Trees from Nolensville Rd x Williams Rd

Nolensville officials have opted to alter the city’s zoning code for the sake of its Tree Save program.

A zoning code subsection regarding the protection of natural vegetation has been amended to include what are now called designated tree preservation areas among the vegetation not to be disturbed without approval from the Planning Commission. Language previously focused this primarily on any trees on lots considered buffer zones.

The Tree Save program involves an account into which funds are deposited from the fees contractors pay for each tree they remove from designated areas in violation of grading permit terms. Alternatively, when the Planning Commission approves the removal of trees, the program places the onus of planting more trees on the contractor, and they are expected to plant enough trees to compensate for the number of trees they removed. When fees are incurred for violating the terms of the grading permit, contractors pay $500 per tree removed.

Those fees wind up in the Tree Save account, and the town repurposes the funds to purchase and install trees in other areas where the Trees and Trails Advisory Committee or Planning staff determines further buffering or screening is necessary.

“This is something that’s been a goal of mine since the beginning of my campaign: to make sure we’re not cutting down trees that don’t need to be cut down,” said Commissioner Joel Miller.

Miller sponsored the zoning amendment proposal specifically with the intent of getting it approved separately from a larger zoning code amendment that he felt confident would take as much as six months. The proposal made it through the Planning Commission with a unanimous vote.

The Commission has also had concerns that the proposal would fine contractors for every tree removed, which it has been clarified within the last two months is not the case. Other concerns related to the optimal means by which to enforce the ordinance.