Friday, October 3, 2008

The Tree Museum (Part One)

Uh oh, Greg Howe must not have gotten the memo that all city employees are required to praise Mayor Dan Coody as being the inventor and only political defender of the sustainability movement. The city's new Urban Forester told the Northwest Arkansas Times that the Tree Preservation and Protection Ordinance doesn’t seem to be living up to its name. The problem is not so much the tree preservation provisions of the City Code, he concluded, but with its lack of serious enforcement by the city administration.

Howe said he is concerned about how often mitigation is approved instead of preservation and how often mitigation does not appear to be working. Trees planted in mitigation are required to have a 90% survivability rate after three years, but on the sites he has reviewed so far, none even come close and the average survivability rate is only 31%. Sites that failed to meet the mitigation standard were developed by Dave Jorgensen, John Ellis, Bill Lazenby, and others.

The worst example, Howe said, was McDonald Eye Associates that “only had three trees that they needed to keep alive, and yet all three of them are not there. They’re dead and the stumps are still in the ground. Here’s a place that has high maintenance, but the trees are dead.” Howe should watch his words, because Jay McDonald is listed on Dan Coody’s campaign website as wanting to "keep a good thing going."

The Urban Forester position was left vacant by the administration for six months while Connie Edmonston conducted a search to fill the position. Sarah Patterson left the position in January, shortly after the planning staff rejected her advice about tree preservation on the lot where Central Methodist Church built a 5-story parking deck. Last month, the planning staff recommended and the Fayetteville Planning Commission approved a conditional-use permit allowing developers of the TIF Giant Pit to build a parking lot on the site without complying with requirement for street trees, interior parking lot trees, and tree islands provisions of the city code.

Another four years of this, and Joni Mitchell can tell the story of what happened in Fayetteville.

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