"Tree Preservation Conservation Easement" may prove controversial

COLUMBIA, Mo 1/22/14 (Beat Byte) --  A new "Tree Board" and and a new kind of conservation easement were among ideas about tree preservation Columbia City Council members received in three separate reports Monday night.  

Though its duties are undefined, a city Tree Board might consolidate Columbia's various tree preservation efforts, which cost nearly $2.5 million last year, city manager Mike Matthes explained in the Tree Board report

The city's efforts resemble branches on a tree.   Four city departments -- water and light; public works; parks; and community development -- are responsible for "urban forest preservation."   Several citizen commissions also play a role, including the Energy and Environment Commission (EEC), which issued a different report last night

EEC chairman Lawrence Lile urged Council members to adopt language in the city's tree preservation ordinance protecting so-called "Heritage Trees" -- native Missouri trees equal to or greater than 24 inches in trunk diameter at the average height of a person's breast.   Austin, Texas adopted similar rules in 2010

The final report contains provisions that may prove controversial, especially in the development and construction industry.  Matthes and community development director Tim Teddy recommend Council members create a so-called "Tree Preservation Conservation Easement" that puts developers and future property owners "on notice" that trees in the easement area must be preserved. 
Present city law requires preservation of some 25% of trees in new development areas.  But trees in utility easements on development sites can qualify to meet the 25% mandate.  Teddy and Matthes claim this system is flawed because utility workers making repairs often disturb or remove the trees in such easements.   The new Tree Preservation Conservation Easement (TPCE) would guarantee tree preservation outside utility easements.

Another provision that may rankle developers adds six months to a requirement to replace trees in the 25% set-aside area that die within 24 months after completion of a development or subdivision.  Present city ordinance requires an 18-month replacement.  
The new ordinance would also require replacement of any healthy trees removed from a tree preservation easement. 

Tree Board report

Tree Preservation Conservation Easement report

EEC Heritage tree preservation report