Sunday, April 20, 2014

Planners sign off on city’s new tree ordinance


By Josh Akeman

The Peachtree City planning commission voted to modify the city's Vegetation Protection and Landscape Requirements Ordinance with one goal in mind: to get developers to plant more trees.
The new ordinance, if approved by the city council, would require developers to maintain a minimum of a three caliper inch canopy tree for every 1,000 square feet of impervious surface on the property. The current only calls for 2.5 caliper inches per 1,000 square feet.
The wording of the revised ordinance had to be carefully considered by the commissioners because it is somewhat confusing. While three caliper inches will be used to arrive at a total number of caliper inches required, developers will be given the option to reach that number with 2.5 caliper trees, if desired, or by using larger trees. The decision will likely come down, in most cases, to whether it is more cost effective to plant more trees or larger trees.
Using the Calpis property as an example, City Zoning Administrator David Rast explained that the change would mean Calpis, with approximately 136,000 square feet of impervious space, would be required to maintain about 408 caliper inches of canopy trees versus the previous requirement of about 342 caliper inches, a difference of 27 (2.5 inch caliper) trees.
The new ordinance would not change requirements for "understory" trees, which are set at two caliper inches per 1,000 square feet of impervious space.
Commissioner Lynda Wojyck, in particular, has pushed for the city to find a way to get more or bigger trees in developed areas.
The other element of this plan to get more trees planted around the city is to require developers who don't have the space for the required number of trees to then donate the difference to have trees planted in other parts of the city.
"If they come back and say they can't fit that many trees, we say 'ah ha, then you can donate them to the city,'" said commissioner David Conner.
The increased tree requirement will increase costs for developers, and it is unclear whether it is likely to encourage larger trees or simply more trees.
"I think developers will end up choosing bigger trees rather than buying 30 more trees. But, [either way] Lynda gets more," Conner said.
As with any ordinance, the question of enforcement came up. Rast said there will be efforts toward code enforcement after the first of the year, when the city will have two new interns. He also said more regular checks, like those related to signage, could be used simultaneously as tree checks.
Commissioner Aaron Daily said he suspects the city will get some assistance from residents.
"I think some of this will be enforced or policed by the city. People in Peacthree City aren't shy if they see a problem to bring it up. I think it's impossible for the city to go around and check every tree," Daily said.
Chairman Frank Destadio was pleased with the ordinance change but noted the final decision will be made by the city council.
"I think it's right for the planning commission to look at ordinance and change things where we see necessary, but what the city council does is out of our hands.," Destadio concluded.


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