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Proposed rules would make Gainesville developers plant more trees

POSTED: December 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Proposed changes to Gainesville’s tree ordinances could require developers to plant more — and a greater variety of — trees on their sites in the future.

The changes promote preservation, require newly planted trees to be maintained and subject to city inspection for at least one growing season and create a more diverse selection of trees, said Gainesville Principal Planner Matt Tate. The changes were proposed by the city’s planning staff.

The changes are targeted at developers, and would exempt single-family residential properties, Tate said.

"This is really for new development or additions to a property. That’s what this would impact," Tate said.

The proposed changes encourage developers to preserve existing trees on their sites by lending more credit, or tree units, for existing trees. Developers must meet a quota of a certain number of tree units for each acre of a development.

The amendment would give an existing tree with a diameter breast height of 8 inches a tree credit of one whole tree unit, whereas the code currently awards the same type of tree a credit of eight-tenths of a tree unit.

A tree unit is determined by the diameter of the tree and whether the tree is an existing tree or a replacement tree, according to the code.

To keep developers from planting only one type of tree, the new requirements would limit the planting of one type of tree to 33 percent of the trees on the property. Pine trees can be only 10 percent of the trees on the property.

"What we hope to do is to really strike a better balance and encourage developers to be maybe a little more creative in their design and to retain existing trees," Tate said.

The code amendments also would require developers to have more plants on street frontage. The changes would require one tree and one shrub for every 30 feet of street frontage — an increase in frequency from the code’s current requirement of one tree for every 40 feet of road frontage.

Developers also would be required to have a minimum of 18 tree units per acre of commercial and industrially zoned property that is not covered by a building. Developers of residential areas would have to have 20 tree units for each acre of land not covered by a building.

The changes, which were unanimously approved Tuesday by the city’s Planning and Appeals Board, await the City Council’s blessing in January.



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