Chapter 130

130-1.    Purpose and declaration.

130-2.    Definitions.

130-3.    Tree removal permit required.

130-4.    Exceptions.

130-5.    Application for tree removal permit.

130-6.    Application review procedure.

130-7.    Application review standards.

130-8.    Tree relocation or replacement.

130-9.    Tree protection during construction.

130-10.    Display of permit; stop work, certificate of occupancy.

130-11.    Violations of Woodlands Preservation Regulations.

130-12.    Severability.

130-13.    Repealer.

130-14.    Variances and rights of appeal.

130-1 Purpose and declaration.

Resurgent development in the City of Pontiac has resulted in an unregulated and, in many cases, unnecessary removal of trees and other forms of vegetation and natural resources. Regulation of such removal of trees, vegetation and natural resources will achieve a preservation of important physical, aesthetic, recreational and economic assets for both present and future generations. Specifically it is found that:

(1)    Woodlands provide for public safety through the prevention of erosion, siltation, and flooding;

(2)    Woodland growth protects public health through the absorption of air pollutants and contamination, including the reduction of excessive noise and mental and physical damage related to noise pollution;

(3)    Trees, vegetation and associated natural resources provide a material aspect of the character of the City of Pontiac and its neighborhoods, and

(4)    Trees and woodland growth serve as an essential component of the general welfare by maintaining natural beauty, recreation and irreplaceable natural heritage.

Therefore, the purpose of this chapter are as follows, to be applied throughout the City of Pontiac:

a.    To provide for the protection, preservation, proper maintenance and use of trees and woodlands in order to minimize disturbance to them and to prevent damage from erosion and siltation, a loss of wildlife and vegetation, and/or from the destruction of the natural habitat;

b.    To protect the woodlands (including trees and other forms of vegetation) for their economic support of local property values when allowed to remain uncleared and/or unharvested in whole or in significant part, and for their natural beauty, character, and geological, ecological, or historical significance.

c.    To provide for the paramount public concern for these natural resources in the interest of health, safety and general welfare of the residents of this city, in keeping with Article IV, Section 52 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, and the intent of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, No. 127 of the Public Acts of 1970.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 1, 8-31-00)

130-2 Definitions.

The following definitions shall apply in the interpretation of this chapter:

Commercial nursery or tree farm means a licensed plant or tree nursery or farm in relation to those trees planted and growing on the premises of the licensee, which are planted and grown for sale to the general public in the ordinary course of the licensee’s business.

Diameter breast height (d.b.h.) means a tree’s diameter in inches measured by diameter tape at four and one-half feet above the ground. On multi-stem trees, the largest diameter stem shall be measured.

Drip line means an imaginary vertical line extending downward from the outermost tips of the tree branches to the ground.

Large tract means a non-residential lot or parcel, or a residential lot or parcel which is more than one single-family residential building site.

Person means an individual, partnership, corporation, association or other legal entity.

Protected tree means any tree having a diameter breast height (d.b.h.) of six inches or greater. The following trees, however, are not deemed to be protected trees: The following trees, however, are not deemed to be protected trees: Boxelder (Acer Negundo); Silver Maple (Acer Saccarinum); Poplars (Populus Species); Willows (Salix Species); Siberian Elm (Ulmus Pumila); Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus Altissima); European White Birch ((Betula Pendula); Catalpa (Catalpa Speciosa); Common Honeylocust (Gleditisia Tancunthis); Red Mulberry ((Morus Rubra); White Mulberry ((Morus Alba).

Remove or removal means the act of removing a tree by digging up or cutting down or the effective removal through human damage.

Small tract means one single-family residential building site or a single-family residential home.

Transplant means The relocation of a tree from one place to another within the city.

Tree means any self-supporting, woody plant of a species which normally grows to an overall height of 15 feet or more.

Tree survey means a minimum of one inch equals 100 feet scale drawing which provides the following information: location of all protected trees, i.e., trees having six inches or greater d.b.h. plotted by accurate techniques, and the common or botanical name of those trees and their d.b.h.

Undeveloped means a parcel of land which is unplatted and substantially unimproved. With respect to land which, on the effective date of this chapter, is partially improved by virtue of a building(s) or other improvement(s) located on a portion of the land, the portion of the land which does not contain the building(s) or other improvement(s) shall be considered undeveloped.

Woodland means one or more trees, and including a grouping of trees.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 2, 8-31-00)

130-3 Tree removal permit required.

(a)    Requirement established. Subject to the exceptions enumerated herein, no person shall removed, cause to be removed, transplant, damage, or destroy, on any land in the City of Pontiac, any protected tree, as defined above, without first obtaining a tree removal permit.

