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Trees near Santikos development in Cibolo removed

October 2, 2018

Some residents who live along Dewberry Park and Foxglove Pass in Cibolo’s Lantana subdivision have a pristine view of an area that was once full of trees.

But it’s a view they do not want and did not have before early September, when a contractor hired by an apartment developer removed dozens of large trees that previously obscured that view and provided a noise buffer for the homes. A Santikos Theater is under construction there and a planned Cibolo Crossing Apartments also will fill the area.

City officials and developer Bill Skeen, multifamily development manager for Fasken Oil and Ranch, addressed the issue with Lantana residents who gathered Sept. 26 at the called meeting at Cibolo City Hall.

“Some mistakes were made on the clearing of trees. We’ve got a plan put together to mitigate that,” Skeen said. “Our philosophy is to do it right and follow the rules; but unfortunately, I didn’t have my eye on the ball and the trees were cleared. They shouldn’t have been. That area was going to be a buffer zone.”

Skeen showed a drone video made on Aug. 20 that simulated the view from the height of the three-story buildings that will be built at Cibolo Crossing, the nine-building, 311-unit apartment complex going in between Lantana and the Santikos property development along the I-35 access road. The full-grown trees shown were removed and chipped, left on the site in 15-20 foot tall piles of mulch.

“We didn’t give the contractor, DNT Construction, the tree survey at their pre-construction meeting and show them that buffer area,” Skeen said. “They were there, and they chipped out most of about 10-12 of the large trees that were removed.”

Some of the trees removed, he said, topped 30 to 40 feet. “What really opened it up was when they took out the understory and the brush that was there, along that tree line.”

Skeen told the Lantana residents that new trees have been purchased and can be installed in the buffer zone within 10 days. But Lantana residents expressed a desire to see where the Live Oak and Monterrey Oak trees are going to be planted and Skeen agreed to have the tree locations staked out, so that Lantana residents can see where they plan to put the trees, a request that could delay the plantings by several days or weeks.

The trees are not of the maturity of the trees removed, he said, but will grow out to the same density given time and proper care, which he said will be a priority with Fasken following the contractor’s blunder.

“We have about 100 that we’ve purchased through our landscape contractor,” he said, showing trees with 4-to-6-inch trunk development.

Ruby Raney, Lantana Homeowners Association president, said she appreciated Skeen’s talking points. But the problem is typical of the issues the subdivision has had with the city over the years.

“We got the same run-around that we’ve gotten the entire length of our subdivision being there, that we usually get from the city,’ Raney said following the 90-minute meeting. “The trees are the tip of the iceberg. The entire development off that road impacts us.”

She said the HOA officials started receiving telephone calls the same day that the trees were being cleared.

“It’s not the number (of trees cleared) that I’m given. It’s the fact that you can now stand in a ladies’ house, look out her kitchen window, and you can see not only the entire length of that field, but all the way to the other side of I-35,” Raney said.

Skeen said it would be about 18-24 months before the apartment complex will be completed and ready for occupancy. The apartment complex will come within 12 feet of city property along a dry creek bed in the 100-year flood plain that separates the Lantana homes from the apartment and the 100,000-square-foot Santikos Theater building currently under construction. The creek runs anywhere from several feet to 25-30 feet behind the Lantana homes.

“My first reaction was, ‘what the heck happened?’” Skeen said when first contacted by the city. “We went back and tried to reconstruct how we got there, how those trees got removed.

“I take full responsibility for it,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors, and we are going to be here for a long time, like I told everyone tonight.”

jflinn@express-news.net

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