Families fight to preserve 100-year-old oak tree in The Heights

Author: Idolina Peralez, Forecaster, Reporter, iperalez@click2houston.com
Published On: Nov 19 2013 06:04:59 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 19 2013 07:48:21 PM CST
HOUSTON -

For the past three weeks, neighbors in the 700 block of E. 24th Street have been fighting to save a 100-year-old oak tree.

On Monday, workers for Callisto Builders began the process of removing the tree by cutting off branches to make way for new development.

Jessica Wilt has been the leader in the efforts to save the tree in her Sunset Heights neighborhood.

"People accuse us of being tree huggers," she explained, "but really we just want to preserve the neighborhood that we live in. People come to The Heights because of the trees."

Callisto Builders owns the land the oak sits on. They plan to build two new town homes.

Wilt says she's not opposed to new development, but argues there needs to be a balance.

"We welcome development, but we want it to be sustainable and responsible," Wilt said. "We want to work with developers to find a balance between getting what they need and preserving our historic trees."

Neighbors say they were given alternatives. They all included buying the land back and all came with hefty price tags.

"They did give us options to try to save the tree, but they want us to spend lots of money," expressed Azael Villarreal.

He lives across the street from the lot where the tree is being taken down.

So what's next? Community members say they may have lost the battle, but the war is not over.

"We're working on an ordinance, and we are probably not going to be able to save this tree," said Wilt.

The neighborhood plans to form a coalition with other Heights' communities to draft an ordinance to protect and save the trees. They are looking to West University's tree ordinance as their guide.

Local 2 called Callisto Builders, but they haven't returned our calls. One of the on-site workers told us that the developers had no comment.