HOUSTON - The City of Houston says it is pursuing legal action against those responsible for cutting down more than half a dozen oak trees along the street outside a Wendy's restaurant near West University Place.
Residents in the area and a local non-profit said they believe construction crews destroyed a part of their culture when they removed the trees on Kirby Drive and North Boulevard.
"Trees that were planted a generation ago by Trees for Houston and our partners in this neighborhood were illegally removed overnight. That is the property of all the citizens of the City of Houston," said Barry Ward, the Executive Director at Trees for Houston.
"This is a critical asset in this community. It's one of the things that makes us distinctive," said resident Mack Fowler.
Ward and residents like Fowler argue workers weren't allowed to remove the trees because they didn't get permission from the city and did the work after hours, overnight.
Janice Evans with Mayor Parker's office confirmed that the trees were in fact taken down without the proper permit.
"It's city property. It's not yours to mess with and yet they did it," said Ward.
Ali Dhanani, the franchise owner for that particular Wendy's location on Kirby Drive said they got rid of the live oaks because the roots were damaging the pavement on the property.
"These areas were in very bad shape. Once the construction is complete, we will be landscaping the site and adding new trees that are indigenous to the area," he said in a statement to Local 2.
When asked if Dhanani filed for city permits before removing the trees, he said "If we've made a mistake in this process, we apologize."
"It will take an entire generation to grow back to this point and you've done tens of thousands of dollars of damage to city property," said Ward.
Crews are expected to wrap up construction at the Wendy's location by the end of next month.
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