Council differs on city’s tree policies

By Cecilia Fox -

TIPP CITY — At their meeting Monday night, the Tipp City council declined to take action on an ordinance that would revise the city’s procedures for tree maintenance, allowing property owners to opt out of tree replacement in certain circumstances.

This ordinance would amend Chapter 97 in the city’s code of ordinances by adding or revising language to clarify tree maintenance and removal, Tree Board terms and duties, and giving property owners the ability to opt out of replacing trees that had been removed from the public right-of-way.

The ordinance died for lack of sponsorship and could be brought forward again as early as the next meeting.

“There’s no rush on this, honestly. I’d rather council be comfortable with what they’re doing than pass something and try to come back and correct it,” City Manager Tim Eggleston said.

The proposed addition to the code limits conditions for opting out of tree replacement in public right-of-ways to situations where the tree was removed due to a lack or space to grow or if the tree was planted over an existing sanitary sewer lateral.

If the property owner does not want that tree to be replaced, the ordinance directs them to make a written request to the Tree Board. If the Tree Board denies that request, the property owner may appeal to the city council.

Mayor Pat Hale said he supported the changes “on the whole” and was in favor of limited reasons for opting out of replacement.

“It keeps people from arbitrarily saying they don’t want trees,” he added.

Councilman John Kessler argued that there are not enough options for declining replacement. He added that planting trees in public right-of-ways, like curb lawns, puts too much of a burden on property owners to maintain those trees.

“If we’re going to put it in and say they don’t have a choice, we should have to maintain it. If we’re asking them to maintain it, I think we should see if they want one,” he said.

Councilman Tom Merritt said that the benefit of having trees to the appearance of the city outweighs the inconvenience.

“I think it’s a slight imposition for a homeowner to have to maintain, mow around, put up with a tree. I think it adds enough to the continuity of the neighborhood, to the continuity of the scenery, to the continuity of the city to be able to trump the minimus inconvenience in costs that it would impose,” he said.

Councilwoman Carrie Arblaster pointed out that, while the code states that property owners will be notified of the need for tree removal on private property, the code does not provide a process for notifying owners of plans for tree replacement on public right-of-ways or that they can opt out or challenge plans for replacement.

“If you don’t want that tree put in the city’s right-of-way near your house, unless it’s one of those two reasons, you have no relief. You have no recourse,” Council President Joe Gibson said.

By Cecilia Fox

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