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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ordinance Task Force Meeting of Dec 20th Refines Proposed Tree Ordinance.

-Master Plan suggestion
The above  paragraph in blue is from the Master Plan. The above picture is actually from the November 29th  Ordinance Task Force meeting. In counter clockwise fashion are City Manager Jay Cravens, Planning Commission Chair person Walter  Cueter, City  Commissioner  Connie Salloum, City Mayor Michal Zambricki, and a consultant  from McKenna  Associates, a consulting firm which is helping the committee draft the ordinance and has helped other cities in that regard as well.  Not pictured is Virginia Fox, Secretary of  the the Planning Commission. All except for the man  from McKenna are voting members  on the Task Force. Mr Cravens, a non resident is a voting member of the Task force and by law the Planning Commission. He does not vote on City Commission however. His expertise as an advanced master gardener and the volunteer work he does for the Michigan State University Master Gardener program is regarded as invaluable to the Ordinance Task Force Tree Proposal. The meeting  of December 20th was attended by all voting members with the exception of  Mayor Zambricki.

No written minutes of the December 20th  meeting that we could discern were kept. That  as we mentioned in a previous post  is violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. We do not think minutes of previous meetings were kept either.Those omissions deprived residents unable to attend or who came in late a chance to see the workings of their government. The State of Michigan with the Open Meetings Act clearly  puts  that responsibility on the governing body. It is not the responsibility of citizen. It is the right of the citizen to have access and receive that  information. Since sub committee meeting announcements are NOW provided in a timely fashion we would also expect that minutes would be  kept. They need not on be transcripts or anything elaborate but the resident is entitle to know who attended, what was discussed (at least in summary form), and what votes if any were taken.  We would also expect that those minutes be available at City Hall for review and copying by residents in the prescribed number of days stated  in the Open Meetings Act. We would expect that those requesting a copy would pay the fair amount for said service. This publication  will endeavor to publish those minutes verbatim in an equally timely manner.

 A summary  the highlights of the Dec 20th Ordinance Task Force Tree Proposal meeting.

The Country Club, with planned improvements and plans to many  trees ,called a city commissioner with queries.  One member thought it would depend on  where those threes were.  Interior trees might be OK. Perimeter trees were another matter.This member of the Task Force took a accommodating  position in many cases. Another member was more hard line stating interior or exterior it still effected over all environment. It was mentioned that the Village Club was thinking  of extending it's parking lot.  Cranbrook the largest land owner in the City was mentioned.  What would happen if any of the above were ever sold.
What about Manresea ,  St. Elizabeth of Briarbank, or other churches ?   A "re-forest" PUD was humorously suggested.

While free to change their landscape, the large properties if exceeding the number of tree removals allowed per year, would have to  plant replacement trees. Either on the effected property or elsewhere in the city.What would that cost ? Based on  entirely donated dollars spent on the Woodward Avenue Tree Program it was estimated $40,000 for 150 trees or $80,000 for $300.

Small properties were easier to figure. Less than one acre lots would be allowed to cut down three otherwise health trees in three years before having to plant replacement trees. Properties one to ten acres in size ( the vast majority of properties in the City) would be allowed 6 tree removals in the  a two year period.
Properties over ten acres would be allowed more. The  number of  required  replacement trees could increase if any of removed trees were deemed Landmark Trees. It was offered that there are devices on the market that would allow for quick determination  of said.

Tree policing  or in German, Baum Politzei (Bapo) would also involve a number of  complications. If  plans were required who would be qualified to submit them  ?
A registered Land Surveyor ? A Civil Engineer ? A registered Arborist  or a Landscaper  Architect ?

The Building Inspector would be the first point of review for the lot owner. For the process of appeal or as the language of the ordinance prefers review would go the planning commission.  While it was not stated at the meeting such a review costs the applicant money.After that it would go the either City Commission or the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Task force members agreed that traditionally the City Commission (which is the only arbitrator the residents elect) is the last resort  for matters concerning free standing ordinance variations. and that the ZBA  primarily addresses zoning issues. One Task force member stated that City Commission would be a less desirable arbitrator because  three commissioners , perhaps politically motivated ,could change the dynamics of the situation. On this topic  it was agreed that waiting for public comment would be a good idea.

No residents, except for this author attended last night's meeting. The next meeting of the Ordinance Task Force/ Tree proposal , as posted  this morning on the City's website under "Calender)  will be on  Tuesday January 3rd  2012 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 pm. That is an easy date to remember  because it is same evening of the Sugar Bowl featuring the University of Michigan. The meeting will conclude prior to kick off. Since this will be the last meeting before the Tree proposal is to be presented to Planning Commission  public comment may not be available at this meeting. It will be available at both the January 10th Planning Commission and City Commission Meetings. At the time of  this writing  it is possible that the Tree Ordinance proposal may not be ready for submission on January 10th. It is also possible that the Ordinance will be made law on that date.

It was mentioned in a previous post residents with a good degree of political  savvy follow committees like the the Ordinance Committee.A half dozen  attended the task force meeting on November 30th and The Planning Commission meeting of  December 13th. They know the votes are there on both Planning and City commission to make the proposal law any time, everyone decides they are ready. It is not necessary to translate  fait accompli .

The complete text of the 15 page ordinance proposal  is available on the city website in the agenda packet for the December 15th Planning Commission Meeting. It is also available in it's entirety on this blog on our December 13th post. Currently that draft is still undergoing revisions. A finalized version should be available to public well before the Commission meetings January 10th. Everyone should read it because it may become  the law. While you may not be able to prevent it's eventual passage there may aspects of the proposal you find particularly  objectionable. You should address these in e-mails to Mayor Zambricki, or Commissioner Connie Salloum or City Manager Jay Cravens. Their mail addresses can be found on the City web sight. You may also write publications such as this one.A comment box appears beneath this article.

If you are in favor of you should also make your opinion known. Sadly for various reasons there has been little public comment encouraged or reported on this ordinance. The good news is it could be worse. At the last meeting two ordinance committee members  reported being told by Birmingham officials that their tree ordinance only pertained to trees on the road right of way. A careful reading of the ordinance  however revealed that  it  affects  all trees in Birmingham.  At least in City Of Bloomfield Hills, Ordinance Task Force members know what the proposed ordinance says. They should. They are still writing and rewriting it. You should know what the proposed ordinance says as well and what that will mean to you.

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