By Samantha Smith
Heated debate hit the Buda City Council chambers earlier this month when city leaders attempted to find solutions for a 53-inch wide heritage oak tree that’s in the footprint of their new municipal and public safety building.
But city leaders learned possibly relocating the tree could cost $324,000, which wouldn’t be covered by the $21 million Buda voters approved in Proposition 1 of the 2014 bond. The Buda city council decided to table moving forward with site plans for the new facility to allow city staff to investigate options on relocating the tree.
Buda city officials learned of the issue during a presentation by Page Architects and J.E. Dunn on Aug. 16.
Bryan Dunn with J.E. Dunn said the engineering team produced four different options to mitigate the issue with the tree. But Dunn said the feasibility of the different options could be an issue.
One option could have the city remove and dispose of the tree at no cost, while another would see the city move the tree to one of three locations onsite of the municipal building, which is located on Buda’s Main Street.
Ginny Chilton, a representative with Page Architects, said those three locations all pose their own challenges. She said one possible relocation spot wouldn’t be feasible for the future needs of the new municipal building, as existing utilities would have to be moved to make room for the tree’s root system.
A second relocation spot was more feasible, but would require drainage reconfiguration. While the third option would be feasible for space, it could create more design challenges.
Additional options for the city include removing the tree offsite, or finding a new location for the municipal facility.
“The team has taken this seriously to find the most equitable solution for the City,” Dunn said.
But the city also learned the steep price tag of moving the tree on or off site.
Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said the council as a whole is interested in saving as many trees as possible, but the price tag of the relocation is a bit steep.
“Using the tree as construction materials would be a last resort,” Ruge said.
According to Ruge even though the $324,000 to relocate the heritage oak would not come out of the bond money, funding could be found through other means like private fundraising or grant funding. Page and J.E. Dunn, however, gave the city a two-month deadline to complete site plans for the facility.
“Two months is a long time,” Ruge said of the deadline given to council. “The budget is trending upward, so funding might be possible from somewhere.”
Buda resident Nancy Brinkley addressed council after the presentation to share her comments, and concerns, on the issue.
“This is more than just a tree,” Brinkley explained to council, stating the city’s own ordinance to protect heritage oaks with a minimum diameter of 23 inches. “This is the biggest and best specimen of live oak tree that we have in this city. I hope there is a way to save this tree.”