Home

Planning & Zoning in Michigan>Tree Preservation Standards

Tree Preservation Standards
This information was adapted from the 'Shiawassee & Huron Headwaters Preservation Project' developed by Oakland County Planning and Carlisle Wortman & Associates.

These model regulations will require a permit for various activities of tree removal of any tree that is six inches in caliper or greater, or disturbance of a landmark tree. The ordinance also sets forth certain exceptions from the requirements of this ordinance for normal and customary maintenance activities. Projects involved with site plan and/or subdivision plat review will incorporate the evaluation of woodland resources in the course of the normal review. Therefore, no separate process will be required in these instances.


Section _________. Tree Preservation Requirements

(a.) Intent. The (community) finds that continued development and increasing demands upon natural resources have had the effect of encroaching upon, despoiling, or eliminating many of the trees, vegetation, natural resources, and processes within the (community). If preserved and maintained in an undisturbed and natural condition, trees and natural vegetation constitute important physical, aesthetic, recreational, environmental, and economic assets to existing and future residents of the (community).

Specifically, the (community) finds that trees and natural vegetation:

(1) Protect public health through the absorption of air pollutants and contamination, and the purification of air including the reduction of excessive noise and damage related to noise pollution, the reduction of the carbon dioxide content, and increase in the oxygen content of the air;
(2) Protect the general welfare of the (community) by maintaining natural beauty, recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and irreplaceable heritage for existing and future (community) residents;
(3) Protect public safety by stabilizing the soil and promoting soil conservation, erosion control, and flood control;
(4) Contribute to the maintenance and stabilization of property values.
(b.) Purpose. The purposes of this Section are as follows:
(1) To provide for the protection, conservation, proper maintenance, and use of trees and woodlands in order to minimize disturbance to them and to prevent damage from erosion and siltation, a loss of wildlife, and/or minimize the destruction of the natural habitat;
(2) To protect the trees and woodlands within the (community) for their economic support of property values when allowed to remain uncleared and/or unharvested, in whole or in significant part, and for their natural beauty, character, ecological, or historical significance;
(3) To provide for the paramount public concern for these natural resources in the interest of the health, safety, and general welfare of the residents of this (community) in keeping with Article IV, Section 52 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, and the intent of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, Act 127 of the Public Acts of 1970.

(c.) Definition of Terms. The following definitions shall apply:
(1) Activity. Shall mean any use, operation, development, or action caused by any person, including but not limited to, constructing, operating, or maintaining any use or development; erecting buildings or other structure; depositing or removing material; dredging; ditching; land balancing; draining or diverting of water, pumping, or discharge of surface water; grading; paving; tree removal or other vegetation removal; excavation, mining, or drilling operation.

(2) Agriculture/farming. Shall mean any land in which the principal use is to derive income from the growing of plants and trees, including, but not limited to, land used principally for fruit and timber production.
(3) Commercial nursery/tree farm. Shall mean any commercial establishment that is licensed by the state or federal government for the planting, growing, and sale of live trees, shrubs, plants, and plant materials for gardening and landscaping purposes.
(4) Development. Shall mean man-made change to improved or unimproved real estate including, but not limited to, buildings or other structures, mining, dredging, filling, grading, paving, excavation, or drilling operations.
(5) D.B.H. Shall mean diameter at breast height or the diameter in inches of a tree measured at four (4) feet above the existing grade.
(6) Land Clearing. Shall mean those operations where trees and vegetation are removed and which occur previous to construction or building; e.g. road right-of-way excavation, utility excavation, grubbing, and any other necessary clearing operation.
(7) Landmark Tree. Shall mean a tree of the Genus and/or species and diameter listed in Section K of this Section, and any tree of twenty-four (24") inches D.B.H. or greater.
(8) Person. Shall mean any individual, firm, partnership, association, corporation, company, organization, or legal entity of any kind conducting operations within (community), including all tree removal companies and persons removing trees on behalf of others.
(9) Remove or Removal. Shall mean the act of removing a tree by digging up or cutting down, or the effective removal through damage to the tree or its root system.
(10) Transplants. Shall mean the digging up of a tree from one place on a property and the planting of the same tree in another place.
(11) Tree. Shall mean any woody plant with at least one well-defined stem and having a minimum D.B.H. of three (3) inches.

