Monday, June 07, 2010

More delays for Charlotte's tree ordinance

Charlotte has lost half its tree canopy since 1985, and Mecklenburg County has lost a third of its. (Read the report on that - see page 70 of this pdf.) So plenty of eyes are on a proposal – moving through the bureaucracy with the speed of Providence Road traffic at 5:30 p.m. – to strengthen the city's aging tree ordinance as it applies to commercial and multifamily development.

Finally, the plan was, the City Council's environment committee would render its recommendation today at an 11 a.m. meeting. This isn't final adoption, mind you, just a recommendation to be sent to the full council. The environment committee, which until Anthony Foxx was elected mayor last November was dominated by Republicans (on a council with a Democratic majority, mind you), has been gnawing on the ordinance since June 2008.

I don't know what all local developers think of it, because that's a large and diverse group – a fact you wouldn't know if you listen only to the local developers' lobbying group, REBIC. But REBIC and its members have been raising issue after issue for five years, first on the stakeholder committee, which could not reach consensus, and now as the ordinance is before the committee. During the stakeholder discussions REBIC used the time-honored "stall-it-by-demanding-a-cost-benefit-analysis" gambit, which took more than a year, in part because a few non-developers on the stakeholder committee suggested that maybe the anti-tree-ordinance folks shouldn't be the ones who got to choose the sites on which the cost-benefits were being analyzed.
REBIC didn't like the idea of pushing the required "tree save" from the current 10 percent up to 15 percent. They didn't like the idea that trees in parking lots should be planted closer together. Those issues have been, I think, resolved.

Today two sticking points remained: The city staff's proposal for how to deal with development on already-developed sites, and how to set the fees for a "fee-in-lieu" proposal, under which developers could opt to pay a fee rather than save the trees on a full 15 percent of the site. (It's all very complicated.) REBIC's preferred "fee-in-lieu" was laughable: just decide that all land in the city, for tree ordinance fee-in-lieu purposes, is worth $40,000 to $50,000 an acre and set the fees as if that were the case.

Council members offered several proposals to "compromise" between staff's recommendations and REBIC's ideas. Why the council members so rarely seem to just opt for their paid staff experts' recommendations, which have already been compromised during stakeholder talks, is beyond me. But instead of voting today, the committee has punted until June 21.

Best quotes of the day: Both courtesy of District 6 rep Andy Dulin.
- In the context of his worries that the tree ordinance will add costs to development: "We're going to jack up the cost of building a strip shopping center."
- "Developers love trees."


Bravo Mike Sierra said...

"We're going to jack up the cost of building a strip shopping center."

Uhm... Good!

Theo Tiefwald said...

Mass deforestation has led to the death of culture after culture, empire after empire:

"'The decline of the Roman Empire is a story of deforestation, soil exhaustion and erosion,' wrote Mr. G. V. Jacks in The Rape of the Earth. 'From Spain to Palestine there are no forests left on the Mediterranean littoral, the region is pronouncedly arid instead of having the mild humid character of forest-clad land, and most of its former bounteously rich top-soil is lying at the bottom of the sea.'" -