Tree ordinance compromise

Here are the gory details of the compromise struck in a smoke [stack ribs] filled room.  Despite a few complaints the citizen initiated policy is popular, effective, and badly needed.  Developers wanted more flexibility and got it.  Citizens wanted strong scientific based standards, and they were maintained.  I presented some background information and listed 4 points of agreement.

Background – Currently we have a standard that calls for 1 tree per 50 ft of frontage in low density residential areas, and 1 tree per 35 ft in other areas.  This equates to 1 tree per 35 ft. in all areas.  Because of the number of obstacles in low density residential the 50 ft was verified to equate to 35 ft by staff studies.  Despite complaints, the fact is that we have a good consistent standard.  The current language allows for some flexibility, but not everyone was convinced.

Agreement – Here are the 4 points of agreement

1) Accept Staff Report – Because this came to us as a report, we accepted the report.  The report contained information about the basis of the ordinance, what other cities are doing, and staff recommendations.

2) Recommend using Minneapolis guidelines – This means that small, medium, and large trees, should be spaced at about 20, 30, or 40 ft.  This trades tree size flexibility for spacing and numbers.  As was the case before the city forester has the ability to review and approve plans.

3)  Spell out flexibility – Though the current ordinance allows for flexibility we want to specifically spell out that bunching of trees is allowed.  This allows for certain sight lines.   However, we do not want flexibility abused and I specifically requested that 80% of any pedestrian way be shaded at maturity.

4)  City Forester Review – We specifically want the plan to be worked out by the city forester and not require a full variance to institute flexibility.

Enough council members were happy to set this as the standard.  Some want a weaker standard (50 ft spacing) that is less than what scientific recommendations require.  Fortunately that request went nowhere.

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