(d.) Exceptions. Notwithstanding the requirements of Section e., the following activities are allowed without application for a tree permit, unless otherwise prohibited by statute or ordinance:
(1) Tree removal on occupied, single family residential property of less than five acres, on which a valid certificate of occupancy has been issued;
(2) All agricultural/farming operations or commercial nursery/tree farm operations;
(3) Activities of utility companies or public tree trimming agencies;
(4) The removal of dead trees where the damage resulted from an accident or non-human cause;
(5) The trimming or care of trees provided that the work is accomplished in accordance with standardized forestry and horticultural practices as established by the American Association of Nurserymen or the National Arborist Association;
(6) Actions made necessary by an emergency such as tornado, windstorm, flood, freeze, dangerous and infectious insect infestation, or other man-made or natural disaster, in order to prevent injury or damage to persons or property;
(7) Tree removal in order to perform maintenance or repair of lawfully located roads, sewers, structures, and of facilities used in the service of the public to provide transportation, electric, gas, water, telephone, telecommunication, or other services.
(8) Improvement or maintenance of the Huron/Clinton/Shiawassee Rivers or their tributaries when such operations are organized or sponsored by the (community)/County and are specifically intended to preserve natural resources. Such activities shall include, but not limited to: a) removal of materials which may cause diverted flows and bank erosion, including the removal of trees, brush, and debris; b) bank stabilization projects which require minimal disturbance of existing conditions; and c) wildlife and aquatic habitat improvement projects.

(e.) Tree Application and Permit Required. It shall be a violation of this Section for any person, except as otherwise provided herein, to remove, cause to be removed, transplant, or destroy a tree within the (community) without applying for and receiving a tree permit, issued in accordance with this section.
(1) A tree permit shall be required for the following except as otherwise exempted under Section e:
a. The removal, transplanting, or destruction of any tree with a D.B.H. of six (6) inches or greater on any property.
b. The removal, transplanting, or destruction of a Landmark Tree.

(2) Applications for a tree permit shall be filed with the (community). When a site is proposed for development necessitating review and approval of a site plan, a special use approval, a planned unit development, or a subdivision plat, said application for a tree permit shall be made at the same time as such other related application. The application for a tree permit shall consist of the following:
a. Three (3) copies of the tree permit application;
b. A tree location survey in a form acceptable to the (community) that shall bear the following information and details:
1. Minimum scale of 1" = 50'. The scale shall be the same as a related site plan.
2. The shape and dimensions of the lot or parcel, together with the existing and proposed locations of structures and improvements, including existing and proposed utilities.
3. Locations and dimensions of all setbacks and existing or proposed easements.
4. All trees of six (6) inches D.B.H. or greater on the project site shall be tagged in the field with identifying numbers, using non- corrosive tags.
5. Exact locations of all existing trees, determined by actual field survey, of six (6) inches D.B.H. or greater, including trees within the adjoining street right-of-way and all trees to be affected by the development, such as trees located within areas of right-of-way improvements or off-site utility work. All such trees proposed to remain, to be relocated, or to be removed, shall be so designated and the numbered trees shall be identified by size (D.B.H.), grade at the base of each tree, and crown spread to scale. Such verified information shall be provided by a registered land surveyor or civil engineer. The survey shall be accompanied by a separate key identifying the numbered trees by size and common name. This information must be provided by a registered landscape architect, certified arborist, or forester, through an on-site inspection, who must verify the contents by seal or signature, whichever applies.
6. If existing trees are to be relocated, the proposed location for such trees, together with a statement as to how such trees are to be moved, protected, and/or stored during land clearance and construction and how they are to be maintained after construction.
7. A statement showing how trees to remain are to be protected during land clearance, construction, and on a permanent basis including the proposed use of tree wells, protective barriers, tunneling, or retaining walls.
8. The number of trees to be removed that are of six (6) inches D.B.H. or greater.
9. The requirements for a tree location survey may be waived by the (community) for areas fifty (50) feet or more outside the construction zone. If waived, a statement indicating predominant species and estimated number and size of trees in this area shall be required. The area to remain undisturbed shall be snow fenced prior to any activity.
c. An on-site examination shall be made by the (community ) in lieu of the tree location survey under any of the following conditions:
1. Where a permit is requested to remove or transplant trees on a lot of more than one acre, which is zoned for single family purposes and upon which is located an occupied one family dwelling; or,
2. Where a permit is requested in connection with the construction of a one family dwelling on a lot that is more than one acre, zoned for single family purposes, and which is not located within a subdivision for which a final plat has been approved subsequent to the effective date of this section; or,
3. Where a permit is required to remove three (3) or fewer trees.

