UPDATE & RECOMMENDATION
This item was discussed at the February 26, 2008 Workshop.
Staff recommends approval of the motion to delay further discussion of this matter until the summer of 2008 as part of the Strategic Planning process. Based upon the Council’s discussion staff would propose the following prior to Strategic Planning:
- Scheduling a presentation at a future Workshop meeting by the Morton Arboretum to provide information to both the public and Council regarding this matter; and
- Schedule and promote a virtual town hall meeting on the Village website to allow for public comment regarding private property tree preservation; and
- Schedule and promote a town hall meeting to allow for public comment regarding private property tree preservation.
The good news is Morton Arboretum will make a presentation. They have advised most communities who have a Heritage Tree Ordinance (HTO), and will provide a ton of information on the benefits of large trees, why they should be preserved, why a village tree canopy is important enough to be critical, and why even private property trees should be preserved.
The next step is for the Council to determine if there is consensus to direct staff to prepare a private property tree preservation ordinance for consideration. Staff would ask for a minimum of 90 days to prepare a recommended ordinance. Policy details that would be established in a recommended ordinance include:
- Definition of Heritage trees (e.g. Heritage trees could be defined as the oldest, largest and most important native component of the Downers Grove urban forest such as oaks and sugar maples over 24 inches in diameter and hickories over 18 inches in diameter)
- Determine relevance, if any, of tree canopy coverage
- Creation of a public hearing process for private property Heritage tree removal in the absence of building construction activity
- Determination of what level of private property improvements/building construction activity would trigger Village review of a privately prepared Tree Survey and Tree Preservation Plan (for the purpose of identifying Heritage trees and the impact of private property construction activities on said trees – such surveys and plans are prepared by a private, licensed arborist)
- Determination of application fees for Village review of Tree Survey and Tree Preservation Plan
- Codification that removal of private property Heritage trees would be permitted, however property owners would be subjected to a financial penalty when removing Heritage trees
- Determination of appropriate financial penalty for removal of Heritage trees.
The bad part is then it is up to staff to decide what gets covered, and whether what Morton will tell them has any relevance to what staff wants to see in an ordinance.
Also note that now they have actually gone ahead and chummed the waters with references to fines and procedures that residents must follow: well, you all can read the above and the whole text of the green sheets here, and listen to what council had to say on Feb 26th at the workshop, or read it here in the minutes, and listen to what they said here at the council meeting on March 3rd.
Those who stand guard for private property rights will be well advised to begin circling. I will be thrilled if we ever have an HTO that prevents unwarranted* clear cutting of property by developers. Instead, here we go; a major undertaking for writing a complex ordinance that creates new processes, new procedures, new responsibilities for residents, new fines, all that directly impact the resident-where there is no problem.
And that, in a nutshell, is the problem. If council sticks their head in the sand and does not define what the ordinance needs to cover, and instead allows staff to put forward a complex convoluted ordinance, they will get it wrong: they have a strong recent history for getting it wrong. Putting this off to the strategic planning process (no longer being considered for the TCD3 citizen summit?) moves it to an already crowded agenda with a short time frame from start to finish.
In order to have an effective HTO that addresses our needs and does not trash resident rights, we will have to turn out and be heard. We will have to do the heavy lifting again, just to make sure we do not get trampled in the rush to do nothing.
* un·war·rant·ed (ŭn-wôr’ən-tĭd)
adj. Having no justification; groundless: unwarranted interference.
See Synonyms baseless, indefensible, undue.