Developers soon will have new landscaping and screening standards to follow with Canal Winchester City Council's approval of updates to the city code that "promote, protect and preserve the character of the municipality."
The updated guidelines unanimously approved by council Feb. 4 stress the importance of preserving major trees in the community and spell out specifications for replacements, including trunk diameter and height.
Single-family lots are exempt from Chapter 1191 of the code, but new subdivisions must follow the new rules.
"We basically rewrote the entire chapter," City Planner Andrew Moore said. "I wanted to rewrite it in a way that made it easy for people to follow.
"We tried to simplify the chapter and make it a checklist process where you can read through each section and evaluate your site and figure out what you need to do."
The regulations, according to the approved ordinance, are guidelines for "the preservation and, when necessary, replacement of major trees removed in the course of land development, to promote the proper utilization of landscaping as a buffer between certain land uses to minimize conflicts."
Moore said protections include the types of species developers may plant.
For example, ash trees were popular years ago and were used quite a bit in urban landscaping. Then the emerald ash borer infested all of Ohio's 88 counties, destroying hundreds of thousands of ash trees. The insects wiped out every tree on some Canal Winchester streets, Moore said.
The new regulations establish a maximum percentage of the same kind of tree that developers and others may plant in order to prevent any catastrophic events like the emerald ash borer infestation.
The new rules also establish a minimum number of trees to be planted around commercial and industrial buildings, based on their size.
For instance, buildings of up to 30,000 square feet in size must have one tree per 1,000 square feet of ground-floor area. A building that is between 30,001 and 60,000 square feet requires at least 30 trees and buildings between 60,001 and 90,000 square feet will need 45 trees.
The new rules require at least 53 trees for commercial or industrial buildings that are larger than 90,001 square feet.
Buildings such as offices, nursing homes and day cares of up to 30,000 square feet will be required to plant one tree per 1,000 square feet of ground-floor space. A minimum of 30 trees are required for buildings between 30,001 and 60,000 square feet and a minimum of 50 trees are required for structures larger than 60,001 square feet.
The number of trees required around any new building will not exceed 100.
City development director Lucas Haire told council members in October the updated language in the city code also makes developers responsible for planting trees.
"Currently, one of the things that we do is, the city pays for and plants all the street trees. What we're doing with this proposal is putting that burden on the developer with an approved plan that they plant the trees up front," he said.
According to the ordinance, all "major trees" in the community will be preserved but there are exceptions.
Trees can be removed in certain circumstances, including trees that are within a right of way or easement; in areas covered by proposed structures or driveways; trees that are damaged, diseased or that impose safety concerns; and trees that are an undesired species in a location.
The city's urban forester, Dick Miller, also explained to council in October more about the problems many cities have with planting trees near pavement, like in parking areas.
The updated code stresses planting trees around the exterior of parking lots, instead of the interior.
"If you look around the parking lot areas all over the Midwest, or wherever, it's basically honey locust and the weed tree called Callery pear because that's the only thing that grows for 10 or 15 or 20 years in 18 inches of soil," Miller said.
"Everybody has been doing it wrong forever; we need to have a wider species list we can use in these parking areas and do it right."