Metro Councilmembers Bill Hollander (D-9) and Cheri Bryant Hamilton (D-5) applauded the bipartisan 20 to 3 vote approving a Louisville Metro Public Tree Ordinance. When the ordinance is signed by the Mayor, Louisville Metro will finally join other jurisdictions that have had a tree protection ordinance for years.
Adoption of such an ordinance was the very first of 41 recommendations in the 2015 Louisville Urban Tree Canopy Assessment. It was also recommended by the Louisville Metro Tree Advisory Commission, after a lengthy review of ordinances in dozens of other cities, including several in Kentucky.
Councilmembers Hollander and Hamilton introduced the ordinance last December and had multiple meetings with citizens and other interested parties about it. The final version approved tonight reflected changes which Hollander and Hamilton said improved the proposal.
“Adoption of a Public Tree Ordinance has been recommended in Louisville for decades, most recently as part of the tree canopy and urban heat island studies,” Councilman Hollander said. “Since it was filed in December, we have met with many citizens and interested parties and had numerous public meetings. Many concerns and questions have been addressed. The ordinance will help focus attention on the loss of tree canopy in Louisville, protect the trees we have, and reduce the possibility of more losses. It recognizes that trees are important to quality of life and to our health”.
“Our community needs more trees, desperately. Studies have shown that it makes a difference and it will reduce the temperature in the City,” said Councilwoman Hamilton. “We need to do a better job of getting people to connect the dots between our environment and our health and this ordinance will help. The no-net-loss provision for trees in the right-of-way is a really important provision of the ordinance.”
The proposed ordinance covers “public trees”, which includes trees located on Metro Government owned or controlled land or in public rights-of-way controlled by Louisville Metro, except for parks and parkways under the jurisdiction of Louisville Metro Parks.
It consolidates Louisville’s tree efforts into the Metro Division of Community Forestry, to provide oversight and comprehensive coordination for tree and forestation issues. A new, broadly-representative Louisville Metro Tree Advisory Committee — appointed by the Mayor and approved by Metro Council — would make recommendations about those efforts.
The ordinance also establishes policies and standards for public trees, clarifying and replacing the provisions of several existing ordinances. For example, routine pruning of public trees is allowed without a permit, while the current ordinance requires a permit for any trimming.
Currently required tree removal permits for trees in the rights-of-way would be conditioned on replacement of the public tree, unless a waiver is granted. Trees removed by Louisville Metro are also required to be replaced. Those provisions effectively create a no-net-loss policy for public trees.
The ordinance also creates a Community Forestry Escrow Fund, to help defray the cost of mandated tree removal and planting of rights-of-way trees by abutting property owners with demonstrated financial need. The fund would receive appropriations from Metro Government and private contributions. Trees Louisville, a non-profit working on improving the tree canopy in Louisville, has agreed to contribute to the fund.
Hollander and Hamilton noted that the ordinance is just part of the effort to increase Louisville Metro’s tree canopy. Metro Council has also made changes in the Land Development Code which protect trees in proposed Conservation Subdivisions. Other changes in the Land Development Code are also under consideration and will be pursued through the Planning Commission, as state law requires.