Can’t see the canopy for the trees

The town might have the oddest definition of “tree canopy” I’ve ever heard, if I understand the discussion that came out of the Town Council meeting Monday night about modifications to the tree protection ordinance. To my mind, tree canopy would be tall trees with lots of leaves forming, well, a canopy – an umbrella-like top. Providing shade. Rustling in the breeze.

But no. If you want to get a good idea of what the town considers tree canopy, drive out to East 54 and look around. See the pond? See the Bradford (someone at the meeting Monday night called them “Bartlett”) pear trees? See that rolling grassy area? Well, the town has decided that all that constitutes open space, which it considers the same as tree canopy.


No shade. No rustling.

You’d think you would need to have a tree somewhere nearby to have an area qualify as tree canopy. But that’s not the case. In fact, you could plant the top of your building with grass and have that contribute to the calculation for tree canopy. And East 54, by town standards, has 50 percent tree canopy.

Now an area such as University Mall has only about 15 percent tree canopy. That’s easy to understand, since there are a lot of parking spaces there. But if the mall went ahead with improvements to the site, it would have to meet the town requirement of 50 percent tree canopy. Which means planting the equivalent of all the parking area in trees to meet the requirement. The mall would not have any parking to offer shoppers, but it would have a nice show of Bartlett, er, Bradford pear trees.

Sounds like the town must clarify its definition of tree canopy if it’s going to head in the direction of a tree protection law that makes sense.

–Don Evans

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  1. Andy

     /  February 25, 2010

    What is the council worried about? It seems that storm water, impervious surfaces and to some degree the reflection is the concern and not explicit shade. Offer them a dictionary?

  2. Fred Black

     /  February 25, 2010

    Details! I found it interesting that Del Snow took a letter writer to task for asking for details about the proposed tree ordinance and Del offered that one should just read the proposal. Details about the “canopy” specifics were lacking, as well as other important items. Good thing that a number of Council members wanted more details too! Maybe we are getting better at trying to understand the unintended consequences of our decisions, and kudos to the Council members who applied the brakes on this.

    The devil is in the details and why people want to just gloss over them I don’t understand. Not knowing the details is why I think the Ram-Town deal is terrible for us, but according to Del, we should not want the details.