Metro Councilmembers Bill Hollander (D-9) and Cheri Bryant-Hamilton (D-5) announced today that they have introduced an ordinance relating to Louisville Metro trees. 

Adoption of such an ordinance was the very first of 41 recommendations in the 2015 Louisville Urban Tree Canopy Assessment. It was also recommended by the Louisville Metro Tree Advisory Commission, after a lengthy review of ordinances in dozens of other cities, including several in Kentucky. 

“We have seen a significant loss in tree canopy in Louisville Metro and this ordinance will help focus attention on the issue, protect the trees we have and reduce the possibility of more losses,” Councilman Hollander said. “It recognizes that trees are important to quality of life and to our health”. 

“Our community needs more trees, desperately.  Studies have shown that it makes a difference and it will reduce the temperature in the City,” said Councilwoman Hamilton.  “We need to do a better job of getting people to connect the dots between our environment and our health and this ordinance will help.”

The proposed ordinance covers “public trees”, which includes trees located on Metro Government owned or controlled land or in public right-of-way areas, except for parks and parkways under the jurisdiction of Louisville Metro Parks.  

It consolidates Louisville’s tree efforts into the Metro Division of Community Forestry, to provide oversight and comprehensive coordination for tree and forestation issues.  Among other things, the Division will create a management plan to outline goals and concerns regarding trees, tree canopy and forestation. 

A new Louisville Metro Tree Advisory Committee — appointed by the Mayor and approved by Metro Council — would assist in those efforts. 

The ordinance also establishes policies and standards for public trees, clarifying and replacing the provisions of several existing ordinances.  For example, the ordinance includes a common sense provision that new trees that grow to a height of more than 25 feet not be planted within 15 feet of an overheard utility line.  Currently required tree removal permits would be conditioned on replacement of the public tree, unless a waiver is granted. 

“A healthy tree canopy contributes mightily to a healthy community, improving air and water quality, reducing the urban heat island effect, and providing a more pleasant place to live, work, learn, and play,” Cindi Sullivan, Executive Director of the non-profit TreesLouisville, said. “To improve our community tree canopy, we must protect our existing trees and plant new trees.”  

The ordinance would also create a Community Forestry Escrow Fund, which would establish and maintain a landowner assistance program, intended to help defray the cost of mandated tree removal or remedial action on behalf of indigent property owners.  The fund would receive all monetary penalties related to trees and could also accept donations from the public. 

Property owners could voluntarily protect historic and specimen trees on private property.  The only other provision which affects trees on private property deals with trees that are a public nuisance or a threat of the spread of disease or infestation to other trees. 

Hollander noted that the ordinance is just part of the effort to increase Louisville Metro’s tree canopy.  Metro Council has recently made changes in the Land Development Code which protect trees in proposed Conservation Subdivisions.  Other changes in the Land Development Code are under consideration, including as part of the adoption of a new Comprehensive Plan. 

The ordinance will be assigned to a Metro Council committee and be considered early next year.