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Thread: Tree preservation on non-residential developments

  1. #1

    Tree preservation on non-residential developments

    Do you have any suggestions, experience, examples or advice concerning the development of an ordinance that promotes tree preservation during the development of nonresidential properties?

    We are open to using incentives for preserving healthy trees as well as implementing penalties to those who remove them before the plan review process. Any experiences you have would be appreciated.

    Due to lack of staff and the difficulty of enforcement we prefer to avoid issue "tree disturbance" permits or having too much regulation but if that is the best way to address the issue, share.

    I did a search and found a thread that was full of argumentative behavior. I left it alone.

  2. #2
    Oct 2007
    Way out there
    We've considered a couple of different things --

    1) A tree preservation overlay for scenic/environmentally-sensitive areas. Such an overlay would affect all developments.

    2) A tree preservation and low-impact development incentive program. Such a program would allow some variance from other regulations (maximum parking spaces, parking lot islands, etc.) in exchange for tree preservation and/or implementation of certain LID principles. Applicants who want to focus on tree preservation are required to submit a tree preservation plan approved by an arborist, urban forester, or landscape architect. The plan must include a tree inventory and provisions for replanting. This program utilizes a point system where trees are scored based on species and size; a certain number of points can buy you an additional parking space (up to a definite, fixed maximum -- say 10-15 percent over the current maximum).

    Right now, we're looking more and more at option two. We've implemented rather strict site plan review standards over the last year, so we're hesitant to place more requirements on landowners. We're currently using a relocating church as a test case for an incentive program for tree preservation. The local public utility will be building a new structure next year; we'll test the LID components of the incentive program with that development.

    One thing to understand: Tree preservation can be costly -- much more costly than planting new trees. Having a firm inventory of all the trees on a large site can cost thousands of dollars. Shifting parking lots, buildings, and driveways to another portion of a site to accommodate existing trees can cost thousands of dollars. If you implement such a requirement, be prepared for considerable backlash from the development community.

    Best wishes.

  3. #3

    Dec 2007
    Front Range, CO
    I agree that developers will scream about cost and time, but what will the other members of the community do? What about the stormwater members of the community, and their concern over loss of canopy and stormwater impacts? What about the retail community, who knows that mature trees increase willingness to pay and miles traveled to their businesses (and the value of their property is higher)? What about...

    Bottom line, tree loss is a big deal. We just often don't realize it until it is too late. I'm at a tree conference right now, and will talk to the community about their outreach strategies later this week.

    In the meantime, here is a good start for tree ordinances. My suggestion is to make one. If you want detailed reasons why (a complete list of benefits), PM me and I'll send you the definitive lit review on benefits.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
    Thanks for your comments so far.

    I expect the development community to be fairly unhappy about this type of regulation.

    The cases which have us looking in to these types of ordinances have been several commercial properties, whose owners cut the existing trees down. We wouldnt have a tree survey becuase they werent in the development review process yet.

    They werent required to get a grading permit because of either the size of the lots or in one case, becuase they cut all of the trees using small machinery. We'd really like to prevent this from happening again while creating an ordinance that promotes the preservation (when feasible) of trees.

  5. #5
    Nov 2008
    Glendale, AZ
    Blog entries

    I know it's a stretch but...

    You might try looking at the City of Sacramento, CA -- they have a pretty strong committment to preserve trees (for lots of reasons -- including reducing urban temperatures) -- and they impose significant conditions on permits to ensure survivability of existing trees. They even have mitigation monitoring plans so they check up on permit holder performance during construction.

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