The City of Houston has filed a lawsuit against a developer for cutting down protected trees.
The city is suing Signature City Homes, its owners and its contractors, following the removal of two trees in the public right-of-way. City law prohibits the removal of a tree when at least 50 percent of the trunk is in the public right-of-way.
The lawsuit filed in Harris County District Court claims a conspiracy by the defendants to act intentionally and with full knowledge that they would be breaking the law.
City officials said, on August 17, the defendants cut down and removed a 100-year-old Live Oak with a trunk measuring approximately 36 inches in diameter from the city's right-of-way at 801 Bomar Street. It was then discovered that defendants had also cut down and removed another tree of similar age and size at 1704 Blodgett St.
City Attorney Dave Feldman calls the actions wanton and malicious.
"The timing of the destruction of trees on a weekend raises the suggestion that the developer cut the trees down in an attempt to escape detection and avoid certain community protest and legal action," said Feldman.
The lawsuit alleges counts of negligence, gross negligence, conversion, theft and trespass. The city seeks $500,000 in actual damages, as well as punitive damages and attorney's fees as allowed for under the Texas Theft Liability Act.
Signature City Homes sent Local 2 a statement which read, "Signature City Homes has tried multiple times to sensibly resolve this dispute, but the city instead is wasting taxpayer resources with frivolous litigation. This lawsuit is a cynical election-season stunt. We look forward to sharing with the court the city's conduct in this dispute."