Ordinance to protect local woodlands moves forward

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published November 18, 2015

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The Planning Commission has approved a final draft of an ordinance that aims to protect trees from being clear cut and not replaced, but it is not clear when the council, which has final approval of the ordinance, will consider it.

At the May 26 meeting, the Planning Commission, by consensus rather than formal vote, approved a first draft of changes to ordinances that would encourage and give incentives to developers to preserve or replace trees.

The document was referred to the City Attorney’s Office for review. The draft document came back before the Planning Commission at the Nov. 10 meeting and was approved by consensus.

The Planning Commission will likely hold a public hearing on the ordinance Dec. 8, and the council would hold a public hearing on the ordinance and consider it after that.

“I’m not saying we should rush it,” said Planning Commission Chair Donald Edmunds. “But we need not let it dwindle.”

“Developers are aware of it,” said Planning Director Brent Savidant. “It’s not as heavy handed as a lot of (other) communities.”

Key points to the draft ordinance are that it would:

• Require tree mitigation — payment into a tree fund — when trees can’t be replaced on-site.

• Require that the tree fund be used to plant trees on public property.

• Allow exceptions for dead, dying, diseased and undesirable or invasive species.

• If possible with the site plan, protect landmark trees, which include beech, pine, spruce, red and sugar maple, oak, chestnut, dogwood and pear, among others, each with a specific diameter at breast height, or require replacement or mitigation if those trees were cut down.

• Make the cluster option, in which developers get leeway on density by providing more open space and natural features, more flexible.

The new guidelines would require landmark trees that cannot be preserved to be replaced at a 100 percent ratio. Trees that are taken down in woodland areas, but are not considered landmark trees, would be replaced at a 50 percent ratio.

The ordinances, if adopted, would apply to parcels that need site plan review.

Using these guidelines, Savidant said, all 400 trees in the Pinery Woods 25 detached condominium development that the Planning Commission approved April 14 — for which the developer, Mondrian Properties, planned to clear cut trees on 8.8 acres at Wattles and John R — would have been protected or would have been required to be replaced.

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