Building around City of Austin Trees

Building around City of Austin Trees

We all love trees, or you should as they provide shade in the Texas heat, but they can have a major impact on what you want to develop on your property. Before building your dream home or putting a pool in your backyard you should be aware of the City of Austin’s Tree and Natural Area Preservation Code.

Let’s start with what is protected:

Straight from the city code: § 25-8-602 - DEFINITIONS

HERITAGE TREE means a tree that has a diameter of 24 inches or more, measured four and one-half feet above natural grade, and is one of the following species:

(a) Ash, Texas

(b) Cypress, Bald

(c) Elm, American

(d) Elm, Cedar

(e) Madrone, texas

(f) Maple, Bigtooth

(g) All Oaks

(h) Pecan

(I) Walnut, Arizona

(j) Walnut, Eastern Black

This list of eligible heritage tree species may be supplemented, but not reduced, as prescribed by rule.

PROTECTED TREE means a tree with a diameter of 19 inches or more, measured four and one-half feet above natural grade.

Source: Municode

“How do I measure my tree? It has three trunks!” Well the city has provided a few guidelines to obtain a proper measurement.

How to Measure a Tree:

How to measure a tree in Austin

How close can I build to my tree?

The city of Austin has established a set of rules regarding the impact of building adjacent to trees. The critical root zone is the area at which any loss of a tree’s root system would not have a significant impact on the tree’s survival.

Therefore each tree has a radial zone around the tree in which the distance is determined by the diameter of the trunk. As you get closer to the trunk, the level of allowable impact becomes more restrictive.

Source: Municode

Tree Critical Root Zone in Austin

I want to build into the CRZ or 1/4 CRZ - What are my options?

There are some options; however, the restrictions of the code still apply. One option may be to engineer a cantilevered foundation into the 1/4 CRZ so as not to disturb the soil. Another option may be to have a certified arborist air spade the area around the tree in order to identify roots for a pier and beam foundation. Of course these are atypical situations and the city arborist must approve of these situations.

How do I remove a protected or heritage tree?

In order to remove a protected or heritage tree, the homeowner must fill out an application with the Planning and Development Department. The application has guidelines on what the applicant needs to document and include in order to provide as much information for the city arborist to review. There is a variety of approval criteria the city reviews for protected trees, such as disease, dead trees, preventing reasonable access to the property, etc. Heritage Tree removal is much more restricted. 

More can be found here in the city code about tree removal.

Need more information?

Here is a link to the city of Austin’s residential tree permitting process.

Do you need help designing your home, but are unsure of the impacts your trees may have on the project’s feasibility? Give us a call, we can help!

Please note: This is for informational purposes only. We are not your architect or builder!

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