“Go away. We’re busy.”
The Village Manager and staff have decided the “Heritage Tree Ordinance” (HTO) is not going to happen right now. Unless someone on council takes exception to it, it will be left on the back burner. That is too bad. We need a responsible, moderate, heritage tree ordinance now, so we can measure and adjust it if needed in the future.
First and foremost, this is not a case of the Village barging in and stealing property rights. Why? Because we do not have a problem with tree removals outside of construction. We should not fix what is not broken. This is not a property rights issue. Residents consistently rank protecting and maintaining trees and tree canopies as a top concern.
A decently written conservative HTO for private property should only affect trees on private property in four situations:
1) If a demolition permit is requested;
2) If a major addition is undertaken;
3) If a new subdivision is planned (not likely anymore); and
4) As part of the Planned Unit Development process.
Trees have a very real fiscal and environmental function and impact. Trees affect air quality, reduce the urban heat island effect, reduce energy demands, assist with stormwater management, benefit public health (emotional and physical), and have a positive economic impact on property values in a community.
Trees make money.
Trees are good business. Very large trees are very good business. Large trees increase property values. Ask any realtor: all other things being equal, which sells for more; house with big trees, or house with no trees? It is not a coincidence that many realtor initiated redevelopment projects save trees where they can. Big trees add a sense of permanence and quality to any home. A McMansion set in big trees looks less like a McMansion.
Maybe a realtor can add a comment on that, but one of the reasons we have higher property values is the tree canopy.
Trees save us from ourselves.
6CO2+5H2O = C6H10O5 + 6O2
Read Part 1 for more. The conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen is extremely efficient. Plugging the numbers into the equation, 600 gallons of water that a big tree can absorb in one day, about 2 ½ tons, combines with about 7 ½ tons of carbon dioxide and gives off about 5 ½ tons of oxygen, transpires a variable amount of water as water vapor (why it is cooler under the tree) and adds a ton or so to the weight of the tree above and below ground. Did I mention trees are huge carbon sinks?
Staff does not feel staff is up to this right now. Come back in six months. That’s stalling. Nothing will have changed in 6 months. The village will be neck deep in construction, up to their eyeballs in anothger excuse to do nothing. This relates directly to our poor current building and construction codes. I would urge the council to direct staff to do a bit of multitasking, and come up with a modest proposal that covers the four points outlined above. It would require only minor modification of the original proposal written over three years ago. Staff does not have to reinvent a totally new ordinance. They have even done the homework of looking at the key features of more than a dozen other cities and villages that already have this type of ordinance. We do not need a grand slam home run, we just need to get on base.
We do not need perfect that covers every contingency, we need a solid ordinance that gives us a starting point, that gives the village a mechanism to preserve trees that should be preserved, that clearly lays out expectations of builders, that protects trees that have been around for far longer than we have, and have every right to be around far longer than we will.