CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — After three years of planning by a grassroots committee, city council members rejected an expanded tree ordinance in June, citing concerns that additional regulations might stifle commercial and housing projects, officials said.
A tree committee approved by the Marble Falls City Council initially sent its recommendation to the planning and zoning committee, which unanimously approved the new code be presented to the council.
On June 21, the council unanimously voted against passage.
“The consensus on council was that there’s not a big problem with people just cutting down trees and getting rid of them,” Mayor John Packer said. “We all know how valuable trees are to property values and our environment.
“Council felt like there was no need to put more regulation on something that doesn’t seem to be a problem right now,” he added.
The proposal would have increased the existing Marble Falls city code from three to about 10 pages, addressing issues such as tree preservation on job sites and circumference of protected trees.
“I am disappointed that it did not pass,” said Darlene Oostermeyer, a member of the planning and zoning committee who supported the proposed ordinance. “It was a grassroots effort. When it came to P&Z, we felt there was a need for an enhanced ordinance.”
Three years ago, Mary Ellen Goff, a former Master Gardener, initially brought the proposal before city council, which launched the tree committee.
“You go to Fredericksburg, and it’s so beautiful because they protected all their trees. It would attract tourists. It makes the homes more valuable,” Goff said. “We’re going to have a lot more big shopping areas along the highway. It’s not just about aesthetics.”
Goff said she trusts that local builders would work to preserve and protect trees; however she expressed concerns about outside developers.
“Most of the developers here right now are hometown boys. I really do think they have some feeling for the environment here,” Goff said. “But I’m concerned that the big developers that develop around Austin, they just want to slap the houses in, and they don’t care.”
“They want to get their houses in as cheaply and fast as possible,” she added.
Although the the new ordinance failed, a chance for future passage remains an option.
“Right now, it’s hard enough to build an affordable house in Marble Falls,” Packer said. “It was just going to be tougher and tougher to have affordable housing.
“We decided to keep it on the shelf in case we did see a need for it or outside developers abusing it. We will keep that because it is a well-written ordinance,” he added.