Wednesday, 18 October 2006 04:04

City of Jackson Looks At Ordinance To Protect Oaks

Oak WoodlandsThe Landscape ordinance was presented for review at the Jackson Planning Commission meeting. City Planner Susan Peters presented background on the item stating that at an August 21st Planning Commission meeting Carla Bowers of Volcano submitted some information regarding oak woodland habitat preservation. Bowers has been actively involved throughout the county in the preservation oak woodlands. The Commission at that time directed staff to place the issue on a future agenda along with considerations for amending other portions of the Ordinance.

The CommissionBowers provided a Draft Oak Woodlands Habitat Ordinance which specifies that the “intent is to perpetuate biologically functional oak woodlands habitat over time.” Steve Cannon, a Registered Professional Forester with Foothill Resource Management, came to the meeting and offered advice regarding the draft Oak Woodlands Ordinance. Cannon is a qualified Oak Woodlands consultant who conducts evaluations on properties that have been deemed to have a significant amount of Oak Canopy for the county or developers. Cannon said in some counties this review, or evaluation, is actually required to be done by developers if there are oaks that qualify for protection on their property. Cannon pointed that there is current state laws in place that protect Oak Woodlands or Canopies. Cannon then addressed the draft ordinance which he said could be considered very restrictive. He began with one section of the ordinance that addresses the disturbance of Oak woodlands and what is considered to be a significant disturbance. The Ordinance depicts that an in lieu fee be made to State Oak Woodlands Conservation Fund or non profit land trust to purchase an amount of Oaks equal to which they have damaged or removed.

Steve CannonThe ordinance states, “The amount of in lieu fee shall be equal to the full cost of planting mitigation oaks of the same species at a 10:1 replacement ratio for trees greater than 24” (in diameter)…5:1 for trees greater than 2” (in diameter) and 1:1 for all trees less than 2” ( in diameter).” Continuing to read from the draft ordinance Cannon stated, “Current law does not address trees that are 5” in diameter or less.” He also said that the canopy tree retention standards presented in the draft ordinance are more stringent than current state law. The legislation does not recognize Oak coverage as Oak woodlands if the canopy covers less than 10% of the property. Cannon said that he also believes that incentives may be more productive to get developers, and people in general, to plant trees. In relation to the draft oakwoodland ordinance he said, it would basically be “reinventing the wheel when the wheel is already round”. He suggested that they simply adopt state legislation. Although he did acknowledge that there are some loopholes in the legislation, but he said for the most part it is sufficient.

Steve CannonPeters said she liked the idea of requiring a developer with significant Oak groves on their property to conduct an evaluation, however she asked about the cost of such an evaluation to developers and property owners. Cannon said, “It could be anywhere from $1,000 to a lot more depending on the acreage and complexity of the project.” He pointed out, “It would probably cost a lot less than a traffic study.” Commissioner Dave Butow said the reason the City is pursuing and researching a Oak Woodlands Habitat Preservation Ordinance is because, “we as a city have been abused in the past by some of these developers to the point to where as somebody has said if you do not abide to what you need to do the penalty is $5,000 per tree.” Butow was referring to certain conditions that require a developer to maintain an existing Oak tree with a drip line or maintain a tree they has recently been planted in mitigation for the removal of another tree. Failure to do so could result in a $5,000 dollar fine or jail time. Many members of the public then approached the Commission and agreed that there needs to be some type of compensation on behalf of the developer when they remove trees, however many also suggested that a clause be added that directly pertains to the continued maintenance of these trees for a certain period of years, such as 5-7 years, since oaks generally are slow growers and fairly sensitive.

The Ordinance statesAnother public member suggested that this be implemented on commercial developments, as well, since often times the trees in the parking dividers die because of improper or no care and are never replaced. The discussion wrapped up with Peters stating she will bring back state regulations for the Commission to review and also research adding a long term maintenance clause, as well as, adding stronger language in the penalty section of the Landscape Ordinance. The item is expected to appear next regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting. Peters also announced that a special Planning Commission has been called for Dec. 4th at the request of the Jackson Hill’s Subdivision Applicants. She said the meeting will be held to review the merits of the project and that due to the anticipated amount of public attendance and information felt it best to make it a sole subject in the form of a special meeting. Again the meeting will be held at 6pm Dec. 4th at the Jackson Civic Center.


The State legislation Draft Oak Woodland Ordinance The Cost

 Commissioner Dave ButowJackson Hills Meeting