FLOWER MOUND — Flower Mound neighbors are learning that someone can enter their property and cut down their trees. Their only problem is being too close to a natural gas pipeline.
The pipeline in question runs under the Lakeside business district on the south side of town. It continues through The Sanctuary and Wellington subdivisions and the Tour 18 golf course.
The people in the pipeline's path are not happy.
Atmos wants to cut down trees along a 12-mile swath through Flower Mound, in the heart of neighborhoods, along scenic walking trails and right next to a school. Any trees in the utility's 50-foot wide right-of-way are fair game.
"I don't know how to even quantify how devastating it would be," said Jean Levenick, a Town Council member. "It's not what Flower Mound is."
Flower Mound received the designation Tree City, USA from the Arbor Day Foundation because of its trees. That's why town leaders are upset that Atmos wants to cut down thousands of healthy trees.
"Let's not go in and just cut straight boundaries of 50 feet," said Levenick. "Let's go in and hand-trim things and make it look more natural."
Atmos officials say the tree removal is all about safety and maintenance.
"If there's an emergency, we have to be able to get to our pipeline right away — not just on foot, but with heavy equipment, a backhoe, to be able to get in there to fix the situation," said Atmos spokeswoman Jennifer Ryan.
But some homeowners, like Jaime Moore, say the risk of something happening along the pipeline isn't worth the price of cutting down so many trees.
"I think the probability is so low, I would be willing to take the chance," Moore said. "I would like to see the trees remain."
Atmos met with town leaders Monday. They agreed to walk the 12-mile pipeline with an arborist to mark which trees will be removed.
While the gas company has the legal right to take any trees down in its right of way, town leaders say they should do it responsibly.