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Council to Consider Measures to Preserve Tree Canopy in College Park

Trees in a College Park neighborhood park

At next week’s meeting, College Park City Council will consider a proposal on a number of measures insuring the preservation of City’s tree stock.

A presentation was made during the April 16, 2019 Council Worksession with the results of a citywide tree canopy assessment from the contracted consultant at SavATree. The assessment identified a decline in the percentage of tree canopy in the City during the past 9 years from 44% coverage in 2009 to 40% in 2014 to 38% in 2018.

American Forests used to recommend an average of 40% tree canopy coverage in areas East of the Mississippi. Regardless of the recommended number, there is an urgency to preserve and improve city’s tree canopy, given the rate of decrease in the canopy in the past several years.

At the conclusion of the April 16th Worksession, the Council requested the Tree & Landscape Board (TLB) to review the results of the Tree Canopy Assessment and suggestion recommendations. After review and discussion of the Canopy Assessment, the TLB determined that addressing tree removal on private property would be the most beneficial method to preserve existing tree canopy as a significant amount of tree canopy is located on residential acreage. The TLB has been reviewing other Maryland municipal codes and regulations related to tree removals on private property and has developed a recommendation.

About 1100 acres of the canopy is on private residential properties. Compared to that number, around 100 acres is in the City’s right of way, mixed-use development, commercial and industrial properties. Also, most of the recent loss of tree canopy happened in residential areas.

According to the recommendations, residents will be allowed to remove a (healthy) tree on their properties if they agree to replace them with new trees or make a contribution to City’s Tree Canopy Replacement Program.

Tree permits will require replacement of any removed tree greater than 36” circumference,
according to the following sizes of the removed tree:
● 36”- 47”: replace with 1 tree
● 48”- 59”: replace with 2 trees
● 60”- 72”: replace with 3 trees
● 73” – 94”: replace with 4 trees
● 95” and above: replace with 5 trees

If an applicant is unable or unwilling to replace a tree(s) being removed as outlined above on their own property, they may instead, pay to the City’s Tree Canopy Enhancement Program fund based on the tree circumference, as listed below:
● 36”- 47”: $150
● 48”- 59”: $300
● 60”- 72”: $450
● 73” – 94”: $600
● 95” and above: $1,000

According to proposal, no person shall remove or destroy any tree in the City’s urban forest, undertake construction or other action that significantly detracts from the health or growth of such a tree, or prune more than 20% of such a tree, without first applying for and obtaining a permit from the City.

A permit shall not be required for action on an emergency basis to prevent harm to life or property. If a tree has fallen due to weather, the property owner should immediately report this to the Public Works Director, and at least one picture shall be taken to document the condition that shows the entire tree, before any work commences. In case of a city-wide catastrophic weather event, reimbursement for tree replacement may be obtained through the City’s Tree Canopy Enhancement Program.

Also, a permit will be issued if the tree is determined to be dead, diseased, constitutes a hazard to the safety of persons or property that cannot be addressed by using the current tree care, ANSI Z Standards (American National Standard Institute), or deemed as an invasive species or undesirable because of its location, condition or effect on other trees. However, the requirement for a replacement of tree(s) shall not be waived.

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