Council chops tree fee

By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Cutting down native oak trees in Loomis has just gotten a little cheaper. The town council, at their May 28 meeting, voted 3 to 2, with council members Walt Scherer and Rhonda Morillas voting no, to repeal the $50 tree removal permit service fee. The fee removal will be in effect for one year on a test basis to see if it makes a difference in the number of requests for permits. “Fees discourage people from getting permits,” councilman Miguel Ucovich said. “Very few permits have been taken out in the last few years.” Ucovich had asked that council review the permit fees because of the low number of permits that had been issued. During the 2006 - 2007 fiscal year six permits were issued and during the 2007 - 2008 fiscal year only four permits were issued. “I know that more than 10 oak trees were cut down,” Ucovich said, although he admitted some were removed after storm damage and tree cutting ordered by public safety officials does not require permits. The $50 fee is only a part of the total cost for removing a native oak. An arborist report costing $100 or more, along with any required mitigation, plus the actual cost of the removal of the tree, all add up. “I feel like they threw out the tree ordinance, like they chose not to enforce it,” Scherer said in a later interview. He said that he believes that very few people remove protected trees without a permit, but that if they do, there is no enforcement. According to the Tree Preservation and Protection Ordinance, protected trees include native oaks with a diameter of six inches or more when measured 54 inches above the ground. Also protected are a heritage or landmark tree or grove, or significant groves or stands of trees, all of which have been identified by council resolution. A tree within 100 feet of a perennial stream or within 50 feet of a seasonal stream is also protected. Tree permits are required prior to any activity such as grading, digging or paving that can cause the destruction of a tree, or occurs within the drip line of a protected tree as determined by an arborist. Ucovich said the removal of the fee is “worth a try,” while Scherer said it “doesn’t help with the protection of trees.” The removal of the $50 fee went into effect on June 28, which is 30 after it was passed by council.