Bellaire City Council approved several amendments to the city's code of ordinances to enhance tree protection within the city during a May 6 meeting.

What happened?

Council members voted 5-1 in favor of the ordinance change with Mayor Gus Pappas voting against the item and council member Cindy Taylor absent from the vote.

The approval will allow the revision of the city's existing tree requirements and adopt a Criteria Manual for Urban Forest, similar to one used by the city of West University Place.

How we got here

City Council discussed the tree ordinance in December and March, deciding to postpone the vote March 4 to allow council members more time to consider the policy changes and get key questions answered.

According to the council agenda, since that time, staff have revised the proposed ordinance to address questions and concerns raised during those various discussions. Officials said the primary issue with the city's existing tree requirement is it only protects existing trees on residential property if a construction permit has been issued.

The details

The new ordinance eliminates that permit loophole and includes additional changes, such as:
  • Clearly defining protected trees and unprotected trees
  • Not requiring a permit to remove an unprotected tree
  • Requiring a permit to remove a single protected tree
  • Requiring a tree survey and disposition plan for projects in which multiple protected trees are affected
  • Requiring that protected trees be preserved or replaced on-site or within 1,000 inches if they must be removed due to construction
  • Allowing for payment of a fee in lieu of meeting the above requirement to replace a protected tree
Council members also approved the proposed Criteria Manual for Urban Forest, which is a technical guide created to facilitate the planning, design, installation and maintenance of landscaping that is required for new development and redevelopment.

More details

Bellaire's criteria manual establishes:
  • Tree survey standards
  • 10 different criteria for tree evaluation
  • Mitigative measures and replacement protocols based on the criteria rating of existing trees
  • Diameter requirements for replacement trees based on the criteria rating or a fee equivalent to replacement based on those diameter requirements
The manual also addresses situations and exemptions regarding dead or diseased trees, undesirable trees, tress conflicting with utilities and projects where trees are not affected.

What's next?

With the adoption of the ordinance, staff members can move forward with procuring the services of an urban forestry consultant.

According to Davey Tree, an environmental consulting firm, an urban forestry consultant can help measure the state of an urban forest through tree inventories, strategic planning or the development of an urban forest master plan.