About The Takoma Park Tree Ordinance and Arborist
“The Council of the City of Takoma Park hereby finds that it is in the interest of the citizens of the City to protect, preserve, and promote the City’s urban forest.”
This is the first sentence of Section 12.12 of the City Code, the Urban Forest section. This is the reason behind the tree protection ordinance and associated laws and activities.
The Urban Forest program is run by the City Arborist working out of the Public Works Department. It is a full time position with a wide range of duties and reposnibilites. The official duties are described in City code Section 12.12.140: "Duties of City Arborist." However, there are multiple other related tasks assigned to the position. The Arborist is responsible for working to improve or maintain the ecosystem health in many of the natural areas of parks and other undeveloped land as well as coordinating with public utilites and other tasks. The Arborist does not perform tree inspections for private trees except when connected to a permit application or possible public hazard.
Summary of Takoma Park Tree Ordinance
When is a Tree Removal Permit Required?
Whenever an Urban Forest Tree, a tree with a diameter greater than 7 5/8 inches at 4½ feet above ground, is to be removed, a Tree Removal Application is required. If the tree is dead or hazardous no replacement plantings will be required, and a waiver will be issued. If the tree is alive the Arborist determines the value of the tree (according to guidelines outlined in City Code). The size of the tree removed determines the number of replacement trees that will be required. There is a 15 day comment period and the property owner must agree to plant replacements or pay a fee before the permit will be issued.
When is a Tree Impact Assessment Required?
In general, if you are performing the following activities within 50 feet of an Urban Forest Tree, located on your property or on a neighbors land, you will need to submit a Request For Tree Impact Assessment:
- Regrading three inches or more above or below grade (for example backfill behind a retaining wall)
- Construction or placement of a structure other than a fence within 50 feet of an urban forest tree
- Removing and replacing paving or installing new pavement such as sidewalks or driveways
- Pruning or otherwise altering an urban forest tree (more than 5% of the canopy)
If you are performing these or related activities, contact the City Arborist to discuss whether a site visit and Tree Impact Assessment is required. Specific requirements related to the size of the project and the distance from a tree will affect whether or not these activities require a Tree Protection Plan Agreement. The tree ordinance provides further details in Section 12.12 of the Takoma Park Municipal Code.
If a Tree Protection Plan Agreement is required, perhaps because the proposed construction may affect a neighbor's tree, you will be required to submit a Tree Protection Plan Agreement with the application form. On certain projects you may need to post a bond as well. The bond amount is the estimated cost of removal of the neighbor's tree(s) and the fair replacement costs. The bond must be secured for two years. The City Arborist determines if the critical root zone is affected and the amount of the bond.
When is a Tree Protection Plan Required?
Construction or other activities may damage a tree's roots or affect its water supply. To prevent or mitigate these negative effects you may need a Tree Protection Plan for the following types of activities: excavation, adding fill, construction of a structure, paving.
Once a Tree Protection Plan application is received and approved by the City Arborist, the City notifies contiguous property owners allowing them 15 days to comment on the application. Only those property owners who share a property line with the applicant are permitted to comment. After the 15 day period has expired, if no comments or objections have been received, the application will be processed and the permit issued. If comments/objections are received, the Arborist will determine if modifications can be made to the plan or if the permit can be issued or should be denied.