The Denton City Council labored again this weekover a never-used option that was meant to preserve trees as the citygrows.
The city has lost more tree-canopy coverage since 2010, when it was first measured at about 19 percent.
Now, about 17 percent of Denton is covered by trees, according to Mike Sultan, of Davey Resource Group, who is helping the city put a value on its trees for “tree trusts.”
Through its sustain ability plan, the city has set a goal of 30 percent to 35 percent canopy.
Critics have said the current ordinance — the overhaul of which has been tabled since 2007 — favors mitigation over preservation. When developers cut down certain trees to build their projects,they pay into a mitigation fund. Denton has about $1.67 million in that fund.
The council continued its discussion of “tree trusts” — yet another mitigation option within that ordinance — that puts a value on large stands of trees.
Angie Kralik, the city’s urban forester, likened the option to a land swap, in which the mitigation fees developers pay would help preserve actual stands of trees.
Sultan’s preliminary work focused on helping the city determine the value of trees that might be placed in a tree trust. The amount would likely depend not only on property value, but also the trees’value in controlling stormwater runoff, improving air quality and cooling properties, he said.
Sultan recommended the council make more areas oftrees eligible for tree trusts than the limits to Cross Timbers forestcurrently allowed in the ordinance. Close to half the city’s canopy is actuallyin undeveloped floodplains and other riparian buffers, he said.
“You can look at other areas that have environmental significance,” Sultan said. “You can focus on saving canopy.”
Resident Amos Magliocco questioned whether the recommendation would be effective, after watching city crews upgrade a sewer line in his northeast Denton neighborhood last summer.
“Ironic, since the tree removal I complained aboutin July is in a flood zone,” he wrote on Twitter during the meeting. “Lots ofold trees, ripped down with earth movers.”
Sultan also recommended that Denton change its ordinance similar to other cities that preserve canopy, or restore it within a certain amount of time.
“That’s a change you can make right now,” Sultan said, adding that change would affect how the values of any trees in a tree trust would be calculated.
By the time Sultan’s presentation ended, it wasn’t clear tree trusts and tree banks would ever be widely used by anyone but the city,which could set it up to make the program self-sustaining.
But Sultan remained hopeful about the option for Denton, even though it didn’t work very well in Dallas. Sultan was an urban forester for Dallas before he joined Davey Group.
“Even if only one person donates land that’s reallyspecial, it’s probably worth it,” Sultan said.
In the end, the council agreed that tree canopy needs to be value measure, in order to stop the city’s losses and make progress toward the canopy goal. Members also agreed to consider other species than Cross Timbers forest for tree banks, including stands of trees in environmentally sensitive areas.
Denton can use the tree mitigation fund to buy wooded lands and preserve them, but the city attorney’s office has determined that the city can’t turn around and put any of those purchases in a trust and sell the tree credits, Kralik said.
But Mayor Mark Burroughs was eager to pilot a tree trust program and suggested that the November 2014 bond committee be asked to consider the project for that bond package election.
The council also agreed to appoint a standing committee to help the staff determine the priorities for spending the tree fund, which can also be used for education efforts.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.
BY THE NUMBERS
• Denton’s goal for tree-canopy coverage:30-35 percent
• Estimated tree canopy in 2010: 19 percent
• Estimated tree canopy in 2013: 17 percent
• Amount developers have paid for tree losssince 2009-10: $465,699
• Amount anticipated in 2013: $55,500
SOURCE: City of Denton