Ordinance to Restore New Britain’s “Heritage of Trees” Up for Final Approval

More tree-lined streets may see a comeback in the city, under a proposal by Ald. Aram Ayalon (D-3) to restore the city’s “rich heritage of trees.” On June 27, 2018, the City Council will consider final Council approval of a new “tree ordinance,” which would require replacement of trees that are removed and encourage the planting of new trees in the city.

Ald. Aram Ayalon. Frank Gerratana photo.

The proposed city ordinance, or local law, says, “The City of New Britain is characterized by its rich heritage of trees. New Britain’s Trees clean the air, calm traffic, increase property values, reduce storm water run-off, and otherwise enhance the quality of life. The goal of this ordinance is to maintain and grow New Britain’s urban forest, maintain trees in a healthy condition, protect existing trees, and mitigate losses and damage to these trees.”

City ordinances already designate the city Board Public Works as New Britain’s “Tree Warden,” giving that board powers designated by state law for local tree wardens. The proposed ordinance would give new responsibilities to the Board in the maintaining and growing of trees in the city.

The proposed ordinance would require the city to replace any tree on city property, “which is removed due to disease, vehicle damage, overgrowth, pedestrian hazards, and other issues at a one to one ratio unless otherwise approved by the Tree Warden.” The ordinance also requires the city to “make reasonable efforts” to replace trees removed in public construction projects.

The ordinance would also require that, “All new public and private development project plans shall include plans for tree planting, including landscaping and shall adequately provide tree canopy protection.” The development plans would have to provide for, “the creation and maintenance of canopy coverage of at least fifty (50%) percent after fifteen (15) years over those areas of the site to be developed that will not include buildings, parking lots or athletic fields.” These plans would have to be submitted for approval to the Board of Public, acting Tree Warden.

The Board would be able to grant exceptions to the tree planting and maintenance requirement, but the Board would be permitted to require those carrying out the public or private development project to pay $250, “per tree not included in the plan that would otherwise be necessary to achieve the desired canopy cover.”

The proposal would create a new “Tree Account” to fund the planting of trees by the city. The account would be funded from fines paid for violations of the tree ordinance, fees paid under the ordinance, payments made by developers instead of planting or maintaining trees and, “gifts and grants from any source, public or private, made to the City and designated for trees or improvements to the urban forest.”

The Board of Public Works would be required to recommend an allocation of money in the annual city budget for tree planting. The proposed ordinance contemplates that budget proposal being enough, “for the planting of forty five (45) 3” caliper trees minimum.” Any tree allocation approved in the city budget would be placed in the Tree Account.

In addition, the ordinance creates a process to encourage the public to plant trees in public places in the city. Applications would be made to the Board of Public Works, which would be authorized to grant permits for tree planting. Applications would have to specify the location of any proposed tree planting, on public property or in a public right-of-way, and the species and size of the tree. Once planted, these trees would become the property of the city.

The new ordinance also provides for the creation of a list of “Legacy Trees,” defining, “Legacy Tree,” as a tree, “of unique and intrinsic value to the general public because of its size, age, historic association, ecological importance or aesthetic value.”

To protect these trees, the ordinance says that removal of any Legacy Tree would require approval of the Board of Public Works, as tree warden. It also provides that, “If a Legacy Tree is removed on public property without prior approval of the Tree Warden, the offending party shall be required to pay the City of New Britain an amount equal to two times the assessed value of the Legacy Tree as determined by the Tree Warden.

The ordinance would require the Board of Public Works to create a “Master Tree Plan” for the city, “which establishes direction for the City’s urban forestry program and shall include targets for tree canopy cover and tree diversity.” The Tree Plan would, “outline a broad program for the improvement of the urban forest that may include recommendations for urban forestry activities in specific neighborhoods, along specific streets, and in areas of the City such as Historic Districts.”

The proposed ordinance was previously referred by the Council to its Consolidated Committee. That committee made amendments to the proposal and referred it back to the full Council at its meeting on June 21, 2018.

The proposed ordinance is on the agenda of the June 27th Council meeting for final approval.