Developer Hell

City Sues Developer, Contractors For Axing Protected Trees

Oaks were 90 to 100 years old and on city right-of-way, suit claims.

By John Nova Lomax October 8, 2013

A Bellaire developer and his Houston contractor have been sued for at least $500,000, according to documents on file in the Harris County courthouse.

The suit claims that Signature City Homes LLC and managing member / registered agent Barry Gomel and contractor Dennis Williams and Company wantonly and maliciously cut down a 100-year-old live oak at 801 Bomar and another tree of similar age at 1704 Blodgett and also unlawfully destroyed and removed sidewalks at each location. The suit further claims that the defendants "unlawfully took possession of the timber for their own use and benefit."

Signature City Homes' Barry Gomel

Image: Facebook

According to the suit, the defendants knew that the trees were on city property, and that Signature City / Gomel ordered Williams to remove the trees. In the case of the Bomar oak, a third party has alleged that he/she declined Gomel / Signature's request to cut it down and also informed the defendant that to do so would violate city ordinances. 

David Feldman is representing the City in the suit and issued the following statement.

"The timing of the destruction of trees on a weekend raises the suggestion that the developer cut the trees down in an attempt to escape detection and avoid certain community protest and legal action. It is also particularly disturbing coming on the heels of the well-publicized destruction of vegetation at Woodland Park and the price that a developer had to pay for its acts in that instance. These defendants placed their own commercial interests ahead of our citizens' right to enjoy these trees. We have to make it clear to everyone that the public will simply not tolerate this type of conduct."

Attorney Brian Cweren is representing Signature City. Speaking to KTRK, Cweren called the suit "frivolous," "a cynical election-season stunt," and a waste of taxpayer money. He says his client tried and failed to resolve the dispute with the City.

The suit cites, theft, trespassing and negligence among the causes of action and seeks $500,000 in actual damages, exemplary damages to be determined in court, attorneys' fees and interest. 

The Bomar Oak, now gone.

Image: Google Maps

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