Permit my be needed to cut down tree in Madison

Tia Lynn Ivey News

Madison’s Greenspace Commission is hoping to finalize a new tree ordinance proposal, which may call for private property owners to obtain a permit before cutting down or removing trees, by the next regular meeting in June. The Greenspace Commissioners discussed the evolving ordinance proposal at the May regular meeting last week.

“Our hope is to have a few more committee meetings before the next Greenspace Commission meeting in June and iron out all the details and tweak it at that meeting to firm it all up and have everything in place so we can send it on to the Mayor and City Council,” said Rick Crown, Greenspace Commission member.

According to Crown, the Greenspace Commission has been working for years off and on to come up with a new ordinance to enhance tree protection and educate the public on desired and undesired new tree plantings.

“There are concerns and some trepidation of regulating people’s private property with this, but we really want to protect the green canopy and our urban forest that we all benefit from so much,” explained Crown.

Some of the ideas for the new ordinance include requiring a permit to cut down or remove trees on residential properties and for property owners to maintain a minimum tree count on their property. The minimum tree count would require every lot to maintain one canopy tree and one understory tree per quarter acre.

Examples of canopy trees include oak trees, sugar maples, elms. Examples of understory trees include dogwoods, red buds, fringe trees and service berry trees.

“Basically, people would need to have one big tree and one small tree per quarter acre,” said Crown.

Under the current ordinance, there are no restrictions on property owners cutting down trees on their own land.

The Commission is also hoping the ordinance will establish of a list of “undesired trees” to deter people from planting “exotic trees” that pose environmental drawbacks and encourage the planting of more “native trees” that better thrive in and support the local ecosystem.

“We want to help educate people before they act in haste—to be able to reach them and hear what the plans are, listen to them and see if any alternatives would work if there seems there are some reasons to hesitate to consider that,” said Crown. 

Crown also hopes the ordinance will declare certain trees as “landmark trees.”

“I would like to see us denote landmark trees—trees that have a historic reference by their size or health that serve as excellent examples of their species.”

Landmark trees would garner more protection for the city by promoting their value and worth through this recognition, according to Crown.

The final proposal drafted by the Greenspace Commission in June will be reviewed and tweaked further by City planning staff, the Madison Mayor and City Council, and the public will also be given the opportunity to weigh in at public hearings before the city council votes on it.

“We want public input on this,” said Crown.

The next regular meeting of the Greenspace Commission is on Tuesday, June 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the Madison City Meeting Hall located at 160 North Main Street Suite 400 in Madison.

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