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Proposed tree ordinance causes debate at city council meeting

A proposed tree ordinance sparked debate between environmentalists and other citizens at Oxford's City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 19.

The proposed ordinance would require all property developers of land two acres or larger to complete a tree survey and tree replacement plan for protected or landmarked trees before breaking ground on any projects.

Trees considered protected under this ordinance -- and thus must be included in the tree survey -- are those with a trunk diameter of 6 inches or larger. The ordinance will also require that as a part of the tree replacement plan, half the total diameter of removed trees must be replaced.

The Environmental Commission, which petitioned for the ordinance, had member Vincent Hand speak about the proposed legislation in front of Council. Hand told Council that trees removed for the footprint of a property -- the land where the actual building will sit -- will not have to be replaced.

Community Development Director Sam Perry, realtor G. Coe Potter, Etta Reed of design consulting firm Bayer Becker and local architect Scott Webb all voiced concerns about the ordinance during the public and staff comment sections.

Perry said that the legislation was thoughtfully written but may not be feasible for the city to undertake.

Potter stated that there will be an extra burden put on the small number of citizens who own a large piece of land. He also voiced concerns about enforcement of the legislation.

Reed asked council to consider making amendments to the ordinance before moving forward, such as increasing the minimum diameter for the trees included in the survey from 6 to 18 inches.

During the Council discussion portion of the ordinance reading, after much debate about how to move forward, City Council voted to table the ordinance until the April 16 meeting so changes could be made to the legislation.

At the April 16 meeting, the tree ordinance will go through another first reading, with a vote tentatively taking place at the meeting on April 30.

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