Developer cuts down large oak trees in dark of night

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- To cut down six large oak trees on one of the most traveled streets inside Houston's inner loop is unusual. To take them down after dark is even more so.

So it was Tuesday night, at the intersection of Kirby and North Blvd. Had it not been for the closure of the Greenbriar freeway exit, Mary Nugent might have missed it. But as she drove down what she said was a familiar street, "it took my breath away," she says.

The oaks were planted a generation ago, more than 20 years, by the Boulevard Oaks Civic Association, and Trees for Houston, which aims to green up the city in the face of ongoing demolition and development.

Nugent and others tried to reason with the landscapers, but without success. Eventually, the trees were reduced to mulch.

What makes this more than the downing of trees, is that the trees were public property, donated to the city and planted on the city easement.

Now it's become a matter for the city legal department, which is investigating the matter.

The city has fined other developers and contractors who removed trees on public rights of way in the past year. The largest fine to date was $300,000 involving trees in the Heights area.

The trees on Kirby were cut down just inches from where an old Wendy's restaurant is going through a remodeling project, with a new franchise owner.

Lias Steen, the property owner who leases the land to the restaurant owner, says he sent an email stating, "I am extremely disappointed he took down the trees under cover of darkness ... And I am looking at terminating our lease."
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