(f.) Review of Tree Permit. The (community) shall process a tree permit application as follows:
(1) The (community) Woodlands Administrator shall review the tree permit application to verify that all required information has been provided. At the request of the applicant or the (community) Planner, an administrative meeting may be held to review the proposed application in light of the purpose and review standards of this Section.
(2) Upon receipt of a complete application, the (community) Woodlands Administrator may conduct or authorize the completion of a field investigation to review and verify the accuracy of information received. The receipt of a tree permit application shall constitute permission from the owner of the property to conduct such on-site investigation.
(3) If a tree permit application relates to a proposed development or activity on a site necessitating site plan review, special land use, planned unit development, or plat approval by the (community), the (community) shall consider said application concurrent with its review of the related site plan or other approval. If the (community) and Board approves a site plan which conforms with the requirements of this Section, that approval together with any additional terms and conditions attached thereto, will be considered to have fulfilled the requirements for a tree removal permit.
(4) When a tree permit application is not related to a development or activity necessitating review and approval of the (community), the (community) Woodlands Administrator shall be responsible for granting or denying the application.
(5) Any person denied a tree permit by the (community) Woodlands Administrator may appeal to the (community). An appeal must be filed with them, in writing, within ten (10) days of the date of mailing of the decision being appealed. The (community), upon review, shall determine, with findings, whether or not there has been compliance with the requirements and standards of this Section and based upon its findings, it may reverse or modify the decision rendered by the (community) Woodlands Administrator.
(6) Whenever an application for a tree permit is granted, the (community) shall:
a. Attach to the granting of the tree permit any reasonable conditions considered necessary to ensure that the intent of this Section will be fulfilled;

b. Affix a reasonable time to carry out the activities approved in the permit; and

c. Require the permit grantee to file with the (community) cash bond or irrevocable bank letter of credit in an amount determined necessary to ensure compliance with tree permit conditions and this Article.

(g.) Review Standards. The following standards shall govern the granting or denial of an application for a tree permit for property that does not otherwise qualify for a mandatory tree permit pursuant to Section h:
(1) The preservation and conservation of trees, woodland areas, wildlife, and related natural resources and processes shall have priority over development when there are feasible and prudent location alternatives on the site for proposed buildings, structures, or other site improvements.
(2) Where the proposed activity consists of land clearing, it shall be limited to designated street rights-of-way, drainage and utility areas; and areas necessary for the construction of buildings, structures, or other site improvements.
(3) Where the proposed activity involves residential development, residential units shall to the extent reasonably feasible, be designed and constructed to blend into the natural setting of the landscape.
(4) The proposed activity shall comply with all applicable statutes and ordinances and shall be evaluated concerning its effect on adjacent properties, the scenic assets, and regarding wind block and noise buffer factors.
(5) The proposed activity shall include necessary provisions for tree relocation or replacement in accordance with Section j. of this Article.
(6) Tree removal or transplanting shall be limited to the following instance:
a. When removal or transplanting is necessary for the construction of a building, structure, or other site improvement, and the permit applicant has shown there is no feasible and prudent location alternative on-site for a proposed building, structure or other site improvement; or,
b. The tree is dead, in decline, in danger of falling, is located too close to existing buildings or structures, interferes with existing utility service or drainage, creates unsafe vision clearance, or does not conform to other (community) ordinances or regulations.

(h.) Applications That Qualify for a Mandatory Permit.
(1) Where a permit has been requested with regard to non-residential property for which a valid certificate of occupancy has been issued that is less than five (5) acres in area, for the removal or transplanting of three (3) or less trees of six (6) inches D.B.H. or more within a calendar year. This provision shall not apply to Landmark Trees.
(2) Where a permit has been requested with regard to occupied property for which a valid certificate of occupancy has been issued that is more in area for the removal or transplanting of eight (8) or less trees of six (6) inches D.B.H. or more within a calendar year. This provision shall not apply to Landmark Trees.

