Rehoboth Beach property owners building new homes will have to have at least three large shade trees under a proposed revision of the city's tree ordinance.
Drafted by the planning commission, the revision calls on residents to have three shade trees at least 12 feet high for every 5,000 square feet of land.
Chairman Preston Littleton said the planners’ goal is to have property owners plant larger shade trees, instead of smaller trees planted merely to meet the tree density requirements.
To that end, the new ordinance requires three shade trees for each 5,000 square feet of land. Existing trees counting towards the density requirements must be at least 12 feet high. Littleton said trees should be 30 feet at maturity.
Commissioner Bunky Markert said under the current ordinance, property owners are only required to have one of their three trees be a shade tree. Lots not meeting the density requirements when the original ordinance was passed in 2006 will be grandfathered in. Any new construction must comply with the new tree requirements.
Markert said the revised ordinance is an attempt to have property owners plant the right tree in the right place.
Property owners who cut down trees must still first get a tree removal permit from the building and licensing department. Appeals of denied tree removal permits will still be heard by the Parks and Shade Tree Commission, but Littleton said the appeal process has been tweaked, allowing the city arborist to make recommendations as to whether a tree should be cut down.
Littleton said most of the other changes are to make the ordinance less ambiguous and easier to use for both property owners and city staff. He said the new ordinance was designed to promote the city goal of increasing its tree canopy – the amount of land covered by trees – to 40 percent over the next 10 years.
Littleton said the revised ordinance is an evolution of the original, based on the way the tree ordinance has been used.
The planners will solicit one more round of public input on the draft ordinance, which is available on the city’s website, www.cityofrehoboth.com, before delivering it to the city commissioners. While there is no timetable at this time, Littleton said he hopes it will be sent to the city commissioners in July.
The revised ordinance was the result of nearly 18 months of work by the planning commission, which was charged with revising the tree statute by the city commissioners in December 2012.
To view the draft ordinance, visit www.cityofrehoboth.com, under "Ongoing Business: Trees."