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Do Tree Regulations Impact Economic Development?

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has requested that local governments consider for the special session starting July 18 a provision that would nix local tree regulations. Present in more than 50 municipalities across Texas, tree regulations usually require landowners to pay a fee when they take down trees or replant trees that have been removed.

The governor, Republican lawmakers and the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation believe that tree regulations infringe on local property owners' rights. Those arguing against easing tree restrictions believe that local tree protections help make areas more attractive to those who would live or do business there, and that allowing property owners to raze trees at will could decrease quality of life and reduce property values.

The conflict sets up tension between state and local governments, with those at the local level arguing that the people who live locally are the best suited to make their own decisions about tree and other regulations. Those on the state side favor personal property rights, and would seek to overrule municipal regulations, allowing property owners to make their own decisions on a case-by-case basis.

For developers working on commercial projects, tree ordinances may not be a make-or-break factor. If the state prevails, developers who want trees can still have trees, and those who don't can remove them. But it may be worth considering the feelings of the local community towards tree ordinances when attempting to build goodwill and trust within that community. Developers may want to pay attention to the special session starting July 18 for updates to this unfolding issue.

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