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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Tree committee amends draft ordinance after hearing opposition

Oct 03, 2017 08:50AM ● By Aspen Perry

Woodland creature enjoying Holladay’s urban forest. (Aspen Perry/City Journals)

By Aspen Perry   |   [email protected]

After unanticipated opposition, the tree committee, established in 2011 and comprised entirely of resident volunteers, continues to work with Holladay City on drafting a tree ordinance to protect Holladay’s urban forest, while addressing concerns raised by residents opposed to regulating trees on private property. 

“It was not set out to try and tell private residents what (to do) with their land, but more of an effort to have folks step back and evaluate all viable options before indiscriminately removing a tree,” said Travis Jones, Holladay resident and member of tree committee. 

Contrary to the opinion of some, the tree committee was not the driving force of establishing a tree ordinance, committee member DeeDee Richardson explained. The committee was asked to participate in the process given their knowledge and community involvement regarding trees. 

“Our hope is we can reach an agreement that protects our rapidly decreasing canopy, as well as encourage citizens to be good stewards of our environment,” Richardson said.

As she further stated, “Development can and must continue within Holladay, but we need to develop smarter. not harder.”

Steve Gunn, District 4 city council member, said the purpose of the tree ordinance was to address two components. The first regards meeting the goal of the recently adopted general plan of the city, which says the city should “sustain and protect the mature tree canopy,” as stated on the Holladay General Plan 2016–2031, p. 70. 

The second component of establishing a tree ordinance is to address resident concerns regarding lots consisting of mature trees being clear-cut for development — an issue many residents at the first open house felt has increased over recent years. 

Despite the city’s initial reasons for establishing a tree ordinance, after an unexpected crowd opposed to the ordinance voiced their concerns, the tree committee began amending the draft. 

In regards to the first draft, Gunn said, “An early draft of the ordinance would have required replacement of trees removed by individual lot owners as part of a re-landscaping plan.”

Gunn said this requirement was removed based on objections from residents. In place of the original requirement on individual lot owners, the draft now has a mandate requiring only the replacement of large, healthy trees, removed in conjunction with redevelopment projects. And it requires the issuance of a building, demolition, or land-clearing permit.  

Additionally, prior to the first open house, the ordinance zone included only the heavily wooded area of Holladay, primarily the Cottonwood Lane neighborhood. Per the request of residents unhappy with the exclusion of their neighborhood, the draft now states the benefits and protection of the ordinance will extend to the entire city. 

In addition to assisting in drafting the tree ordinance, the committee is also committed to educating the public, especially residents new to the area. 

“Consulting with a certified International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) arborist is the best place to start,” said Jones. 

Jones further explained the many benefits an ISA arborist could provide, such as tree health care plans, succession planting recommendations, as well as education on the benefits mature trees provide. 

“A certified arborist is the most qualified person to consult with about your trees before making any permanent decisions that will not only affect you, but our community at large,” Jones said. 

Some residents are resistant to any notion of an ordinance, voicing their preference of an education-only approach. Those in favor of the ordinance feel education alone will not reverse the current trend. 

“The ordinance does not affect home owners’ normal landscaping; (however), without an ordinance, there will be continued loss of trees. This is a beautiful area that needs to be taken care of,” said Kim Kimball, tree committee member. 

To stay up to date on the tree ordinance or tree committee happenings, visit the Holladay City Trees Facebook page or the City of Holladay website.