tables tree ordinance
Village Council tabled last week a tree preservation ordinance after the
majority of Council members expressed opposition to the proposal.
At its meeting April 21, Council indicated interest in providing education
for those who might cut down historic trees, but discomfort with making
laws that they feel would punish them for doing so.
Its the right idea but the wrong approach, Council member
George Pitstick said about the proposal.
The ordinance was created by a volunteer committee charged a year ago
with the task. Council gave the committee its charge in an attempt to
avoid a situation similar to that which took place in September 2001,
when the cutting down of two historic Osage orange trees in front of Ye
Olde Trail Tavern resulted in a public outcry. Following the Tavern incident,
some villagers suggested the Village create a tree preservation ordinance.
However, Council members opposed the ordinance as too punitive, even though
it suggested a process that involves a Tree Review Board making only recommendations,
not demands, to those who would cut down trees, and only in the central
business district. The ordinance would have levied a fine on property
owners who did not consult the board before cutting down trees.
I find the ordinance negative, said Pitstick, who described
it as a nuisance ordinance like village laws that fine villagers
for having barking dogs or animals at large. It becomes something
that one neighbor uses against another. It creates disharmony in the village.
Its pitting one neighbor against another, Council member
Mary Alexander said about her opposition to the ordinance.
Denise Swinger stated that she opposed the ordinance because I dont
want anything punitive. I want to keep it educational.
Only Joan Horn supported the proposal, saying that nuisance laws
are often helpful in maintaining harmonious relations because they give
local residents a means of recourse if their rights are being infringed
upon. She also said that Council members should be willing to make a law
if they believe that tree preservation matters.
If something is right and you want it to happen then Council
needs to be willing to create legislation to support that action, she
said. Its one other way of saying that trees are important
The ordinance would preserve the ambiance and quality of downtown
Yellow Springs by protecting the trees in the central business district,
including Mills Lawn. It called for the creation of a Tree Review Board,
which would consist of five members, including one each from the Planning
and Environmental Commissions.
The ordinance stated that property owners needed to notify the board if
they planned to remove any tree larger than six inches in diameter at
chest height, or before removing major limbs. At that point, the board,
which would also call on the services of a certified arborist,
would visit the tree site to determine if the tree removal would adversely
affect the ambiance of downtown. The board would later make a recommendation.
If a tree owner did not call the board before tree removal, the owner
would be subject to a minor misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum
We wanted a rule that would make people stop and think before cutting
down trees, said Ann Gayek, a committee member. Other residents
who helped write the ordinance are Rick Donahoe, Cy Tebbetts, Suzanne
Patterson and Helen Eier, as well as Council president Tony Arnett.
However, the tree ordinance would heighten business peoples fears
that Yellow Springs is antibusiness, said audience member Peggy Erskine.
Yellow Springs is having a hard time overcoming the image that its
not supportive to business and industry, Erskine said. From
an image standpoint its not helpful to the community.
While Council members did not support passing the ordinance, they stated
their support for a tree preservation committee that would offer educational
advice to property owners.
Pitstick suggested that the ordinance be tabled until June, and in the
meantime he and Horn would work on preparing an alternative approach
to tree preservation.
Audience member Marianne MacQueen expressed concern that Council had asked
local residents to volunteer their time to write a proposal, then did
not accept it.
Ive seen it happen more than once, MacQueen said. Im
concerned when volunteers put a lot of work into something like this.
Councils dismissal of the proposal undercuts leadership and
creates hard feelings, she said.
Council still intends to address the tree preservation issue, Arnett said.
Were trying to find a way this work is carried on, he
said. This objective is not dead but the answer is still no.