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Fire Risk Prevention and our Conservation Easement
Posted on Mar 5th, 2024
 
     We continue to be in a severe drought and wildfires burning in west Texas and California are reminders that fire prevention and safety is everyone’s responsibility. The How to Prepare Your Home For Wildfire Fact Sheet from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a useful review for every homeowner. Excepts copied below.
 
Immediate zone
The home and the area 0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of the home; defined as a non-combustible area. Science tells us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers. START WITH THE HOUSE ITSELF then move into the landscaping section of the Immediate Zone.
  · Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.
  · Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
  · Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8 inch metal mesh screening.
  · Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to reduce embers.
  · Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  · Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches. 
 
Intermediate zone
5-30’ from the furthest exterior point of the home. Landscaping/hardscaping- employing careful landscaping or creating breaks that can help influence and decrease fire behavior
  · Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.
  · Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.
  · Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches.
  · Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns.  Prune trees up to six to ten feet from the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.
  · Space trees to have a minimum of eighteen feet between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage of slope.
  · Tree placement should be planned to ensure the mature canopy is no closer than ten feet to the edge of the structure.
  · Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape.
 
Extended zone
30-100 feet, out to 200 feet. Landscaping – the goal here is not to eliminate fire but to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.
· Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.
· Remove dead plant and tree material.
· Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.
· Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.
· Trees 30 to 60 feet from the home should have at least 12 feet between canopy tops.*
· Trees 60 to 100 feet from the home should have at least 6 feet between the canopy tops.
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     Our community has a conservation easement, overseen by the Texas Land Conservancy, which protects the land from development and includes restrictive covenants that prohibit removal, destruction, or cutting of trees (except Chinese privet and other exotic plants), spraying with biocides, or disturbing or changing the natural habitat. The covenants specifically include limiting cutting or clearing of vegetation. Guidance from the Texas Land Conservancy stipulates that general clearing of brush from the land changes the natural habitat and is not permitted, and any/all changes within the protected land must be approved in advance. These limitations have raised questions about fire risk associated with the conservancy easement.
 
From the Texas Land Conservancy: Property Owners adjacent to the conservation easement with questions or concerns about management of the land in the easement may submit questions or request approval of a plan for a specific area along the shared boundary where they would like to thin cedar and possibly dead brush. The plans should be based on firewise or similar protocol for justification. https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Wildfire/Preparing-homes-for-wildfire
 
     Property owners adjacent to our conservation easement may trim limbs that overhang a wall or fence into a homeowner’s property and remove it as waste without seeking permission. Property owners who want to clear any vegetation along the shared boundary should submit a plan to the HOA for review by the Texas Land Conservancy. A description of the proposed vegetation to be removed would be good, but marked photos of the proposed work would be better. If maintenance is approved, a Stewardship Committee will conduct or supervise the maintenance. Any work that might be approved should be very limited, such that a homeowner or single helper could accomplish it easily.
 
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SAWS proposed changes in 2024
Posted on Feb 20th, 2024
From the Property Manager, The Stone Oak Property Owners Association
 
The attached items were taken from the SAWS site www.wateringrules.com.  You can go to that site and take a survey.  Please also take the time to scroll down that page and see more about the proposed changes, and how they could affect your bill.
 
[Note - The attachments have been placed on the CRHOA website: 1 Watering-Rules-FactSheet; 2 Summary-of-Changes-Final-Draft; 3 Watering-Rules-Review.]  
 
A few of the proposed changes include (but please read through the attached):
-          A non-compliance charge on your bill would replace the current municipal citation process
-          A drought surcharge on your bill during stage 3 for high users
-          Drip irrigation would only be able to water ONCE a week
-          Flow restrictors would be installed on repeat offenders (after notice and opportunity to comply)
 
Our understanding is these changes will go before the SAWS Board for approval, then go to City Council for vote possibly in May/June. 
 
Please share these important potential changes with your neighbors, and management companies.  It is important any concerns are voiced to the District 9 office and SAWS Board ASAP.
 
Each SAWS Board meeting has a period of public comment; here is the page regarding SAWS Board Meetings: https://apps.saws.org/who_we_are/board/agenda/.
 
Here is a link to the page where you can reach SAWS Board Members: https://www.saws.org/about-saws/our-board/contact-board-members/.
 
Here is a link to the District 9 page – the link to the staff directory can be found on the right side of the page:  https://www.sa.gov/Directory/Departments/Mayor-Council/City-Council/D9.
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