The City of Madison is considering a new tree ordinance that could implement restrictions on private property owners’ rights to cut and remove trees on their own properties.
During a public comment discussion about tree protection throughout the city at the Mayor City Council’s regular meeting, Councilwoman Chris Hodges announced a new tree ordinance is being considered and will be reviewed at this month’s Greenspace Commission on Tuesday, May 15 and eventually come to the council for a vote.
“We are working on a new tree ordinance,” said Councilwoman Hodges at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
“They are looking at the minimum tree count and what size could be cut and that would be for everybody’s property,” said City Planner Callahan. “The ordinance would be a citywide protection of cutting on private property for every property owner in town,” said Callahan. “The ordinance being looked at is a citywide effect on every parcel and it’s not particular to any one person’s desire or not desire.”
Councilman Joyce is in support of strengthening tree-cutting regulations throughout the city.
“I want to make my opinion known as a citizen that our tree protection regulations need a little bit more teeth,” said Councilman Joyce. “I want to add my voice to that. Right now we don’t have protection for a lot of our trees. And I think it’s an omission and hopefully we can go through the process and change that.”
“This ordinance was created because of that desire,” added Hodges.
Callahan noted that this effort started back in 2007, but has been difficult to Georgia’s emphasis on property rights.
“Currently right now, the tree ordinance right now does not cover cutting,” said Callahan. “Only when you are doing a whole development, it looks at full clearance, so it protects us from mass grading essentially. If there are existing lots of record…anyone in our city has the right to take down trees, whether they are mature or otherwise, on their own private property provided they leave a minimum caliper count. And so every lot has a minimum count on it, but they can select which trees to remove if they are too close to a sewer line or too close to a power line, or if it’s blocking Mama’s favorite view. So we currently don’t have a tree ordinance that limits cutting on private property. The Tree Board has talked about it off and on for four years, but we live in a property rights state… I will say in a very property-rights oriented city, we have not pushed this forward yet,” said Callahan of the delay in revising the city’s tree ordinance.
The citywide text amendment will be fleshed out further at the Greenspace Commission before being presented to the Madison Mayor and City Council.