a tree ordinance roots
For those who watch Village Councils proceedings closely, one of
the more frustrating issues Council has tried to tackle is creating a
tree preservation ordinance. Like a carousel, the issue keeps coming around
and around, only no one has been able to make the ride much fun, or come
up with a solution that Council members can agree on. Its time for
Council to make a decision on whether to make law an ordinance to protect
certain trees and provide a forum to discuss plans to cut down trees.
The support here is for a proposal that was submitted to Council in February.
That proposal, which was signed by five local residents who have served
on the Tree Preservation Ordinance Subcommittee, would only include trees
in and around downtown, including Mills Lawn. The thrust of the proposal
is the creation of a board to review plans to cut down or significantly
alter trees in those areas. The review board would not have authority
to halt such activity, but the assessment would give local residents a
chance to comment and be included in the plans. It would also provide
a good forum through which property owners could explain why they need
to cut down trees. This could help diffuse controversial situations.
Last month, the Council president, Tony Arnett, volunteered to work with
the subcommittee to write a more detailed proposal that includes language
that specifically defines the review process. The new proposal should
also include language to explain what trees would be subject to review
and what constitutes significant action.
This new proposal, which is expected to be offered this month, will be
important since some Council members are clearly uneasy with the idea
of placing a tree ordinance on the books. While Council has said in the
past that it supports the idea of an ordinance, it wavers when a proposal
is brought forward. This was evident last month, when at least one Council
member, George Pitstick, and several audience members, questioned the
proposed ordinances lack of bite, or punitive punch. This contradicted
the message Council sent last spring, when its members said they did not
want a tree ordinance with bite.
The ordinance could be written with semi-sharp teeth, giving the Village
the authority to fine or levy another kind of penalty on property owners
who do not go through the review process. The point of approving the ordinance
is not to punish property owners, but to educate the community about trees
and to provide a better public process to discuss plans that would significantly
For a year and a half, local residents and Village officials have worked
hard to write a good tree ordinance. The main concept has remained the
same though the details have changed widely. Council needs to help make
this good effort bear fruit.
Creating a tree ordinance, admittedly, would be largely symbolic. But
sometimes symbolic laws are worthwhile when they make a statement about
what Yellow Springs stands for. In this case, a tree protection ordinance
is worth supporting because of the message it sends: the community values