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The City Journals

Tree ordinance proposal turns another leaf

Apr 09, 2018 11:15AM ● By Aspen Perry

Lot where several trees have been cleared. (Aspen Perry/City Journals).

The proposed tree ordinance moved one step closer after the planning commission made a unanimous recommendation in favor of the ordinance. 

Mayor Rob Dahle noted the time and contention the proposal of a tree ordinance has caused before opening the floor to city staff and public comments. 

“There has been emotions on both sides of the issue. It’s been with our tree committee, who have put a lot of thought into this (ordinance),” Dahle said. 

The commission’s public hearings remained open through Feb. 6, though the majority of public input, including from an open house, took place during the summer of 2017.

Eager to find a “common sense” solution, the tree committee, a group comprised of volunteers who reside in Holladay, have revised the potential ordinance throughout the process, as reported in an October article following feedback prior to the open house. 

Paul Allred, community development director, said during the Feb. 22 meeting that the concept of Holladay having a tree ordinance is one that has been years in the making. 

Allred noted the first incident to rile a neighborhood took place 10 years ago, with more requests to have an ordinance in recent years as more development takes place throughout Holladay.  

“There has been enough outcry in the last two or three years that we’ve made another run at proposing an ordinance,” Allred said in his address to council.

During the public hearings on Feb. 22 and March 1, residents expressed both their love for the trees in Holladay as well as their concern of hindrances within the draft of the ordinance. 

The top two concerns residents had regarding the ordinance appeared to be an infringement on private property for those residing on canals as well as resident requests for heavier restrictions to be placed on developers. 

Holladay resident Greg Richards conveyed his concern regarding waterway restrictions during his address to council during the February meeting. 

“I support the vast majority of this,” Richards began. 

He went on to explain his concern regarding the requirement to obtain a permit for land 30 feet from a waterway, as stated in the ordinance draft on page 2, line 20. 

“I live on a long skinny lot — so 30 feet into my lot is close to half my lot. I think that’s a significant burden,” Richards said. 

The recommendation for tighter restrictions on developers was the second most common point brought to the attention of the council. 

“We think you should provide harsher penalties for developers who come in and take out more mature trees,” said resident Nathan Collins. 

In contrast to the February public hearing, the March meeting saw more residents who spoke to the council in favor of an ordinance than against, giving reasons of environmental and aesthetic appreciation for what the trees in Holladay offer. 

Resident and tree committee volunteer Dennis Roach described how the lack of a tree ordinance has affected his property, which at one time looked out on a wooded lot. 

“Now when I look out, on what use to be this beautiful forest in my backyard, I see three giant houses and into people’s kitchen windows,” Roach said. 

“My biggest concern is, without an ordinance that makes sense, we’ll continue to have situations where we had entire forests that are now removed for houses with a few saplings.” 

The contrast in public opinion between protecting Holladay’s tree canopy vs. the concerns of infringement on private property owners presents quite a challenge for the council as they prepare to make their vote. 

During the March council meetings, Dahle made a motion to close the public hearing on the tree ordinance; however, he noted that in the event of ordinance revisions, the public would have more opportunities to comment before the council would vote.  

“We don’t want to drag this out, but we do want to be thoughtful as we consider the ordinance,” Dahle said during the March 1 council meeting. 

Dahle encouraged residents to watch the city website,, for future public hearing notices regarding the tree ordinance.