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201 4th Street SE
Room 266
Rochester, Mn 55904 (Map)

Phone: 507-328-2000
Fax: 507-328-2727

Mon-Fri 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Development District:
507-328-2003

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Tree Preservation FAQs

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WHAT IS A TREE PRESERVATION ORDINANCE?

Once adopted by the Rochester City Council, the Tree Preservation Ordinance will help preserve existing trees and green infrastructure, increase Rochester’s overall tree canopy, and help maintain and expand the positive benefits of the urban forest. The ordinance will require the preservation of existing trees and the planting of new trees for certain development projects to meet minimum required canopy coverage.  Canopy coverage, for these purposes, is defined as “the cumulative aerial extent of all trees within a geographic area.”

WHY DOES ROCHESTER NEED A TREE PRESERVATION ORDINANCE?

  • Community leaders are requesting a tree preservation ordinance as a first step toward protecting and increasing our valuable green resources for a number of reasons including:
    • Rochester’s existing urban tree canopy cover is only 27%, which is 13%-33% lower than the Society of American Foresters recommends;
    • The Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect, is killing local ash trees, threatening existing trees, and further reducing Rochester's already low tree and green infrastructure assets; and 
    • Community trees and green infrastructure are widely recognized as critical to ensuring a healthy, attractive, livable city. 

WHO WORKED ON CREATING THIS PROPOSED TREE PRESERVATION ORDINANCE? 

At the direction of the City Council, the Committee for Urban Design & Environment (CUDE) and Rochester city staff collaborated on the development of the draft ordinance. Local, regional, national, and international sources were consulted to ensure consideration of Rochester's current green infrastructure and the benefits of community trees and green infrastructure as well as City Council comments, community concerns, and Rochester's projected growth.

WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE PROPOSED TREE PRESERVATION ORDINANCE?

The goals of the ordinance are to maintain and expand the positive benefits that an urban forest provides including:

  • Positively impacting the physical and mental health of human beings;
  • Conserving energy by shading buildings and paved surfaces;
  • Filtering airborne pollutants;
  • Removing atmospheric carbon dioxide;
  • Reducing stormwater runoff; and 
  • Increasing property values.

WHO WILL BE IMPACTED BY THIS ORDINANCE? WILL INDIVIDUAL HOMEOWNERS BE IMPACTED?

This policy will primarily impact commercial projects and is not anticipated to impact individual homeowners. Projects that will likely be impacted include new commercial development and redevelopment as well as subdivisions and multi-family development including:

  • Subdivisions of land where more than one new lot is being created or where a Final Plat requires approval by the City Council. (Type II & III Subdivisions and Type III Final Plats as defined in the City Land Development Manual (LDM));
  • Development projects with construction or modification of structures, parking lots and the creation of impervious surfaces and changes of use except for detached single family dwellings and duplex or two-family dwelling (Projects requiring a Site Development Plan review as specified in the LDM); and/or
  • A development where a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) is required which varies by zoning district, but do not include detached single-family dwellings and duplex or two-family dwellings.

WHAT WILL THE PROCESS BE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE TREE ORDINANCE?

The projects required to meet these standards (see “Who will Be Impacted by This Ordinance”) are reviewed by the city though a process established in the Land Development Manual (LDM).  The requirements contained within the Tree Preservation Ordinance will be incorporated into project review similar to the process used for Stormwater Management Plans.

The process will include the following: 

  • A predevelopment meeting will be held to discuss project concepts and development requirements;
  • The applicant will work with the Parks & Recreation Forestry Division, including potential plan revisions until the plan is approved by the Parks & Recreation Department; and
  • The permit under review will not be approved by Community Development until the Tree Preservation Plan is approved by Parks & Recreation. 

WHO WILL ENFORCE THE CONSTRUCTION PRESERVATION OF SIGNIFICANT TREES?

The final determination on the enforcement has not yet been determined. Parks & Recreation and Community Development departments are anticipated to both be involved in enforcement and are reviewing the resources that will be needed to implement and enforce the new ordinance. 

SHOULD THIS TREE PRESERVATION ORDINANCE BE STRONGER?

This ordinance was crafted to meet minimum urban canopy cover goals set forth by the Society of American Foresters. 

