Your proposed tree ordinance will be ready for adoption after you’ve gained consensus on its desired content from your tree ordinance working group and then drafted, tested, and revised it one or more times. The entire process of adoption can take a considerable amount of time, from a few to many months.
Expect to receive a lot of passionate input at this stage, but if you’ve educated, informed, and updated the public, staff and public officials throughout the process you should not have any major opposition that will derail you as you move forward.
Gaining consensus does not mean that everyone will be 100% pleased with every provision, but in general your working group members should feel as though their input has been considered in creating the fairest tree ordinance that will meet the goals and create the vision adopted by the group.
MOVING THE DRAFT FORWARD
When the working group has a draft that they feel is ready to be considered for the next level of approval, it’s time to present the draft to the groups that will be involved in administering the ordinance or approving the activities, plans and permits it requires. This group may be the tree board, the planning commission, the city council or the county commission. This can be done in a regularly scheduled meeting of this group or, better yet, a separate workshop where more time is available and the sole focus is the tree ordinance. At this meeting, you’ll introduce the proposed ordinance and answer questions about its content, implementation, and anticipated outcomes. You’ll gather input to use to revise the ordinance.
If you are creating a tree ordinance that will apply to development sites, you will need the support of the planning commission. After the planning commission provides input, the proposed ordinance may need to be revised and brought back for a vote by the commission on a recommendation for its adoption that will forwarded on to the city council or county commission for their consideration and vote.
Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to repeat the presentation and revision processes more than once by any of these groups.
Your city council or county commission have a well-defined process public readings of your proposed tree ordinance, allowing public input or requiring separate public input sessions, and voting on its adoption. Make sure you understand this process well in advance of these steps. Be prepared at these meetings to present solid facts and clear information on the purpose, intent and desired outcomes of each of the regulations included in the ordinance. Be familiar with all aspects of how the tree ordinance will be implemented.
If you are unable to clearly answer a question posed to you at any of these meetings, use that question as an opportunity to further evaluate and define the regulation or ordinance-related topic. At the next meeting, then, you’ll have more and better information to give in support of your proposed ordinance.
PREPARING FOR ADOPTION
As you begin the adoption process, also begin planning the details of how the ordinance will be implemented and administered. Your adoption process may go quicker than you expect (hopefully), and you need to have the personnel, training, forms and information in place to ensure a smooth transition to the new regulations.
Some forms will be required by your tree ordinance, such as a tree removal permit application or tree plan review application. You may want to provide some other forms, such as a tree ordinance compliance checklist, as an aid to those implementing the ordinance.
For your tree ordinance administrator, inspector, or other staff that will be administering the ordinance, you may want to develop inspection and compliance forms. You will want to have good records that provide details of the tree and site conditions found during inspections, especially prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.
Upon adoption and implementation of your ordinance, the administrator will need to be:
- Very familiar with the ordinance provisions and their purpose and intent.
- Knowledgeable about tree biology, maintenance, benefits and value.
- Prepared to enforce tree ordinance provisions and be consistent in enforcement.
- Prepared to maintain all necessary records.
Keeping good records is essential for post-development inspections and analysis. These records will provide information you can use to assess the actual outcomes of your tree ordinance, its administration, and its enforcement. Approved permits, tree plans, waivers, alternative compliance, inspection reports, notices of violation, and other pertinent records should all be maintained in accordance with city or county regulations.
If a community requires that tree density or other tree and site conditions be maintained in perpetuity, tree plans should be retained and available well after a development has been completed to be used in determining if a site is maintaining compliance. Compliance inspections using tree plans can be made on a regular basis, on a random basis, or as an issue with a site is observed or reported.
Inspection records can be particularly useful to identify where additional education of the public and businesses is needed or where “tweaking” of certain provisions might be helpful.
PROMOTING TREE ORDINANCE SUCCESSES
You can also highlight, through photographs and reports to staff and elected officials, the various successes of the ordinance and give recognition to those who are exemplary in their implementation. The photographs can be used in presentations summarizing tree ordinance effectiveness and best practices seen during inspections.