Do you support the adoption of the tree canopy ordinance?
The proposed Decatur Tree Conservation Ordinance is available along with the administrative standards that will be use to implement the new provisions. Several elements of the proposal would significantly change the City’s approach to tree conservation as compared to the current ordinance, and we want your opinion.
The issue of tree conservation has been a longstanding discussion in Decatur, but community concerns have brought an increased level of urgency to the subject in recent months. In October 2013, the City Commission passed a 90-day moratorium on tree removal. Additionally, they fast-tracked the development of a new tree ordinance that would reflect current best management practices in the industry.
That effort has been underway with the assistance of tree consultant, Connie Head of Technical Forestry Services, and the City Commission is scheduled to consider the recommendations at their regular meeting on January 21st at 7:30pm. Please review the materials and provide your opinion using Open City Hall. The forum for this discussion will be open from January 16th – January 21st (noon). For more information please view the FAQ and the summary of the ordinance.
Draft recommendations were presented to the City Commission during a work session on January 6th. A recording of the presentation is available online.
Do we have a problem with Decatur’s tree canopy?
Decatur’s canopy was estimated to be 45% in 2010. For an urban environment, 45% coverage is considered good, but data from 2 sources, as shown in the above chart, indicates a declining trend in coverage from approximately 51% in 1991. Tree conservation was identified as a community goal in Task 13A of the Decatur Strategic Plan.
It’s difficult to empirically state the relative impact of various factors on this community’s tree canopy; natural aging, development pressures, general impacts from an urban environment, etc. What we can say is that the trend in our canopy is declining, and we have an opportunity to be proactive about our next 25 years. Our goal is to address all of these factors through programs and policies, like the proposed tree ordinance.
What are the major changes proposed in the new ordinance?
- Hire a full time City Arborist.
One of the underlying foundations of the proposed ordinance is that the city will hire a full time arborist to administer the tree ordinance and promote tree conservation through information, education, and public tree maintenance programs.
- Switch to measuring tree canopy instead of tree density.
The canopy is the top of the tree with leaves and branches. Canopy based ordinances have become the standard, replacing the type of ordinance Decatur has in place now, which measures tree density and the size of the trunk.
- Set a city-wide canopy coverage goal.
The 25-year goal in the proposed ordinance is set at 55%. This would apply to all property types. This is not the same as lot coverage, because canopy can extend over your house, sidewalks, or other paved areas. You also receive credit for canopy that extends over your property, but the trunk is on your neighbor’s property.
- Create one class of protected trees.
Protected trees would include any public trees, healthy trees of any size conserved or planted to meet tree ordinance requirements AND any healthy tree 6 inches diameter at breast height (dbh) or greater. This would replace today’s system which involves several categories including; landmark, specimen, protected, and historic.
- Define boundary trees and establish rules for their protection.
A boundary tree is defined as any tree with roots, trunk, or branches growing on a property boundary line between two lots. If a boundary tree is in the protected class and is being impacted by a project, protection methods and escrow payments will be required. The intent of this is to protect neighbors’ trees from being impacted by building construction on adjacent lots.
- All protected tree removals or disturbance will require a permit.
Currently, Decatur does not regulate tree removal or disturbance unless it is part of a new construction project. Under this proposal, all property owners will be required to obtain a permit for removal of a tree in the protected class.
- Permit applications will require consultation with a certified arborist.
All tree removal permits and tree disturbance permits will require consultation with a certified arborist.
- The existing canopy coverage of a property and proposed scope of work will determine replanting requirements.
The proposed ordinance would allow any property owner to remove any tree, provided they have more than 55% canopy coverage on their property. For sites with less than 55% coverage, small projects and tree removals will require replanting, and larger projects will require the entire site to be brought up to 55% canopy. Project size is determined by impervious cover and floor area.
Outcome: Proposal AmendedRead More
This topic has 1161 visitors and 564 positions: 239 registered positions and 325 unregistered positions.
That's 28.2 hours of public comment @ 3 minutes per position.