The city of Delaware’s Shade Tree Commission will consider tonight whether to update an existing zoning code about the responsibility of street-tree maintenance.

Ted Miller, city parks and natural resources director, said in a memo to the commission that there ”has been some debate about the maintenance practice of pruning street tree in the City of Delaware.”

“The City of Delaware policy is to maintain and have control of trees in the tree lawn or right of way,” he said.

The Cheshire Crossing Subdivision’s homeowners association made a declaration that requires each lot owner to care for their street trees.

“The code is somewhat open to interpretation on if the City is required to care for the street trees or allow lot owners, with required permit, to care for street trees,” Miller said. “Upon meeting with the HOA in July we were informed that the City Code supersedes the HOA declaration.”

Past city policy has been to maintain and plant street trees, according to Miller. The practice allows the city to maintain a consistent look, which “seems to be preferred by most citizens,” he said.

City Arborist Doug Richmond reached out to an official from Tree City USA and Ohio Department of Natural Resources in July.

“The question is, who’s property is the street tree in their community and does the City maintain total control over the tree even if it is not the city’s property,” he said. “Are their communities out there that have turned total control over to the property owners and how is that working?”

Cities and villages are responsible for trees in the right-of-way as required by Ohio law, according to Lisa Bowers, Tree City USA/regional urban forester.

“My communities in central Ohio are all over the board with this issue and who takes responsibility,” she said.

Additionally, several communities have responded to information requests from the city’s Parks and Natural Resources Department about how they maintain trees.

Upper Arlington’s view is that a tree is permanent feature tied to the land, according to Steve Cothrel, superintendent of parks and forestry for the Columbus suburb.

“We are fairly strident in maintaining control of our street rights of way. We have had residents sue us to ‘gain control’ and although we prevailed in court, we do not want to give people the idea that the ROW is anything but City property,” he said.”Residents in UA must obtain a permit to plant, prune, remove, etc. a tree in the ROW just as they must obtain a permit to excavate, pave, etc. in the ROW.”

Jodee Lowe, urban forestry supervisor in Grove City, said the land between the curb and the side walk belongs to the homeowner, who are responsible for maintaining the area. But the city has total control over the street trees that Grove City plans, removes and prunes.

“We do ask that the homeowner mulch the tree property and water it if it needs watered after the first year the tree has been planted,” she said.

According to Matthew Ulrey, parks and urban forest manager in Westerville, the city maintains the decision-making authority over street trees.

“We provide permits for residents who want to hire arborists to perform services beyond the level we provide or to plant street trees at new locations,” he said.

The commission will meet at city hall, 1 S. Sandusky St., at 7 p.m.


By Brandon Klein

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Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.