The City has a new ordinance in place to assure that, without exception, every property development – even a downtown high-rise – will green up the surrounding neighborhood.
The City’s existing Tree Protection Ordinance requires developers to plant or preserve at least six to eight trees per acre when building, depending on the property and circumstances.
But what happens when a developer wants to build vertically – in Downtown, for example, or in the Cumberland Avenue corridor? Suppose a mixed-use development covers most of a city block and there’s no room for large shade trees – or maybe the terrain and growing conditions are too poor for trees to take root?
City Council at last night’s meeting approved an ordinance proposed by the Public Service Department to create a “Tree Mitigation Bank.” In rare exceptions when a developer cannot meet the City’s tree-planting requirements, they can seek an exemption and then pay the City to plant trees close by.
If the developer’s request is approved, Urban Forester Kasey Krouse would select the trees to be planted. The trees would be placed in the same vicinity or within the same watershed, if possible, and the developer would foot the bill for the trees, the labor costs and the initial maintenance of the trees.
“This will be used very sparingly – it’s not at all going to be a way to get around the Tree Protection Ordinance,” Krouse said. “But there are rare circumstances when a developer doesn’t have the room to plant the trees on his property. For example, the footprints of some urban building designs go almost from one lot line to the next.
“Previously, there wasn’t a good alternative for a well-intentioned developer who couldn’t meet the tree standards. Going forward, they can buy trees and green up their neighborhood, knowing experienced City forestry crews will pick the right tree species and planting locations.”