The city of Flemington wants to protect its live oaks.
Flemington city council recently adopted a tree ordinance seven years in the making.
At the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission meeting May 16, Jeff Ricketson, LCPC executive director, announced Flemington’s new tree ordinance.
The ordinance was adopted May 9. Hinesville and the other municipalities adopted tree ordinances in 2010.
“They have now adopted a tree ordinance in Flemington. It is very similar to that of the city of Hinesville with one exception,” Ricketson said. “They have designated any live oak that is 24 inches in diameter or larger is considered an exceptional tree and may not be cut down without specific approval of the city council.”
According to the ordinance, an exceptional tree means any tree designated to be of notable historic interest, aesthetic value, or of unique character because of species, type, age or size.
Any proposed subdivision or commercial development in Flemington now needs to inventory all 24-inch or bigger live oaks on the property, Ricketson said.
LCPC Assistant Vice Chairwoman Lynn Pace said she was happy about the ordinance and wanted it to be county-wide. Ricketson said Flemington City Council members didn’t want to copy Hinesville’s ordinance word for word and used the development of Oglethorpe Shopping Center as an example why.
“In that development the owner has the flexibility to clear cut the property and that’s what they did and they (Flemington council) didn’t like that,” Ricketson said.
PROTECT from 1
In an interview Ricketson explained that the tree ordinance requires property that is developed to have 1,600 tree-quality points per acre.
A tree-quality point is a unit of measure that assigns values to trees retained on property and new planted trees. Eighteen large canopy trees per acre is equal to 1,600 tree quality points.
Tree-quality points are based on different species and sizes of trees. For example one large live oak or one large Southern magnolia is worth 90 tree quality points. Other large canopy trees protected under the ordinance include water hickory, pecan, green ash, American beech, yellow poplar, laurel oak, China fir, Southern magnolia and red cedar.
Developers are also rewarded for keeping existing trees by using a multiplier “retention factor” to add points based on the size and type of trees saved. At the end of the day, each acre has to have at least 1,600 tree quality points to meet the ordinance.
“Over time, at maturity, the point of the 1,600 points is to ensure there’s at least 50 percent shade provided by canopy across the city,” Ricketson said. “Every development plan that comes in, like every commercial development plan, they have to present a plan that shows what trees they’re preserving and what trees they’re adding. Then they have to do the points calculation.”
Oglethorpe Square Shopping Center developers disturbed 15.3 of 24 acres, clearing it of trees and vegetation, Ricketson said, then replanted trees according to their design. The development needed 24,500 tree quality points and developers met their requirement by planting trees worth about 24,600 tree points.
They planted various trees, such as red maples, scarlet oaks, red cedars and American elms and vegetation in islands in the park lot and around the property.
“In about 30 years this will be a large area that’s shaded, given the species of some of these trees before it approaches the kind of shade it had previously,” Ricketson said. “But nevertheless in order to do this development they needed the flexibility to clear out all these trees.”
But Flemington City Council wanted to protect its mature, live oaks.
Flemington Council member Paul Hawkins said the council reviewed several other tree ordinances and could not come to an agreement.
“We asked LCPC to share a workshop with us to discuss the tree ordinance,” Hawkins said. “With some revisions we came up with something that would work for the city of Flemington. Saving the live oak was a main issue. Live oaks are found only in the southern coastal areas.”
Ricketson said some argue that when developing a site it’s better to remove the trees and plant new trees that will get acclimated to the disturbed site than to retain trees that might die due to their environment changing.
That wasn’t Flemington council’s take, and now developers will have to prove to the city council “there are no viable alternatives to removal and that preservation of the tree will be detrimental to the city’s economic development.”
Among the projects that fall under the new ordinance is a 10.5 acre business development set for McLarry’s curve on Highway 84.
The development will not start until the scheduled traffic light and road alignment project of Old Sunbury Road to Highway 84 by the Georgia Department of Transportation is complete. The project is tentatively scheduled for late 2019.
Hawkins said the city wants to protect the city’s history, and its gtrees are a part of that.
Hawkins said, “As a government body it is our duty to protect the heritage of our community, by protecting the live oak is a start.”
At the LCPC meeting, after hearing about Flemington’s tree ordinance Pace said, “Thank you Flemington.”