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Kansas City Just Passed an Ordinance to Make Developers Protect Trees — or Pay Up
Kansas Ag Connection - 03/17/2023

The ordinance aims to prevent unnecessary tree removal by requiring developers to maintain existing trees or pay a fine. But some tree experts say the fine doesn’t cover the cost to replace a tree. Developers have to maintain existing trees, pay a fine or plant new trees on-site under an ordinance approved by Kansas City Council on Thursday.

The $185 fee is a compromise after developers objected to the measure — but as supporters of the ordinance pointed out, that is not enough to replace a tree.

Steven Van Rhein, the environmental manager for Kansas City Parks and Recreation, said each tree costs the department about $285 to replace.

“(The price) is based off our existing contracts that were competitively bid,” Van Rhein said. “That's what it costs the forestry department to put a tree in the ground through our contractors.”

The ordinance includes exemptions from fines in special cases, including emergency tree removal and pruning or removal by public utilities.

Kevin Lapointe, a city forester, said the ordinance isn’t enough incentive for developers to protect trees.

“If we're going to preserve trees in a forested area, obviously it has to be in such a way that development considers those forested areas seriously before they start moving trees,” Lapointe said. “Not where, ‘well, we're gonna remove 'em anyway, but we're just gonna have to pay something now.’”

The City’s Climate Protection and Resiliency Plan passed in August 2022 includes a goal to increase the city’s tree canopy to 35%, up from its current 31%. That goal is also part of the city’s 2020 Urban Forest Master Plan.

City Councilmember Andrea Bough said the ordinance will help the city reach those goals.

“By regulating the preservation, protection, planting maintenance, and removal of trees, this legislation supports the environmental benefits of stormwater management, air quality, carbon sequestration and more,” Bough said.


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