(i.) Tree Protection Prior to and During Construction.
(1) Prior to construction and/or land clearing, the applicant shall do the following:
a. All trees for which application is being made for removal shall be so identified on-site by red flagging tape prior to field inspection by the (community) Woodlands Administrator. Trees selected for transplanting shall be flagged with a separate distinguishing color.
b. Construction limit fencing shall be erected that restricts access to protected areas and tree protection devices shall be installed where required over tree roots, branches, and/or tree trunks. All tree protection fencing and tree protection devices shall be installed as approved by the (community) Woodlands Administrator.
c. Fences and tree protection devices installed shall be maintained and all construction materials, supplies, and equipment shall be kept outside of the protected areas.
(2) During construction, the applicant shall do the following:
a. Maintain all fences and tree protection devices as approved by the (community) Woodlands Administrator and refrain from causing or permitting any activity near said trees including, but not limited to, the storage of equipment, supplies, excavation materials, disposal of fuels, solvents, or chemicals, or causing the disturbance of any soils or vegetation within protected areas without the prior approval of the (community) Woodlands Administrator.
b. No damaging attachments, wires (other than cable wires for trees), signs, or permits may be fastened to any tree protected by this Section.
(3) The (community) Woodlands Administrator shall conduct periodic inspections of the site during land clearing and/or construction in order to ensure compliance with this Section.

(j.) Replacement or Relocation of Trees. Whenever a tree permit allows removal of trees of six (6) inches D.B.H. or greater, the permit grantee shall relocate or replace the trees, except as provided in subparagraph (5) below, on a one-to-one basis and all replacement trees must measure two and one-half (2 1/2") inch diameter-or greater measured six (6") inches above grade. In lieu thereof, the (community) and the permit grantee may agree to replacement trees of varying diameters so long as the market value of said trees would approximate the value of the replacement trees, which would be required in accordance with the above formula. In addition:
(1) Replacement trees shall have shade potential and other characteristics comparable to the removed trees, and shall be State Department of Agriculture nursery grade NO. I or better. All replacement trees, or transplanted trees must be approved prior to planting and must be planted in standards for planting and transplanting, including, but not limited to, staking, mulching, and watering. All nursery stock and transplanted trees shall be guaranteed for one (1) year.
(2) The (community) shall approve tree relocation or replacement locations in order to provide optimum enhancement, preservation, and protection of woodlands areas. To the extent feasible and desirable, trees shall be relocated or replaced on-site and within the same general area as trees removed.
(3) Where it is not feasible and desirable to relocate or replace trees on-site, relocation or replacement may be made at another approved location in the (community).
(4) Where it is not feasible and desirable to relocate or replace trees on-site or at another approved location in the (community), the tree permit grantee shall pay into the (community) Tree Fund, which fund is hereby created, an amount of money approximating the current market value of the replacement trees that would otherwise be required. The (community) shall use the Tree Fund for the purpose of maintaining and preserving wooded areas, for planting and maintaining trees within the (community), and for expenses related to the administration and enforcement of this Section.
(5) Replacement trees shall not be required for a tree that is removed pursuant to a tree permit granted pursuant to either Section e. or for a reason described in paragraph 6.(b) of Section h.

(k.) Landmark Trees.
(1) All trees within the (community) of twenty-four (24") inches D.B.H. or greater and all trees listed below by Genus and/or species of the listed minimum size D.B.H. shall be considered Landmark Trees, unless an applicant submits an Affidavit from a registered landscape architect, certified arborist, or forester that the tree is in such ill health that its anticipated life expectancy is less than five (5) years:

