Royal Pines Clearcutting

202.8 Acres of Royal Pines Gone. Was It Necessary?

Since April 2022, I’ve documented the ever-widening clearing of the new Royal Pines subdivision at the north end of West Lake Houston Parkway. See what the development looked like in:

At the end of August, it appeared as though the clearing was close to complete. Massive piles of dead trees remain to haul away. But the cleared area closely matches the general plan shown below.

Looking ENE across the new, barren Royal Pines subdivision
Looking SSE from NW corner of Royal Pines
Looking WNW across Country Colony and Royal Pines, the clearing in the background.
General Plan for Royal Pines. Click here for higher resolution version.

Why Developers Clearcut: Pragmatism, Profit, Affordable Product

All across the region we see this same scenario played out over and over again. Why?

Bloomberg points out, “Money, of course. For homebuilders, trees are a nuisance. To keep a tree alive while building on a lot, they have to keep heavy equipment far away so they don’t compact the soil above its roots. They also can’t push soil up around the trunk. Preserving trees means keeping the topography of the lot unchanged, which often doesn’t fit their plans.” 

Memphis Daily News interviewed the president of the local homebuilders association there. The article says that “a developer’s stance on clear-cutting trees often depends on landscape and lot sizes. It’s easier to save trees on larger lots because they allow more room to work.”

“If a developer goes in and he decides he’s going to do two-acre lots, trees are no issue and they’re going to stay,” said Tim Wilson, president of the Memphis Area Homebuilders Association’s executive board. “But if a builder decides the best use for a piece of property is 40-foot lots, then the trees are coming down, every single one of them. That’s because there is no room for a house and a tree on a 40-foot lot.”

Majority of Lots 40-42 Feet

Exploring the links below will show you the general plan and layouts for the first three sections of Royal Pines. Most of the lots are, in fact, 40 to 42 feet wide:

The rising costs of land, borrowing, and building materials are forcing developers to squeeze more homes into smaller spaces to keep the homes affordable. In the Preserve at Woodridge, the lots are even smaller: 13 to the acre instead of 4-6.

That increases impervious cover. Unless sufficient detention and retention basins slow the water down, accelerated runoff increases the time of concentration downstream. That builds faster, higher flood peaks.

Effect of Urbanization on Peak Stream Flows” by Dr. William Dupre, professor emeritus from the University of Houston.

Impact on Environment points out that clearcutting also has other environmental impacts. They include erosion, pollution and flooding. “

“The roots of trees hold moisture and keep soil in place, protecting it from washing away during wind and rain. This erosion can also lead to flooding in waterways. Because trees are no longer holding the soil in place, rain flushes the sediment into waterways. … That can impact the river’s ability to flow properly and cause flooding.”

White Oak Creek

All along White Oak Creek, new developments are springing up. At 242 and FM1314, Mavera wetlands have bitten the dust.

Farther east, White Oak runs through the massive Valley Ranch area and the new Amazon transportation facility at 59 and 99.

Then Royal Pines borders White Oak as you get to West Lake Houston Parkway.

Finally White Oak joins Caney Creek, the East Fork San Jacinto and Lake Houston. (See below.)

White Oak Creek Watershed from the Texas Watershed Viewer.

All this clearcutting has the potential to increase runoff, erosion and sedimentation that could require future dredging…at public expense.

Eventually, the ground cover and forest canopy will regrow. But what about in the meantime? Neighbors have been lucky so far unlike those in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/5/22

1833 Days since Hurricane Harvey