Trees have to be taken into consideration when developing property & there are steps that must be taken to ensure trees are protected and laws to enforce it. Where to find these regulations & what happens if they aren’t followed.

You may have heard of what’s called the Critical Root Zone or CRZ for short. So, this is an ordinance that is put in place by municipalities to protect trees. Now, Austin has a fairly strict tree ordinance and they have to protect the Critical Root Zone if you are developing any type of property around a tree. So, even if the tree is sitting in a certain spot, you can’t just start start digging up or placing a foundation or footings or a sidewalk or anything within 10 to 15ft, or even farther out of a tree. So, you need to work closely with the governing body. Typically, these are the municipalities and they even regulate their ETJ. Some local cities have also adopted tree ordinances such as San Marcus and Bastrop and many of these adjacent cities will actually model Austin’s tree ordinance.

So, the first thing you would need to do is actually conduct a tree survey to see if there are any protected heritage trees trees, as they’re commonly called. Generally speaking, a heritage tree is determined by whether it’s a certain size. So, they measure about 4 and a half ft. up from the ground level to measure the diameter of the tree. Or, if it has any type of historical significance, then it would probably need to be protected. Now, the critical root zone is determined by going out a foot, generally speaking, for every inch in diameter with a minimum of a 10t radius and that even extends upon that. Again, every city has different ordinances so you’ll want to work closely with them.

You know, for someone that’s in real estate, this could be frustrating because you may have a prime piece of property, but you have a large live oak heritage tree smack dab in the middle. But, that’s what makes Austin beautiful. It’s still a very green city and there are countless studies that have shown just being out in nature, being around trees, is beneficial.

So, how do we work around this, right? How do we work to preserve this? Now, some ordinances, some cities will allow you to pay a fee in lieu. If you cut down a tree, then you have to either pay a fee or maybe plant two more. The one thing you never want to do is just start cutting down a bunch of trees. There’s a local city close by that had a prime piece of land a developer bought and it was in the city’s jurisdiction and the developer went ahead and completely scraped the whole property without permission from the city. Now the city told me this in confidence, so I won’t name the specific city, but they slapped that developer with a $1.5 million fine. So, cities are taking this very seriously.

So, meet with the city, always disclose what you’re trying to do and then you’re going to have to get that tree survey and then determine which trees are protected and which are not. And, again, sometimes you can pay a fee in lieu and work with the city. So, it’s important that you know this information and, again, I think this is one of the factors that makes Austin so beautiful even though it is challenging from a real estate perspective.

If there are any other ideas you would like us to focus on in these videos, please feel free to give us feedback and reach out to us. We are actively talking to land owners in the Greater Austin area. We are looking to always buy land and we broker quite a few deals. We represent both buyers and sellers. If there is anything we can ever do to help you with your land needs, please feel free to reach out.

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