An ordinance designed to protect significant trees from destruction when a parcel of land is being redeveloped should be ready for City Council consideration either this month or in early January. At their Dec. 6 meeting, Human Services Committee members approved three changes to the draft ordinance, which would amend the City’s present ordinance on trees and shrubs.

The new ordinance, which has its roots in those used by the communities of Bannockburn and Deerfield, addresses the treatment of trees likely to be damaged or destroyed in larger planned developments or redevelopments,” according to a memo from Douglas Gaynor, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services and Paul D’Agostino, superintendent of Parks/Forestry and Facilities Management. Thus, “only those trees on any parcel of two acres or larger that is proposed to be subdivided,” would be protected under this ordinance, according to the memo.

Committee members finalized a fee and penalty structure, which they agreed to forward to City Council. As of Dec. 6, the draft ordinance provides for an application fee, a tree-mitigation fee and penalties for willful violation of the ordinance. The application fee, paid by a developer who wishes to remove a tree, for example, would be $50 per tree. The developer would also have to pay a “tree-mitigation” fee, based on the size of the destroyed or removed tree, now proposed to be $150 per caliper inch. Finally, the ordinance would charge an “after-the-fact” penalty for destroying or removing a tree without having obtained a permit. That fine would range from $500 to $1500.

As proposed, the amendments would not address the removal, damage or destruction of trees on private property. Local architect Paul Janicki, who spoke at the Human Services Committee meeting, said he thought that the City should address the problem of private individuals’ removing significant trees from their property. “The ordinance does not pertain to private property and does not stop anyone from taking down a 200-year old tree,” he said. The Historic Preservation League, he said, is also very concerned with this issue.