Irony strikes The Woodlands as builders clear cut new village.
One of, if not the, premier neighborhood in Houston, The Woodlands, a nearby escape from the clutter and bustle of city life, has managed to attract some of the city’s most affluent buyers. But at least one, Matthew Burton, isn’t happy with the direction The Woodlands Development Company has taken in the Creekside Park village. And on Feb. 19, he spoke to the township board to air his complaints.
“You’re all people of great respect and influence,” Burton said, appealing to the board members, adding, “Please use that influence with the development company.”
More than two weeks ago, Burton started an online petition on Change.org. His mission was simple: “Stop clear cutting the forest in Creekside Village!” In only a week, Burton’s petition had more than 800 signatures. Today: 1,855, three of which are board members.
“I’m not an environmentalist; and I’m certainly not a political activist,” he told the township. “I chose The Woodlands because I believed what I was sold by the developments company – that it’s a special place.”
Burton said that while the rest of Houston leveled trees, The Woodlands preserves them, which was something he felt worth paying extra for. By his own calculations, Burton claims to have paid an additional $100,000 to live in the area, and in light of the recent clear cutting, he said he’s “not getting what (he) paid for.”
“This is an existential issue for nature and the character of our community,” he said.
Bring in the Supporters
By the overwhelming number of supporters Burton’s petition has garnered, it’s clear that he’s not alone in his frustration.
On the petition’s Change.org page, local resident Vanissa Micklethwait writes: “This clear cutting is appalling to me!” She spared no reservations with her use of exclamation points, which I shaved down to only one.
Maria Cadena, another Woodlands resident writes that the area should revert to its original concept, which was the “conservation of the forest.”
Even The Woodlands Township board members have weighed in, with Bruce Tough announcing his support through an interview with The Courier, a local publication.
“It’s very shocking to see a forest being cut down that you pass by every day,” he said. “Anyone associated with The Woodlands comes here for our trees, so it’s always sad to see that.”
A Call for Change
Burton is careful to point out that he’s not an advocate of anti-development, but rather a supporter of smart development that leverages the “ethos and standards” of George and Cynthia Mitchell, who originally developed the neighborhood.
Listed on the petition’s website, Burton’s demands are simple:
- Create natural forest buffers between roads and neighborhoods/commercial buildings consistent with other Woodlands villages.
- Use selective cutting during commercial development.
- Have residential builders similarly use selective cutting and not clear cutting.
- And, finally, thoughtful reforestation with native trees consistent with the species diversity of the area’s mature forests.
When Burton presented his petition and expectations to the board, he did so with the understanding that the township jurisdiction in the matters of development. However, he hoped the members would use their pull to inspire change, legally, if necessary.
“The Woodlands Development Company has always had control over commercial development approvale, whether that’s a church, a school, an office building, Tough told the news source, adding that “it’s really a good thing if you look at it.”
Tough suggested the development company keeps garish strip malls out of the community, and instead provides master planned developments.
Still, Tough admitted the township was working towards gaining regulatory powers over development in Creekside and some of the new villages in The Woodlands.
In a statement sent to Houston Agent via email, Robert Heineman, vice president of planning the company, skirted Burton’s immediate concerns, assuring that the group’s strategy was aimed at making Creekside more “pedestrian friendly” and “is based upon traditional neighborhood development principles.”
Heineman added that prior to the development group purchasing the village center, a “significant portion” was “pastureland,” which the company later re-planted with pine trees and now stands as a mature forest.
Burton’s petition can be found here, but without legal action, the development company won’t be obliged to make any major changes to its development strategy.
The trees is what makes a neighbood look nice and trees are great for your health.