COMMON NAME BOTANICAL NAME SIZE D.B.H.
Arborvitae Thuja 18"
Beech Fagus 18"
Birch Betula 18"
Black Gum Nyssa sylvatica 12"
Blue Beech Carpinus caroliniana 8"
Cedar, Red Juniperus virginiana 12"
Chestnut Castenea 10"
Crabapple Malus 12"
Dogwood Comus 8"
Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga meesii 18"
Fir Abies 18"
Ginkgo Ginkgo 18"
Hawthorn Crataegus 12"
Hemlock Tsuga 18"
Hickory Carya 18"
Hornbeam Astray 8"
Horse Chestnut/Buckeye Aeschylus glabra came 18"
Kentucky Coffeetree Gyrnnocladus dioicus 18"
Larch/Tamarack Larix 12"
London Plane/Sycamore Platanus 18"
Magnolia Magnolia 8"
Maple, Red Acerrubrum 18"
Maple, Norway Acerplatanoides 18"
Pine Pinus 18"
Redbud Cercis canadensis 8"
Sassafras Sassafras albidum 15"
Serviceberry Amelanchier 8"
Spruce Picea 8"
Sweetgum Liquidambar styaciflua 16"
Tulip Tree Liriodendron tulipifera 18"
Walnut Juglans 20"
Wild Cherry Pnmus 18"
Witch Hazel Hamamelis virginiana 8"
*If a birch tree has multiple trunks, then its total D.B.H. shall be computed by adding the D.B.H. in inches of each of the trunks.
(2) When Landmark Trees are permitted to be removed, in addition to compliance with the provisions of Section k., replacement trees shall be provided to a minimum of thirty (30%) percent of D.B.H. of the tree to be removed. Replacement trees, measured in D.B.H. or calipers, shall be provided either individually or on an accumulative basis to meet the thirty (30%) percent D.B.H. requirement, however, if on an accumulative basis all individual trees shall measure at least two and one-half (2 l/2 ") inch diameter.
(l.) Fees. Applications for a tree permit under this section shall be accompanied by a non-refundable administrative application fee in an amount specified from time to time by resolution of the ( community ) Board. In addition, an applicant may be required to pay an additional escrow fee in an amount determined by the (community) to pay for the estimated cost of any needed outside consultant(s) who may be retained by the (community) in connection with the review of the application. In the event the cost of the services of the consultant(s) is less than the escrow fee, the applicant shall be refunded the balance. In the event the cost of the services of the consultant(s) exceeds the amount of the escrow fee, the applicant shall pay the deficiency to the (community) prior to the issuance of a tree permit. A denial of an application for a tree permit shall not affect the applicant's obligation to pay the escrow fee provided for in this Section.
(m.) Civil Fee for Illegally Removed Trees. In addition to any penalty provided for in the event of a conviction for a violation of this Section, and notwithstanding whether or not the (community) has commenced a civil suit for injunctive relief, any person who removes or causes any tree to be removed except in accordance with this Section shall forfeit and pay to the (community) a civil fee equal to the total value of trees illegally removed or damaged as computed from the International Society of Arboriculture shade tree value formula. The civil fee shall accrue to the (community) and, if necessary, the (community) may file a civil action to recover such fee. The (community) shall place any sum collected in the (community) Tree Fund. Alternatively, the (community) may require replacement of illegally removed or damaged trees as restitution in lieu of such fee. Replacement will be on an inch-to-inch basis computed by adding the total diameter measured at D.B.H. in inches of the illegally removed or damaged trees. The (community) may use other reasonable means to estimate the tree loss if destruction of the illegally removed or damaged trees prevents exact measurement. The (community) may also require a combination of civil fee payment and tree replacement.
(n.) Injunction. Any activity conducted in violation of this Section is declared to be a nuisance per se, and the (community) may commence a civil suit in any Court of competent jurisdiction for an order abating or enjoining the violation.
(o.) Stop-Work Order. The (community) may also issue a stop-work order or withhold issuance of a certificate of occupancy, permits, or inspections until the provisions of this Section, including any conditions attached to a tree permit, have been fully met. Failure to obey a stop-work order shall constitute a violation of this Section.
(p.) Approved Site Plans and Plats. This Section shall not apply to a site plan or plat that has received final approval prior to the effective date of this Section, so long as the site plan or plat remains in effect and in good standing pursuant to this ordinance.
Click here to view full size picture
Agriculture
Business & Industry
Economic Development
Hometown Partnerships
Community Services
Cultural Resources
Education
History
Natural Resources & Recreation
Test Area
Information
Planning & Zoning in Michigan
Tools & Techniques
Laws & References