Owner: Trees were fire haz­ard


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along busy West­lake Drive be­cause he was afraid stray sparks or a dis­carded cig­a­rette could ig­nite a wild­fire.

“It was a fire haz­ard,” At­tal said. “I didn’t think I needed to get any­one to come and tell me if I could or couldn’t take out some dead cedar trees. If I’d known I needed to get a dead cedar tree re­moval per­mit, I would have gone and done it.”

As his tree crews were work­ing in April, city of­fi­cials ar­rived to stop the re­moval and so be­gan a process that has dragged on for months and di­vided city res­i­dents.

The com­bined di­am­e­ter of all the cut trees was 338 inches, ac­cord­ing to the city ar­borist’s report. The city wants At­tal to re­place them with an equiv­a­lent amount of ju­nipers. If not, the city has threat­ened a law­suit and crim­i­nal penal­ties of up to $2,000 per tree.

At­tal said he wants to re­place only 200 di­am­e­ter inches, and he con­tends that would more than fully re­store what was re­moved.

The city based its fig­ures on the num­ber of stumps, said City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Robert Wood. And the city has ev­i­dence that the trees were alive, he said.

At­tal said many of the stumps were there be­fore he moved in. He es­ti­mated that it would cost more than $100,000 to re­place that many ju­nipers and said he might have to rip out $40,000 worth of new trees and land­scap­ing to do it.

At­tal’s at­tor­ney, Luis Reyes, said what the city is ask­ing is over­reach­ing and not in line with the city’s code.

At­tal has char­ac­ter­ized the city’s con­duct as “a witch hunt” and said he be­lieves he is be­ing made an ex­am­ple to de­ter other res­i­dents from re­mov­ing trees.

“That can some­times be a re­sult of this kind of ac­tion, but we’re just try­ing to re­store what was there and en­force the rules that have been laid out for us by the res­i­dents,” Wood said.

The de­ci­sion on whether to pur­sue a law­suit and crim­i­nal charges against At­tal will come be­fore the West Lake Hills City Coun­cil at its Wed­nes­day meet­ing.

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