By Angie Anaya Borgedalen
Liberty, IA (April 2, 2009)- Developers will have a couple more options when trying to meet the requirements for planting trees after the City Council tweaked the Unified Development Ordinance. Under the new ordinance- adopted unanimously March 23- developers will still be required to replace an 8-inch caliper tree that is removed with two trees that are at least 2 inches in caliper, but now they will also have the options of planting trees off-site at another development if there is not enough room in the area where the trees were removed or they can also get credit for saving trees.
After a controversial option to allow developers to pay a fee in lieu of planting excess trees was taken out at the recommendation of Councilman Paul Jenness, the ordinance passed unanimously.
According to planner Karan Johnson, the cost for the city to purchase and install a tree was $160, with a one-year warranty, and $220 with the addition of one-year maintenance, $230. To buy the same tree from a contractor, the cost was $215, $275 and $300, respectively.
Spencer Thomson, an attorney representing development interests, accused the city of being anti-development in its attempts to extract what he said were exorbitant fees for trees. “This is anti-development couched as pro-development,” Spenser said. After the vote, Thomson said he was “happier.”
Chris Veach, a member of TreeLiberty, a volunteer organization that takes care of public trees, said she was not disappointed with the ordinance adopted although the fee was dropped. “All in all, I think this is a positive outcome for Liberty’s community forest,” Veach said. “It is quite evident that Liberty cares a great deal about trees since our mayor, city council and community volunteers spent so much time on this issue.” She said all sides now had a better understanding of the importance of trees as well as the need to increase revenue through economic development.
The tree issue became particularly controversial after 1,500 trees were removed last year from the former Clayview site to make way for development. Five hundred of the trees that were removed were larger than 8 inches in diameter, requiring 1,000 trees to be planted under the old ordinance.
Liberty Tribune- City Council passes tree ordinance