The Brunswick Tree Council discussed the development of a new tree ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday.
The council enlisted the expertise of Robert Seamans of the Georgia Forestry Commission, who helped create and enforce the City of Statesboro Tree Ordinance.
“When looking at a tree ordinance on commercial and private properties, my first suggestion to council was to stay away from single family residences,” he said.
A family, he said, is defined as a single house on a single piece of land. By that definition, it wouldn’t apply to things like townhouses and duplexes, which the city would have to consider when regulating tree cutting.
He was not a fan of the point system, which is how Glynn County calculates the number of trees a developed property must have.
“You want a migraine, so go for it,” Seamans said.
Statesboro uses a system called canopy reclamation, under which the tree canopy must cover a certain percentage of the property. In 2011, Statesboro adopted 35%, and it went well, he says. The city is now looking to raise it to 40%.
Breaking it down to simple numbers, he said an area of 1 acre equals 43,560 square feet.
“If you take 35%, that’s 15,246. The way the Statesboro ordinance is, you have small, medium, and large trees. A small is 250 square feet at full size, a medium is 550 square feet and a large is 1,500,” Seamans said.
At least one-third of the trees must be large trees under Statesboro rules, he said, and one type of tree cannot represent more than 25% of the trees on the property.
Existing trees could count for their percentage in Statesboro’s ordinance, Seamans said, but only if proper care is taken during clearing and development. It is not uncommon for construction activities to cause damage to trees that will not be visible long after the project is complete.
Other things to consider are planting bed area – the amount of open ground around a tree’s trunk needed to grow – and the amount of green space needed. Statesboro went with 15% of a property, he said.
For those who can’t meet the requirements, he said the developer could claim compliance with the ordinance as a hardship and instead pay into a tree bank, Seamans explained. In the Statesboro ordinance, each tree classification was assigned a price. The small trees received a prize of $500. In one case, a developer couldn’t plan for the number of trees required while still using his property viably, so he paid $1,000 to the tree bank for two small trees he had to cut down of his plans. Funds from the tree bank would then be used to plant and maintain the trees.
Ultimately, he suggested the city keep the ordinance as simple as possible so everyone from city staff to developers to engineers can easily understand it.
Board member Ashby Worley said they should also carefully consider how a new ordinance might connect and conflict with others, such as stormwater.
“It’s not going to happen in two months, there’s no way, but we can do it in sections,” President Bonyetta Brison-Kitts said. “At the next meeting, we will at least start working on the canopy recovery part and do a rough draft of it.”
The next board meeting is scheduled for October 11.
In other business, the board discussed using the Georgia ReLeaf grant to pay for trees to donate on the upcoming Georgia Arbor Day.
Worley said the grant will pay for 80% of the cost of saplings and other supplies associated with a tree giveaway.
The council decided to hold an event around Georgia Arbor Day to donate trees. Worley suggested one per family or residence.
The 20% match could be paid for with in-kind volunteer hours from board members involved in the grant-writing process and setting up the Arbor Day event would easily cover the match, she said. .
Rick Charnock suggested adding some restrictions to ensure no trees end up in gardens that are too small for them to grow to their full potential, along with leaflets on how to plant and care for a young tree.
Board members settled in late February to coincide with Georgia Arbor Day. According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, February is the best time to plant new trees in the state.