Whole lot of trees at the Cedar Ridge Preserve. Photo by Alex Macon.


Dallas Fixes Tree Ordinance, Will Get More Grass

A better tree ordinance and a park land dedication ordinance, all in the same day.

Good news out of City Hall today for lovers of trees and fresh air. The City Council voted to repair its busted tree ordinance. A fix had been in the works for years, but revisions to the code proved contentious, for good reason. The parts of the city with the most trees also happen to be the parts of the city most in need of development. So how to find a balance between the need for greenspace and the need for development in southern Dallas? Here’s Peter back in May:

The tree ordinance has been a bane for developers and environmentalists alike, only the developers and the environmentalists have never been able to figure out how to fix it. Developers say it should be rolled back because it makes development too costly and difficult, particularly in areas of the city with lots of trees (that, of course, includes much of southern Dallas). Environmentalists want to close all the loopholes in the law that have made it ineffective at preserving trees, as anyone who has ever driven virtually anywhere in Dallas’ intense urban heat island will not be surprised to discover…

There are parts of the revision that try to incentivize developers to preserve tree canopy coverage, rather than simply trunk diameter width, and parts that try to ensure that any new trees planted to off-set tree removals don’t die within a few months or years of planting. Whereas the old ordinance had a lengthy exempted tree list, this new one limits that list, but also classifies trees in order to levy heavier fines on removing so-called legacy trees (elms, oaks, and pecans), while charging less for other trees, like hackberries. There is no fee for removing invasive species. Other provisions include credits for transplanted trees, habitat preservation, and implementing sustainable landscaping designs.

Also significant, the revisions allow the reforestation fund—the pot of money collected from tree removal fines—to fund the creation of an urban forest master plan and to be used to hire a staff person to manage its implementation, which is significant considering the haphazard way those funds are distributed today.

In other words, it is a smart and nimble policy that is born out of some long and difficult negotiations.

But wait, there’s more. The City Council also voted to adopt a park land dedication ordinance, which requires developers to either set aside a certain amount of public greenspace near new development, or pay into a fund that would support creating new park land. More on that here.