Tree preservation laws subjected to full review after changes


Editor’s note: The third paragraph was updated for clarity compared with an earlier version of the story.

Delaware City Council approved an amended version of updates to the tree preservation regulations Monday night.

But Council asked city staff to conduct a full review of the codified ordinance chapter in order to address concerns from the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio.

The approved changes were intended to clarify the uses of the tree bank fund. Developers have options if they cannot plant all required replacement trees on site. Developers would still be required to plant at least 50 percent on site, but the remainder can be planted at a designated tree bank site or paid in lieu to the fund. The city measures its tree in caliper inches, which is the diameter of a tree at breast height. For the fund option, the city charges a fee, now at $100 per caliper inch.

The updates would allow the funds to be used for the planting and short-term maintenance of any trees on public property, including street trees.

“We want to clarify how these dollars can be spent,” City Manager Tom Homan said.

Council made one amendment to the changes, which was one of the BIA’s concerns. It removed a sentence to have the replacement fee at no less than the $100 per caliper inch rate. Dave Efland, the city’s planning director, said city staff were “amenable” to such action.

Councilwoman Lisa Keller, 2nd Ward, reluctantly voted for the amendment.

“I don’t like it,” she said.

Keller expressed concerns about the impact from removing the sentence from the changes.

Efland said it would not change current practice. City officials said the fee would have to be added to the fee schedule at budget time.

“It’s charged by convention not by ordinance,” said Councilman Kyle Rohrer, 4th Ward.

Shade Tree Commission Chairman Paul Olen said he was OK with the sentence’s removal as it would not remove the current fee.

But he said elimination of a fee altogether is “not going to fly — not with the Shade Tree Commission.” The commission will look at the tree preservation chapter at its next meeting in a comprehensive way, he added.

In other business, Council:

• Approved an ordinance to allow the city to immediately remove refuse placed in the right-of-way in downtown and other areas of the community at the city manager’s discretion. The changes will include an appeal process for individuals or entities served a notice of violation. Violations would be appealed to the Public Works and Utilities Committee.

• Approved legislation to budget $106,000 combined from the general bond retirement, water and sewer bond funds to the professional services fund to pay $137,140 in bond issuance costs and fees. The city issued debt to construct fire substation 304 and to refinance outstanding debt previously issued in 2006.

The task was originally planned for last year but market interest rates increased after the presidential election. The costs will be paid back, along with the principal amount and interest charges, over the next 15 years.

• Approved an amended agreement with the Delaware County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. It would change the existing funding mechanism in 2018 for the coordination between the city, townships and villages with the county because of decreases in funding for emergency management grants and community growth.

Local cities, townships and villages now pay 40 cents per person, while the county pays 20 cents per person. Under the new agreement, the county would pay a third of the costs. Local jurisdictions are estimated to pay 58 cents per person, while the county would pay 28 cents per person, said Sean Miller, director of the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency.

City officials said no additional costs would be required if the funding mechanism was used based on the 2017 budget.

By Brandon Klein

bklein@aimmedianetwork.com

Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.