Goal 1: Address loss of canopy by incorporating a canopy cover requirement per parcel.

Goal 2: Provide flexibility for the developer to choose how they will meet the canopy cover goal by incentivizing the retention of existing trees.

Developers can avoid a penalty for the removal of significant trees if they can meet the 40% canopy cover by retaining existing trees.  As a new ordinance, modifications (including higher levels of preservation) may be appropriate in the future after initial program implementation and review. 

HOW IS THE SIZE REQUIREMENT FOR REPLACEMENT TREES DETERMINED?

There is an establishment period for all trees planted or transplanted, roughly equating to one year for each inch of a caliper. This period is an estimation of the time it takes for a tree to restore lost root system as a result of transplanting. Large trees require a longer establishment period while smaller trees begin to establish and resume normal growth more quickly. 
This replacement tree size requirement also aligns with the requirement for boulevard tree planting, which is 1.5 caliper inches, ensuring minimal financial impact on the developer.

DOES THE 40% TREE CANOPY COVER REFER TO CURRENT OR FUTURE CANOPY COVER?

For new developments, the 40% tree canopy cover is based on the projected canopy cover of the trees at maturity.

Table A Tree Canopy Credit

Canopy/Shade Tree

Minimum Plant Size (caliper Inch)

Canopy Cover at Maturity (sq ft)

Crown Diameter

Small

1.5

400

25

Medium

1.5

900

35

Large

1.5

1,600

45

For development projects with existing significant trees, canopy cover is calculated by measuring the aerial extent of the existing trees on-site. If a site has greater than 40% tree cover and removal of a significant tree is required, doing so is permissible without penalty as long as the 40% tree canopy cover of the site still exists after the tree is removed. If the total canopy cover drops below 40% after removal of the significant tree(s), penalties will be applied.

WHY DOESN'T THE POLICY INCLUDE A LEGACY OR HERITAGE TREE PRESERVATION SECTION? 

The Committee on Urban Design and Environment (CUDE) was directed by the Rochester City Council to draft a Tree Preservation Ordinance in response to community feedback. However, public reaction to the ordinance has been mixed based on concern related to the increased cost of development and additional fees to be imposed on Rochester's developers. CUDE chose to focus on Significant trees instead of Legacy or Heritage tree preservation, which would place greater importance on large, old trees. Ideally, the proposed ordinance will be adopted by City Council as a first step, allowing CUDE and City Staff 1-2 years to evaluate the implementation and impact of the ordinance and adjust accordingly. The possibility of including a Legacy or Heritage tree preservation section in a future ordinance remains.

IS THE BENEFIT WORTH THE COST?

The City of Rochester is committed to improving the environmental quality of the community (see Rochester's Mission Statement). One crucial component to achieve this, is additional green infrastructure. Increased development and insect damage are reducing our already limited tree canopy. This reduction will likely negatively impact human health, property value and community pride (See WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE PROPOSED TREE PRESERVATION ORDINANCE? above for benefits). 

To counter that trend and help ensure a greener, healthier future, the ordinance is being developed that allows for flexibility with payment in lieu of trees and other creative infrastructure improvements like green roofs and green walls where appropriate to alleviate costs of the program. Research about the positive impact to property values, lower energy expenses, increased commerce, and reduced crime when there is green infrastructure in the immediate area. 

I BELIEVE STRONGER PROTECTION FOR TREES AND GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IS IMPORTANT. HOW WILL THIS BE ADDRESSED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

This ordinance is recommended on an initial basis and can/should be improved as we experience its implementation and learn where, when, and how it can be enriched. Further, this ordinance includes unconventional ways to promote green infrastructure like green roofs and walls that will help in high-density areas with competing land uses that we, as a community, want to incentivize. For concerns specific to large tree preservation, fees are imposed when/if a large tree is removed and the canopy cover requirement is not met, so there is a clear incentive for property owners and developers to retain large, valued trees. The ordinance is currently written to allow flexibility for developers so the City of Rochester can continue to grow spatially in addition to adding new trees.

HOW CAN I OFFER INPUT ON THE TREE PRESERVATION ORDINANCE?

Community members are being asked to provide feedback on the proposed ordinance through January 12, 2020. Click here to complete the Polco survey.

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