The Lakeland Tree Ordinance is a vital part of the Lakeland strategy to manage our natural resources so future generations can enjoy them.
An important aspect of the Tree Ordinance is the cooperation of individual homeowners in managing our trees.
Eric Bridges and Nick Bridgeman prepared the following article to help explain how the Tree Ordinance impacts individual homeowners. As noted in the article, www.lakelandtn.gov has a section on trees for additional information, or contact the Lakeland Natural Resources Department at 867-2717.
CITY OF LAKELAND
Natural Resources Department
This article will provide the citizens of Lakeland with a better understanding of how the tree ordinance affects residential homeowners. This is not the entire ordinance and does not address issues such as tree removal permits for building and development activities. For a full understanding of the intent and scope of the ordinance please visit http://www.lakelandtn.gov/pdfs/ord/LAKELAND13Ch4.pdf or come by City Hall and request a copy of the LTMO (costs $10). The following are some brief excerpts from the LTMO that affect all homeowners in Lakeland.
SECTION 13-401 PURPOSE
(1) Trees are a part of our heritage and our future, and that they are an essential part of the quality of life within our city.
The purpose and intent of this ordinance to provide a mechanism for the management of trees and other woody vegetation within the city.
SECTION 13-403.1 REGULATED ACTIVITIES (partial list)
(6) Any activity requiring issuance of a land disturbance permit (regardless of previous approvals on or current use of the land).
(8) Any activity requiring site plan approval, including but not limited to, pool permit requests, fence permit requests, and accessory structure permit requests.
(12) Removal of specimen tree(s) for any reason not listed in Section 13-403.2 Exemptions.
SECTION 13-403.2 EXEMPTIONS
(1) The following activities shall be exempt from the provisions of this Ordinance:
a. The removal of trees, other than specimen trees, from an owner occupied, single family or duplex lot of record where none of the above conditions (13-403.1) apply.
f. The removal of any tree which has become or threatens to become a danger to human life or property, as determined by an International Society of Arboriculture
Certified Arborist, or an American Society of Consulting Arborists – Registered Consulting Arborist.
(2) Notwithstanding the foregoing, all reasonable efforts shall be made to save specimen trees. Reasonable efforts shall include, but not be limited to, alteration of building design; alternate location of building, parking area, water retention, drainage pipes; or relocation of utilities.
What is a Specimen Tree? Specimen trees have a size requirement and a health requirement. The sizes are 20” dbh (diameter at 4.5 feet above ground) for hardwoods, 25” dbh for softwoods; and 4” dbh for small-statured trees. The tree must be free from disease or damage that would shorten the life-expectancy of the tree and must be structurally sound. Rare, endangered, or historically significant trees can also be considered specimen trees.
The residential homeowner must receive a permit before removing a specimen tree (as defined by the ordinance) for any reason. This could mean that the homeowner wishes to install a pool or shed or new driveway, etc. The Natural Resources Department will work with you to ensure that all reasonable efforts are made to keep the specimen tree. If, after exhaustion of these efforts, the tree cannot be kept, you will typically be issued a tree removal permit. However, there are a few instances when the Natural Resources Department cannot issue the permit such as when there are reasonable efforts that have not been made, if a severe erosion problem would result from the tree removal, or if the request is simply based on “nuisance.” These types of requests would need to be determined by a higher board rather than staff.
If you have a question about whether or not you need a tree removal permit, you may call the Natural Resources Department before you begin work and we will meet with you to determine if a permit is required. However, City staff cannot perform hazard tree evaluations (or sick tree calls). That should be left to an ISA Certified Arborist®. But remember, that in order for a tree to be considered a specimen, it must be in good health. On a side note, residents should be wary of unsolicited diagnoses from a “tree care” company. There have been recent occurrences where these companies have told the resident that their trees were unhealthy and needed to be removed when, in fact, the trees were perfectly healthy. Please remember that not only is door to door solicitation illegal in the City of Lakeland, but that not all “tree experts” or companies are ethical in their pursuit of business. Again, play it safe and hire a Certified Arborist® when having your tree evaluated. Certified Arborists are required to follow a strict code of ethics.
While many of the tree removal inquiries we receive do not need a permit, it is much better to check first than to be faced with the penalty from an illegal tree removal. Although we seldom have to use it, the City does have a mitigation component that can be required for the malicious removal of or damage to specimen trees. The bottom line is that we work with homeowners to the best of our ability to try and keep specimen trees which are such a part of our community character and the reason many of us live here.