Exemptions justified in proposed state law superseding city powers
Thursday, April 25, 2013 |
Westbank residents should be concerned about eminent dangers associated wildfires, but State Rep. Paul Workman’s HB 1858 has some city officials across the state justifiably claiming foul. West Lake Hill Mayor Dave Claunch is one of them (see story on page A1).
We have mixed emotions about State Rep. Paul Workman’s HB 1858 because it is easy to see both sides of the issue – residents should be allowed to protect their homes from wildfire, and officials in some deserving cities with strict tree ordinances should be allowed to preserve rural character.
Workman’s bill sets up scenarios for residents to cut down trees around their homes despite city ordinances. Claunch makes a good argument for cities such as West Lake Hills, which has achieved the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise status. He maintains that city officials are already addressing dangers involving the area’s fuel for fire and should be encouraged to continue doing so without adding to the mix the bill’s sweeping legislation. It is a logical argument.
We are not advocating that all cities making a token effort be allowed and exemption. As Claunch pointed out in the article, West Lake Hills has certainly done an exemplary job of addressing wildfire risks within the city. Recent trimming of trees that could block possible exit routes for evacuations in the event of wildfires and dedication to brush pickups are only part of the city’s ongoing efforts. The city is collectively putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to keeping its Firewise status. The City Council recently authorized the purchase of a FireWatch camera and sensor system to monitor the city limits and beyond for potential wildfires. The camera will reportedly be the first in the United States to be purchased by a municipality.
It is doubtful that that if Workman’s bill is ultimately approved and signed into law, residents will remove beautiful, valuable trees in masses. Nevertheless, we hope logic among lawmakers will prevail and that they will at least consider allowing cities with Firewise status exemptions to preserve the character of their communities.
We welcome your comments on our stories but will publish only those that do not violate our commenting guidelines