Love It or Leaf it: Dallas Inches Closer, Just Maybe, to a Tree Preservation Ordinance

At last night's meeting of the Urban Forest Advisory Committee, held deep in the bowels of City Hall, the next chapter in Dallas's tree saga started to unfold. The short version: Article X of the Dallas City Code, which contains the city's landscape and tree ordinances, is under revision, and if you've got anything to say, say it now. David Marquis, a co-chair since the founding of the Green Building Task Force, put it to the committee this way:

"More and more people in the city of Dallas want a tree preservation ordinance rather than just a tree mitigation ordinance," Marquis said. "Now's the time. This is it. We are literally changing the culture of how we operate this city."

The revisions to the tree ordinance are currently in draft form (we're uploaded it here), but the architects of the changes, UFAC chair Steve Houser and committee member Bill Seaman, say they'll be collecting comments until next Friday and will produce their final recommendations within the next few weeks. Houser says he's planning an official public meeting in early June to discuss the proposed revisions.

The biggest change is "the matrix," a new method for assigning landscape and mitigation credit points to developers based on the percentage of trees they preserve or sustainable landscaping they do. Last night, Houser told the committee that he and Seaman have spent the 18 months talking to developers, builders and architects in order to produce a new way to encourage responsible development -- in essence, incentivizing it rather than punishing developers who don't use sustainable practices.

"I'm the town tree-hugger, but I'm willing to give up some tree credits if they can develop responsibly," Houser tells Unfair Park. But have we given up too much? And, as Houser points out, even if we haven't, UFAC's recommendations are merely advisory, so the city could ignore them completely if it wanted to weaken the ordinance rather than strengthen it -- something that's generally agreed to have happened with Dallas's first ordinance in 1994.

That's why, to repeat the words of David Marquis, "Now is the time." Send all comments in writing to Bill Seaman (contact information included in draft recommendations) by May 15.

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