The Tree Protection Ordinance establishes a new vision statement that calls for protection of the Town's tree canopy cover. The ordinance is linked to a Town-wide commitment to sustainability with the potential to reduce carbon emissions and decrease the urban “heat-island” effect.
On December 6, 2010, the Town Council adopted a Tree Protection Ordinance that identified tree canopy as a resource to be considered during development applications in Chapel Hill. The update establishes a new vision statement that calls for a balanced approach to protecting trees without overegulation of residential properties and property owners.
The ordinance will go into effect on March 1, 2011.
The staff developed two support documents to assist with measuring and calculating tree canopy:
- Tree Canopy Measurement Template (for the Design Manual)
- Steps for Measuring Canopy (for the Design Manual)
Answers to some common questions
How will the changes impact single-family or two-family homeowners?
The threshold for applying tree protection requirements is returning to the earlier standard of 5,000 SF of land disturbance. The proposed tree canopy coverage standards would be applied only to the largest projects requiring Council approval, including Special Use Permit applications.
What will the proposed changes cost?
We anticipate only a minor increase in the time spent reviewing the largest projects. The Town does not expect to need additional staff to implement the proposed ordinance.
Will the proposed ordinance allow for solar systems to generate heat and water? What about stormwater systems?
Yes. Section 5.7.2 (b) of the revised Ordinance includes a list of reasons why applicants would be expected to request modifications to the tree canopy coverage requirements. This was done specifically to provide assurance to property owners that the staff will support certain modifications that support other goals of the Town. This list specifically includes solar access, daylighting and stormwater management improvements, including compliance with the Jordan Lake Rules.
Will the proposed ordinance reduce the area available for recreation by prohibiting open active recreation areas?
No. Section 5.7.2 (c) 1 includes a list of land uses and easements that are anticipated to be cleared and therefore should not be included in determining the land area subject to the tree canopy coverage standards on a specific parcel. This list specifically includes active recreation areas.
Are projects in the Town Center exempt from these requirements?
Yes. Section 5.7.1 (d) 1 states that properties in the Town Center are exempt from the provisions of the Ordinance.
Is the proposed Ordinance in conflict with the parking requirements for many building types?
No. Parking lots that are designed to meet the Town's parking lot shading requirements generally include perimeter and median tree plantings that also can be counted to meet the tree canopy coverage requirements.
- Revisions for Public Review (November Draft Ordinance - note, an updated version of the language and a supporting staff memorandum was included in the December 6th Council agenda materials)
If you have comments, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Planning Department at (919) 968-2728.
Summary of changes from 9/27/2010
- Eliminate "recommended" standards; only identify requirements in the ordinance.
- Simplify the canopy protection standards to apply by land-use; eliminate references to zoning classifications which can be confusing.
- Relocate fees to a separate fee schedule.
- Draft a diagram illustrating how canopy can be calculated.
- Refine definitions (e.g. Tree Canopy) for clarity.
- Remove reference to 36" trees.
- Clarify that replanting is a priority over mitigation payments-in-lieu.
- Clarify how information is submitted (landscape protection plan references).
The revised ordinance continues to focus the canopy protection standards on the projects with the largest potential impact in Chapel Hill, such as Special Use Permits and other projects requiring Council approval. The anticipated increase in reviews is not expected to add significant time to project reviews or to require additional staff resources.
Background Meetings and Materials
September 27, 2010
The Council continued the public hearing from September 27, 2010 and requested additional revisions from staff.
June 15, 2010
The Planning Board recommended the updated ordinance (above) based on the suggested changes they discussed at that meeting .
May 18, 2010
The board discussed the following:
- The revised standard that does not require permits for disturbance under 5,000 SF
- Clarifications to the proposed canopy coverage standards table and whether other uses need to be identified in the chart
- The voluntary tree protection standard
- The proposed change to significant tree stands
- Standards for removal of trees 36" or greater
- Other exceptions (e.g. too close to a house) that might be made
They asked staff to be available to answer questions before the June 15th meeting, to make that a productive conversation. The Board expressed a desire to act on the ordinance in a timely fashion to allow the public hearing to continue as currently scheduled.
March 16, 2010
The Planning Board discussed potential updates to the ordinance.
February 22, 2010:
Town Council Meeting
Email comments on the 2/22/10 draft
February 2, 2010:
Planning Board draft ordinance
January 19, 2010:
Second Public Information Session to review updates to the Tree Protection Ordinance draft language:
- Powerpoint Presentation from 01/19/10 public information meeting
- Recording of the Meeting (Video)
- Summary of Proposed Changes
- Draft Discussion Language (January 2010)
January 5, 2010
Changes were discussed in an update to the Planning Board on January 5, 2010.
October 26, 2009
- Draft language for discussion (October 2009 version)
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Powerpoint Presentation from 10/26/09 public information meeting
- Map of residential zoned lots by size with potential tree canopy standards
- Recorded October 26th Meeting Proceedings (VIDEO)
- 1/19/2010 Public Information Meeting on potential revisions to the Tree Protection Ordinance news release
- 10/26/2009 Public Information Meeting on potential revisions to the Tree Protection Ordinance
- 08/14/2007 Tree Care Targeted in Downtown Chapel Hill
Past Agenda Items
- 09/28/2009 Proposed Schedule for Public Input on Tree Protection Ordinance
- 06/11/2007 Land Use Management Ordinance Text Amendments-Modifications to Tree Protection Regulations
- 05/14/2007 Public Hearing: Land Use Management Ordinance Text Amendment: Modifications to the Tree Protection Regulations
- 02/12/2007 Response to Petition Regarding Proposed Changes to the Tree Protection Ordinance
- 01/08/2007 Recommendation for Change to the Tree Protection Ordinance
Current Tree Protection Ordinance
- Tree Protection Ordinance
- Proposed Changes to Tree Protection Ordinance
- Request for Proposals: Revisions to the Tree Protection Ordinance
Information: email@example.com or (919) 968-2728