Many developers must remove existing trees in order to build new homes or buildings. Some cities have required developers to pay fees, known as tree mitigation fees, as a condition for permitting the removal of the trees.

Developers have worked for years to get legislation passed that would allow them to reduce their tree mitigation fees by planting new replacement trees. It looked like a tree mitigation fee credit bill had finally become a reality when the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 744 this session. However, that tree mitigation fee credit bill died when Governor Greg Abbott vetoed the bill because it did not provide enough protections to property owners. While developers and property owners would have loved a bill that provided them greater protections, Senate Bill 744 was seen as a step in the right direction.

Governor Abbott quickly eased property owners’ disappointment by adding tree regulation to the topics of the Special Session. Specifically, during the Special Session, House Bill 7, authored by State Representative Dade Phelan (R-Port Neches) and State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), was proposed to provide developers and property owners with more protections than those set forth in the previous Senate Bill 744.

House Bill 7 requires municipalities that impose mitigation fees in connection with tree removal on a person’s property to provide credits for trees planted to offset the remaining mitigation fees assessed for the tree. To help avoid fees that can quickly add up when a property owner does not have the capacity to plant new trees on its own property to cover the mitigation costs, the bill also allows for trees to be planted on mutually agreed upon locations by the municipality and the property owner. House Bill 7 also prohibits mitigation fees on the removal of trees that are diseased, dead, or pose an imminent or immediate threat to persons or property.

On August 16, 2017, Governor Abbott signed House Bill 7 into law, which takes effect on December 1, 2017.  While this bill provides greater protections to homeowners, residential and commercial developers will also likely view this bill as much needed relief to the burden of high tree mitigation fees.

Below is a breakdown of the tree mitigation fee credits allowed by House Bill 7:

Type of Property

Tree Credit

Existing one-family or two-family personal residence and the tree to remove is less than 10 inches The City may not impose a fee
Existing one-family or two-family personal residence and the tree to remove is greater than 10 inches 100% tree credit (i.e., you can entirely eliminate the fees by planting new trees)
Residential developers, including single-family and multifamily 50% tree credit (i.e., you can offset fees by at least 50 percent)
Commercial developers and properties 40% tree credit
Tree is diseased, dead, or poses imminent or immediate threat to persons or property The City may not impose a fee

For questions regarding this e-Alert, please contact:

Steven Dimitt at sdimitt@jw.com or 214.953.6182,

Mike Knapek at mknapek@jw.com or 214.953.6078, or

Bill Dahlstrom at wdahlstrom@jw.com or 214.953.5932.