Community

The proposed Louisville tree ordinance is one step closer to passage.

At a special meeting Tuesday, the Public Works, Parks, Sustainability and Transportation Committee voted to approve the ordinance, which would require any tree removed from a public right of way to be replaced. The measure is intended to help slow the shrinking of Louisville’s tree canopy.

About two dozen Louisville residents attended the special meeting, most of whom appeared to be in support of the proposal. Some carried signs that read “Protect Louisville’s Trees.”

The ordinance was first introduced in December 2016 by Councilman Bill Hollander and Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton. The proposal has gone through several rounds of discussion and public comment since then. 

An earlier proposed change that would have allowed certain trees to be designated historic, and therefore protected from removal, was discarded, Hollander said. A community forestry escrow fund will be set up to help low-income individuals and businesses that demonstrate financial need offset the costs of removing and replacing trees, he said.

Committee members discussed potential amendments to the ordinance, including language that would make clear the civil penalties applicable to property owners who do not comply.

Discussions among committee members also touched on how to limit the financial burden on citizens, particularly in terms of what the government’s responsibility will be.

“The primary new obligation here is the replacement obligation. I think if citizens are being held to that standard, the government should absolutely be held to that standard,” said Councilman Brandon Coan.

The proposal passed the committee with five members voting in favor and one against. One member did not cast a vote.

“It’s good to see the committee approve this. We’ll see what happens at Council but it’s an important step for the community,” Hollander said after the proceedings. “We know we’re losing trees and we need to do all we can do to reverse that.”

Resident Lynn Hamilton spoke in favor of the ordinance at the hearing. She lives on East St. Catherine Street, where a lack of trees contributes to basement flooding problems in her neighborhood. She said she was delighted that the ordinance passed, and that she hopes it will pave the way for a stronger tree ordinance in the future.

“I think it’s a little unfortunate that it took so long to be passed but at the same time I do appreciate Council wanting to go over it very carefully,” Hamilton said.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.