accuracy of this soon. What is intent of this whole development? Currently there are three now under construction, the voice mail 2weeks ago said there would be 7 single family homes. So are they condos(channel 2), townhomes(channel 11&13) or really single family homes?
    The damage as been done, the property now has a view for 50+ years. No matter what is decided, that corner of Woodland Park will be forever in my life time and most everyone reading this changed. Did you know the trolley turned around there from downtown? At the zoo that was once there? Across the bayou from what I was told by a long time resident as the biggest roller coaster west of the Mississippi. Where reports say Sam Houston staged his men before the battle of San Jacinto. The place where Houston went to swim in the “natorium” (spelling)to relieve themselves of the heat. The place we call the Hometown near Downtown. Light in the Heights, Germantown, Grota Homes, Woodland Heights. That old part of town that’s really nice, the street with the Live Oak canopied streets.
    Well know you do.

  • If the city of Houston had any guts, it would fine him heavily enough that he would never want to do another development.

    A citizens’ group should also take him to court and get him mired in legal proceedings, fines and lawyer fees.

    However, what will likely happen is a slap on the wrist. He’ll make a mint on this project and then move on to his next one, committing the same kinds of crimes.

    I’m tired of the development culture in our city steamrollering over everyone with minimal consequences.

  • This is what happens when you hire someone to do landscape work from the parking lot of Home Depot for the day and pay them in cash.
    I hope the “prius patrol” rolls by his townhome site every day from now until work is finished and finds every little excuse they can to red tag this project.

  • #14, what an awesome post! You just summed it all up.

  • Why not a criminal investigation? Destruction of public property is a crime. It should be pretty simple for the police to interview the subcontractor and find out what his instructions were.

    The developer’s protestations of being ‘devastated’ are an insult to sentient beings everywhere.

  • This will more than likely result in a better forest that what was there before. So long as the benefit exceeds the harm, nearby residents should be satisfied. Sure the City needs to make a policy decision and decide whether to fine this developer, but that’s not a decision residents will have much control over. Nor will it result in a better forest (penalty money isn’t earmarked).

  • The city has limits and boundaries when and how much it can fine someone. Whether there was crime depends whether they can prove intent, actual damages, etc etc etc. The city will most likely make him replant some trees and it’ll be the end of that.

    As far as civil action goes, I hear a lot of angry talk on here and chest thumping, but when it comes time to cut the check for an attorney… crickets area abound.

  • @heightsguy: Not it won’t. It takes decades to reforest a clear cut like this. Unless the developer does a ton of planting and goes in every month to pull out the invasives that will rush in and apply herbicide to keep them from coming back, this stretch clear cutting will for all practical purposes result in a permanent scar on the landscape. At best, my kid might one day bring his kid to see that section looking like it once did.

  • Word on the street is that his BROTHER-IN-LAW was the contractor who performed the clear-cutting. . .and that the developer had previously been denied a permit to do exactly what he ended up doing.

    Gee. Imagine that.

  • Here’s what I’ve heard: Workman was actually unaware of this. It was a co-investor of his, who conveniently will be residing in one of the other units, that gave the go ahead to doze to open up a view. And the dozing was done by her brother. If that relationship is true, it should be pretty easy to follow the blame trail. Ultimately though, Workman will face the PR axe on this one.

  • I agree with JL. As a former builder, whenever I was clearing an area with brush and trees of varying type, I would meet with the sub doing the work and would mark the trees to stay with a ribbon. Given that type of process is normal, I have a hard time believing Mr. Workmans story that it was done by accident. Mr. Workman most likely sees himself as such an important person that he leaves the details to his subordinates, and in this case the subordinates screwed up. If Mr. Workman has no subordinates then he screwed up

  • To find out the truth, fine or sue the hell out of him to the point that he has to in turn sue his subcontractor. Once the crosshairs are on the sub, the sub will then reveal the exact instructions for the project.

  • Money owns this town..

  • wow, the heights must be such a friendly place to be these days

  • Others have accurately set out what all’s involved in determining what is to be graded, removed, etc., so I won’t belabor it beyond agreeing that this is not passing the smell test.
    Being a member of the FOWP doesn’t persuade me much, either. Back when Woodland Heights had an active listserv, the webmaster would confirm that the street address given as part of the signup process was in the neighborhood before granting access. One day, I get an email from him directly, asking if I’d moved….it seems that Someone (that we later determined was employed by A Large Production Builder) used my home address to try to sign up; the webmaster being a friend of mine, he recognized it.
    I had a lot of satisfaction writing that particular “what in holy Hannah is going on here” letter to the fairly high profile owner of that Large Production Builder, and got a very, very unctuous response from their general counsel that of course denied that anything untoward was going on, he was SHOCKED, shocked I tell you that such would happen, etc., etc….notwithstanding that at the time, the Large Production Builder was Borging up north Montrose for townhouses in a fit of blockbusting not seen since Frank Sharp took out South Park.

  • Developers are sadly mistaken if they think they can profit off the backs of existing residents without a fight.

  • He should be given the contract to do Memorial Park. Doing a much better than the City has with Memorial

  • @mel, who’s going to start such a fight? Who’s going to pay for such a fight? What legal standing would such a fight have?

  • Commonsense, are you just blindly trolling around, or did you even bother reading the article/blog entry? Within a day of a developer illegally clearing a 3/4 tract of parkland, a non-profit comprised of private citizens was able to elicit a response from the local media, the public and the City.

  • @mel, elicit a public spectacle is easy and fades away quickly, bring a civil suit is a lot trickier. I’m a big proponent of frivolous lawsuits but even they cost a lot of money and have to have at least a minimum of legitimacy. It would be hard to show that any group of people were directly hurt by the builder’s action, but more importantly I don’t see anyone coughing up the dough.

  • @commonsense
    The city lawyers are already on this but regardless its safe to say lawyers willing to do pro bono on this will not be hard to find in the Heights.

  • Commonsense, your lawyer is a lucky man/woman (I suspect man).

  • Mel, I respectfully disagree. I sincerely hope that commonsense’s lawyer is well compensated, but I equally sincerely doubt that he/she is a happy man/woman.

    Many years ago, one of my better mentors observed to my then young self that lawyers and clients tend to move in matched sets.

  • Touché, Mollusk. Touché

  • “Unless, someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not” The Lorax. See you all at city council prior to any agreed upon settlement. It ain’t over till the rogue neighbor sings or maybe at least a mockingbird in woodland park. The city must be held to the fire on this one to get it all, the town homes demolished and the land given to Woodland Park, plus full remediation.