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Tree-Cover Law Gets More Amendments in Clayton; No Final Vote Yet

The Board of Aldermen again tabled the measure to make new changes Tuesday night.

A controversial tree-cover law that has undergone months of editing and discussion in Clayton has again been amended. It happened Tuesday at during a meeting of the city's Board of Aldermen. The bill still has not received final approval.

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Several representatives including Ward 1 Alderman Andrea Maddox-Dallas and Ward 2 Alderman Cynthia Garnholz have expressed concern that the bill represents an overreach of government into the lives of homeowners.

In the past, a majority have appeared in agreement that the bill will help preserve tree canopy in the city where new development occurs. It would under certain circumstances and lists approved tree varieties.

A wording change approved Tuesday by aldermen eases restrictions on trees planted in or near a utility easement. The change reads:

"Any plantings installed in or near utility easements must be so installed and maintained as to not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk of interference or interruption of utility service."

It would require property owners to maintain trees and shrubs so they don't interfere with power lines or other utilities.

"This is a right-on revision," Ward 3 Alderman Alex Berger III said. The amendment won approval.

Another amendment suggested by Ward 3 Alderman Mark Winings and approved by aldermen aims to reinforce the idea that the ordinance does not apply if a homeowner can demonstrate that trees will not be removed or damaged.

The amendment passed, but not before Ward 2 Alderman Cynthia Garnholz again voiced her opposition to the measure because of what she described as its possible affects on existing homeowners.

"I feel it is misplaced and overreaching," she said.

Ward 1 Alderman Andrea Maddox-Dallas agreed. She said the "round about" discussion demonstrates aldermen are trying to put into words "concepts that are more policy and guideline-oriented."

Aldermen tabled the measure to evaluate another suggested amendment and to weigh input from residents who spoke Tuesday against the measure.

Jane Mendelson, a resident of Hillcrest, told aldermen the measure "way oversteps its proper boundaries by forcing homeowners to landscape their yards according to its intrusive requirements."

She suggested the law be adjusted to:

  • return payments required into the city's forestry fund to previous levels ($120 per lost caliper inch) and require higher payments for developers who plan to tear down and rebuild
  • tell residents that Clayton is concerned for tree cover and encourage residents to plant responsibly
  • change rules for replacement street trees in residential areas so homeowners can choose among large deciduous trees rather than small decorative ones

Jean Most lives on Aberdeen Place and has spoken previously against the measure. She did so again Tuesday. Two other residents also spoke in opposition to the law.

The , City Manager Craig Owens told aldermen in April.

The new law takes effect July 1.

More about the Clayton tree-cover law on Patch:

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