Paul Olen said Tuesday reviewing the city’s tree preservation regulations has been a “real eye-opener” for him.
The chairman of the Delaware Shade Tree Commission kicked off for the city board a line-by-line review of the city’s codified Chapter 1168.
“This is a historic opportunity for the Shade Tree Commission to really do something significant that could impact the future of the quality of life in our community for many years to come,” he said.
During its the review the commission discussed the following:
• Outdated language: Some members suggested changing references from the director of grounds and facilities, a city position that no longer exists, to the city’s arborist or the parks and natural resources director. Olen suggested clearer definitions for phrases such as “proper development.”
• Responsibilities: Some members questioned whether the city’s planning director should have the authority over approval to remove trees that interfere with development and issuing exemptions from replacing trees.
• Counting trees: Section 1168.06 allows trees to be removed if it meets one of the conditions other than being removed for development. Olen said he was concerned that many more trees were removed than recorded. Commission member Dave Carey said he wondered whether developers would be responsible if trees died a few years later after development was completed.
• Grandfathered clause: Section 1168.02 states the chapter “shall not apply to single-family residential lots of less than two (2) acres that existed prior to the date this provision takes effect.” Commission members discussed whether it the sentence should apply new homeowners of existing properties.
Since the chapter was approved in June 2004, Council made its latest update this month with codified ordinance section 1168.07 in regards to the tree bank fund. It’s an option developers can use in combination with replacing major trees.
The Building Industry Association of Central Ohio expressed broad concerns about the chapter during one of the readings for the update. But city officials said it was to clarify uses of the fund.
“It wasn’t clear how to spend that money from the tree bank fund,” said Ted Miller, the city’s parks and natural resources director. But the fund was “truly meant” to replace street trees, he said.
Miller said it will be caught up on its backlog of about 100 street trees this fall. The update will allow tree bank funds to maintain the trees for a year.
However, council did amend the updates to remove a sentence to prohibit the replacement tree fee to be no less than $100 per caliper inch, or the diameter of the tree at breast height. It was one of the BIA’s concerns, but Miller said it was beneficial because it can be placed in the fee schedule in the fall.
Olen said the fee should be $115 when adjusting for inflation.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.