Metro Council amended the city’s tree ordinance by a 20-3 vote Thursday evening, requiring that any tree removed from certain city properties be replaced by the planting of a new tree in an effort to replenish Louisville’s declining tree canopy.

Such a move was the top recommendation of the 2015 Louisville Urban Tree Canopy Assessment, which found that the city lost an average of 54,000 trees per year over an eight-year period. Councilman Bill Hollander and Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, the sponsors who first filed the ordinance last year, argued that creating a no-net-loss policy for public trees would help reduce Louisville’s heat island effects.

The amended tree ordinance requires that permits to remove a tree from city rights-of-way or city-owned property — excluding land under the jurisdiction of Louisville Metro Parks — must be conditioned on the replacement of that tree, with the same holding true for trees removed by the city.

While adjacent property owners will now be required to pay for the replacement of trees removed from rights-of-way, the ordinance also creates a fund to help defray that cost, which would receive appropriations from Metro Government and private contributions through the nonprofit Trees Louisville.

According to the ordinance, the fine for violations ranges from $50 to $1,000 — with each tree and each day in violation constituting a separate offense — though such fines may not exceed $10,000.

In a statement on the passage of the ordinance, Hollander said the legislation adapted to address the concerns and questions of citizens over the past year, and the resulting tree replacement rules “will help focus attention on the loss of tree canopy in Louisville, protect the trees we have, and reduce the possibility of more losses. It recognizes that trees are important to quality of life and to our health.”

“Our community needs more trees, desperately,” stated Hamilton in a press release. “Studies have shown that it makes a difference and it will reduce the temperature in the City. We need to do a better job of getting people to connect the dots between our environment and our health and this ordinance will help. The no-net-loss provision for trees in the right-of-way is a really important provision of the ordinance.”

This post has been updated to reflect that the maximum fine is $10,000.

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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