Tuesday Oct 18 2011
Tree Ordinance vital to our green infrastructure
By: Shawna Martinez
We all know the basics of infrastructure – roads, buildings, utility systems. They are community assets that connect all of us. Green infrastructure is our natural life support system-our waterways, parks, open space, and our trees. Imagine Loomis without our gorgeous tree canopy. Imagine how much hotter it would be, how stark and unwelcoming; not to mention less valuable, as healthy trees can add two percent to property values. The Town's first tree ordinance was adopted in 1989 and amended in 2003 after the General Plan was updated. Ken Menzer was hired as Town Arborist on a consulting basis, and he proposed substantial changes to the ordinance. Town Council tasked the Planning Commission with studying the proposed changes and making recommendations for a revised ordinance that better reflects Loomis, while retaining the best of Menzer's ideas. A subcommittee was formed early in 2010 consisting of Planning Commissioners Janet Thew and Jean Wilson and myself. We've met almost weekly since, researching and discussing many ordinances from other municipalities. We've looked at information from non-profit tree advocacy groups, including the International Society of Arboriculture's “Guidelines for Developing Tree Ordinances.” We've tried to better implement the General Plan's clear preference for protecting our tree canopy by improving the ordinance's weaknesses as well as adding new features that should make homeowners more comfortable. We've tried to balance protection of our trees as community assets with protection of property rights. Our goal is to give better guidance through education, encourage voluntary compliance, and give us all a healthier tree canopy with lower long-term costs and higher property values. Highlights of the changes include: An incentive of an arborist consultation on-site for homeowners getting a required tree permit. Exemption from ordinance for all RS 10 parcels (roughly ¼ acre). Mitigation credit given for saving small, well-situated, healthy oak trees. Major and minor permits with fewer requirements for minor permits. Agricultural exemption only applies if the land is kept in ag for a minimum of ten years. All trees over 18” diameter are protected, other than invasive species. More mitigation options and a better mitigation table (still in progress). Please read the current ordinance and proposed draft ordinance on the Town's website at loomis.ca.gov, under Trees in Loomis The first Planning Commission hearing will be Tuesday Nov. 2. Shawna Martinez is a Sierra College biology professor and member of the Loomis Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Committee.