The proposed amendment to a section of the city’s tree preservation regulations has sparked a new challenge from the lobbying arm of the local building industry.
Delaware City Council is considering updating codified ordinance section 11680.07 to clarify the options developers have to replace trees after construction projects and how dollars from the fund can be spent. The proposed update has not gone unnoticed by the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio.
“We continue to have concerns about this ordinance and its economic development impact on property owners in the city — whether they be developers or current residents who might want to sell their property in the future,” said Jim Hilz, the BIA’s executive director, in an email to Delaware Planning Director Dave Efland.
Under the amendments, the city would accept a combination of three options if developers cannot accommodate replacement trees on site: developers can plant a minimum of 50 percent of the replacement trees in another location on the development site; plant some of the replacement trees at a designated tree bank site, which can be on private or public property; or pay in lieu of replanting to the city’s tree bank fund.
But one provision in the amendment of the tree bank fund option, the BIA is at odds with, would not allow the replacement fee be less than $100 per caliper inch of the required replacement.
“Codifying the costs as described in the draft are problematic for property owners and can lead to rendering land undevelopable,” Hilz said.
Additionally, Hilz said: “We have specific concerns about the lack of any variance process in the ordinance and whether the city applies these same standards to their own development projects.”
The BIA has compared Delaware’s policy to other communities and could not find anything “close to being this onerous and expensive,” he said.
“Even Dublin’s policy has a variance process and allows for replacing tree with tree, not necessarily basing the replacement on caliper inches,” Hilz added.
Efland said the BIA’s concerns would relate to changes throughout the entire set of the city’s tree preservation regulations. He told Council at its Monday meeting the city has a variance procedure established in Chapter 1128 of the city’s codified ordinances and is not repeated in every chapter.
He said Council could direct staff to remove the provision that states the minimum fee to resolve the matter.
“The fee today is 100 per caliper. Has been that way for the entire time I’ve been here — so 11 plus years,” Efland said. He said it’s probably time to look at increasing the fee.
Hilz could not attend Monday’s meeting because he was out of town. Developer Ron Sabatino read Hilz’s email to Council. Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said Council should allow BIA to voice its concerns at its April meeting before taking action on the proposed amendment.
Council members accepted that recommendation.
“It’s morphed into something else,” Councilman George Hellinger said at a Shade Tree Commission meeting Tuesday night. He did not believe it put the amendments at risk, but could trigger changes for those regulations.
The original amendments received recommendations from the Delaware Planning Commission and Shade Tree, which first discussed the amendments in late January.
Some Shade Tree members had strong words for the BIA.
Commissioner member Tom Wolber said the city’s status as a Tree City USA could be in jeopardy if the BIA has its way.
“They want something for nothing,” said commission Chairman Paul Olen, in reference to the suggestion to not base the required tree replacement on caliper inches.
“We don’t care about Dublin,” Olen added.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.