As previously reported, the revised update to Decatur’s Tree Ordinance is scheduled for a vote this coming Monday. You can view the full ordinance HERE. A letter from City Planning Director Amanda Thompson to the City Manager summarizes the 9 month effort and the major points of this version of the ordinance.
The purpose of this memo is to request that the City Commission adopt a new tree canopy conservation ordinance and administrative standards. The 2010 Strategic Plan identified creating an urban forest master plan and adopting amendments to the tree ordinance as a community goal. In September 2013, the city initiated a tree ordinance revision process based on improvements identified in a 2008 draft ordinance as well as requests from various community groups. Public input workshops, online forums and work sessions have been held on this topic for the past 9 months. The proposed ordinance incorporates the best management practices recommended by the city’s urban forest consultants, feedback from the public and the Environmental Sustainability Board and the specific revisions requested by the City Commission. It acknowledges that the city has lost tree canopy over the past ten years and the city has identified the tree canopy as a community resource that requires conservation.
The proposed ordinance represents a significant improvement over our current standards. It switches from a tree density to a tree canopy measurement system which aligns the city’s regulations with the most current scientific knowledge about the ecological benefits o f trees. It establishes a canopy goal for residential and commercial properties. It provides protection for boundary trees and requires a more thoughtful approach to the design of construction projects to mitigate the impact on existing trees and ensure the success of newly planted trees. It includes updated management practices and a tree species list. Commercial properties are required to maintain a 45% tree canopy cover. Residential property owners can remove up to 3 protected trees within 18 months by filing a free, tree removal information permit. Residential property owners are held to a no net loss standard for projects that require a land disturbance permit or for the removal of the 4th protected tree within 18 months.
The most recent amendments include defining specimen trees and allowing double canopy credit for projects that preserve specimen trees. An additional amendment has been prepared for your consideration that allows residential property owners with greater than 60% tree canopy on their site to have more flexibility in the amount of replacement tree canopy that can be paid into the tree bank (Amendment A).
The ordinance has an effective date of Monday, July 7, 2014. In the next six weeks, the city will designate a City Arborist, hold public workshops on the new ordinance, recommend permit fees where applicable and create the necessary administrative forms for implementation. If adopted, the new ordinance will be integrated into the Unified Development Ordinance process with special consideration given to the relationship between stormwater regulations and tree conservation. City Commission approval of the proposed ordinance and Amendment A is recommended.