Trees

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Preservation of existing trees, tree mitigation and tree plantings has always been a paramount issue with site design. Trees provide shade, reduce heat island effect, recreation, and many other benefits. There must be a balance in the regulation of tree preservations and the amount of development yield on any property. For 40 years, the various codes have maintained a high level of preservation and mitigation for trees in Austin and these measures have been tightened over the years, primarily with the Heritage Tree classifications and the importance for those types of trees, as well as the adding of trees in the right-of-way to create a safe and walkable environment for the pedestrian.

Problems

  1. Parking island width increases to 10’ for the new plantings of trees does not provide for the flexibility in site design and construction of parking area. The current code has islands at 9’, being the same width of a standard parking space. When certain site conditions are discovered during construction that warrant the movement of the island to a different location than what is approved on the site plan, the 9’ requirement allows the flexibility to do so easily.
  2. Tree parking islands have increased from 1 tree within 50’ of every parking space (which equates to a run of eleven 9’ spaces) to a tree island required every 8 parking spaces. This is a +35% increase in tree islands. It is doubtful that the development yields have been increased by 40% for every development site regardless of use. While lower minimum parking requirements are promoting the notion that more space is available on the surface area of a site, thereby warranting more trees to be added, there are forces compromising the efforts to add more trees to a parking lot. Market demand will always require more parking that what is proposed in the new Code until alternative transit options are available. More parking increases the tree requirements taking away from development yields.
  3. Tree License Agreement: New trees in the right-of-way have been a requirement for some development since 2006. To mandate this requirement and then impose a new process for the developer to obtain a License Agreement is costly and time-consuming. In some instances, that process alone can add 6-8 months of review after the tree locations have been fully reviewed and vetted by other staff.

Recommendations

Comment Page #
Maintaining the width of a tree island at 9’ aids in the flexibility of addressing site conditions. Modify tree island width to be 9’ 4E-3, Pg 8 & 4E-4, Pg 6
Maintain the current parking island spacing as in the current code. Modify tree island placement to be every 10-11 spaces 4E-3, Pg 8 & 4E-4, Pg 6
If trees are required to be planted in the right-of-way, then the License Agreement fee should be waived, the process should only take 1-2 weeks, and the approval should be automatic. License Agreement Process & Procedures not addressed in CodeNEXT
The tree ordinance of the code allows for reasonable use. Reasonable use needs to be defined. Here is how it should be defined. A reasonable use allows to meet all current other codes and for A) A main house with 1000 sq ft ground floor and a ADU with 600 sq ft of ground floor OR if the front house is to be preserved (and its over 10 years old) reasonable use should always allow for the current house to stay in place and a ADU with 600 sq ft of ground floor to be built. 23-3C-2020 D-2 pg. 2 pdf 32 (Under General Planning Standards)