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Cottonwood Heights Journal

City ordinance details tree regulations for park strips

Sep 02, 2020 03:24PM ● By Cassie Goff

Under a new ordinance, a city employee will be appointed as the city’s forester who will be responsible for the long-term management, inventory, planting and design of public trees. (Cottonwood Heights Community and Economic Department/Matt Taylor)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

The Trees and Park Strip Landscaping Ordinance for Cottonwood Heights began being edited earlier this spring by members of the Community and Economic Development Department as well as the Public Works Department.

“The ordinance should provide a reasonable balance of options for how property owners and developers manage the trees and landscaping within park strips adjacent to their property,” said Senior Planner Matthew Taylor. 

A tree has been defined as any perennial self-supporting woody plant that grows at maturity to an overall height of a minimum of 10 feet, has a single trunk or multiple trunks which are 4 inches in diameter. And park strips have been defined as any landscaped area between the curbline and the sidewalk (or fenceline) in any public or private right of way.

Tree diversity is highly encouraged throughout the city. While specific species of trees have yet to be determined by a city forester, trees that help develop a street canopy and shade at maturity are desired. 

If developing and constructing a new park strip, water-efficient trees and landscaping are highly encouraged. Organic mulch materials may be used as a water conservation measure for vegetation. Prohibited materials in park strips include asphalt, thorn-bearing vegetation, trash, debris, and weeds.

Cottonwood Heights assumes responsibility for tree care in all city owned parks, city buildings and property grounds, and specific park strips. The city will prune trees in these areas as well as remove limbs and diseased trees within public right of ways. 

Property owners are responsible for the landscaping and protection of trees within their park strips. Individual property owners, including their occupants and/or agents, must water and fertilize their trees in order to keep them in good health. 

Property owners are also responsible for removing limbs that have fallen onto the street or sidewalk and raking, cleanup and disposing of leaves.

In addition, trees that hang over the pavement or street must be trimmed to a minimum height of at least 13.5 feet above the pavement. Under power poles, trees should not grow over 20 feet at maturity. If a tree creates a disruption to a clear view in an intersection, property owners have 20 days to clear the obstruction before city employees can be designated to remove the obstruction, to which the city will seek reimbursement costs from the property owners.

Lastly, property owners are responsible for the mitigation, abatement, removal or correction of a hazardous tree, which is defined as any dead or dying tree, dead parts of a live tree, or an unstable live tree. Any tree that is a hazardous tree will be considered a public nuisance.

Any tree within a public or private right of way or on public private is considered a public tree and they are also highly protected. 

New construction of any concrete or asphalt, pouring or spraying injurious matter, and piling material or equipment within 3 feet of any public tree’s trunk is prohibited. If construction or demolition is to occur within 15 feet of a public tree, it has to be protected with a substantial barrier.

Damaging any part of any public tree, cutting off water or air from the root system, fastening a sign, guy-wire, cable or rope to a tree, or posting a sign or tree stake that might damage a tree’s roots is unlawful. 

Any violation to this ordinance will be considered a class C misdemeanor and the criminal must pay the cost to repair or replace the tree. 

On July 7, the Cottonwood Heights City Council unanimously approved Ordinance 343 – Amending the City’s Code of Ordinances regarding Trees and Park Strip Landscaping. The draft ordinance had previously been drafted and edited by the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission for which they unanimously recommended approval.