(b)    Procedure established. Where a subdivision plat or site plan is required to be approved by the City of Pontiac, the plat or site plan shall be reviewed for compliance with this chapter. The preliminary review shall be conducted by the Planning administrator, or designee, and the results submitted to the director of community development and the planning commission. For any and all public hearings required pursuant to this chapter, the developer and/or his duly designated representative shall appear at said public hearings, and in the event that the developer and/or his representative does not appear, said public hearing shall be tabled until such time as the developer and/or his representative are present. Final approval of the subdivision plat by the city council or final site plan approval by the planning commission shall constitute approval under this chapter and constitute the issuance of a tree removal permit. All other instances requiring the issuance of a tree removal permit shall follow the procedure for application, review and approval set forth in section 130-6

(c)    Large tract development. In addition to other requirements of this chapter, there shall be compliance with the following requirements in all large tract developments:

(1)    Building envelopes. The developer shall designate building envelopes for all structures. Such designation shall be made with the objective of preserving protected trees, and the planning administrator shall have discretion to require reasonable adjustments in this regard.

(2)    Residential developments. For each building site in a residential development, the developer shall designate the “building envelope,” which shall be the area enclosed or to be enclosed by the exterior walls of the principal building property, plus a reasonable area beyond such walls up to ten feet, so long as the area is not in any required setback. With the objective of preserving trees, and also allowing reasonable development, the ten feet beyond each wall may be reallocated so that the total distance on both sides of the exterior walls is 20 feet e.g., five feet on one side and 15 feet on the other. The same treatment shall be authorized for areas beyond the front and back walls.

(3)    Activities within building envelope. No additional tree removal permit shall be required for construction of structures or improvements or other activities within a building envelope.

(4)    Activities outside building envelope. Subject to the exceptions enumerated in this subsection, and in section 130-4, below a tree removal permit shall be required to remove or cut a protected tree outside of the building envelope. The planning commission may waive the requirement for a tree removal permit when it is shown that tree removal is necessary and there is no reasonable alternative in connection with drainage improvements.

(5)    Minimum preservation requirement. The developer shall preserve and leave standing and undamaged a minimum of 80 percent of the total number of protected trees on the lot having a d.b.h. of 6 inches or greater. However, trees contained within the designated building envelope, or within required drainage, or utility improvement areas, and/or driveway and sidewalk areas, as determined by the planning administrator and city engineer, based upon plans presented by the developer, and on-site inspection, and to the extent removal is necessary, shall not be included in the calculation for determining the required minimum preservation percentage.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 3, 8-31-00)

130-4 Exceptions.

Notwithstanding the requirements of section 130-3 above, the following activities shall be permitted without a tree removal permit unless otherwise prohibited by law.

(1)    Commercial nursery or tree farm. Tree removal or transplanting occurring during use of land for the operation of a commercial nursery or tree farm, provided, this exception shall only be applicable if the commercial nursery or tree farm has been licensed with the State of Michigan and in operation on the property for three years or more, or the property owner records an affidavit that the commercial nursery or tree farm shall continue in active operation for a period of no less than five years. This exception shall apply only as long as the tree farm or commercial nursery remains in operation and shall immediately terminate when such operations cease on the premises.

(2)    Emergencies. Actions made necessary by an emergency, such as tornado, windstorm, flood, freeze, insect infestation, disease, or other disaster, in order to prevent injury or damage to persons or property or restore order, and where it would be contrary to the interest of the public, or to the health or safety of one or more persons, to defer cutting pending submission and processing of a permit application.

(3)    Governmental agencies. Tree trimming, removal or transplanting performed by, or on behalf of, governmental entities or agencies.

(4)    Public utilities. Repair or maintenance work performed by public utilities necessitating the trimming or cutting of trees.

(5)    Dead or damaged trees. Removal or trimming of dead, diseased or damaged trees, where the damage resulted from an accident or non-human cause and the trees are located on a small tract containing an existing single-family residential home.

(6)    Tree management. Where a tree management plan, prepared by a State of Michigan registered forester is submitted to and approved by the planning administrator, after consultation with the city expert, tree cutting may occur without a permit. To qualify under this exception, tree management activity shall be for the purpose of reducing the density of trees so as to promote and maintain the health and viability of the remaining trees. The forester shall certify that the tree management activity shall be for the purpose of reducing the density of trees so as to promote and maintain the health and viability of the remaining trees. The management plan shall include a method of felling the trees to be harvested so as to minimize damage to adjacent trees and the means by which cut trees shall be removed from the property without damaging remaining trees, and it shall include methods of correcting any drainage gradient alterations caused by the harvesting activities. The person seeking approval and exemption under this provision shall establish an escrow with the director of community development for the purpose of covering the costs of the city’s expert.

(7)    Small tracts which have existing single-family residential homes located on them shall be exempt from the provisions and requirements of this chapter.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 4, 8-31-00)

130-5 Application for tree removal permit.

(a)    Application and fee. A person seeking a tree removal permit must submit a written application to the department of community development and pay the application/permit fee as established by resolution of the Pontiac City Council.

(b)    Time of application. Application for a tree removal permit shall be made before removing, cutting or transplanting trees. Where the site is proposed for development necessitating site plan or plat review, application for a tree removal permit shall be made prior to site plan or preliminary plat submittal. In cases where there are no trees on a site, no protected trees on a site, or there are no protected trees proposed to be removed from a site, the applicant or developer shall certify those facts to the planning administrator, who shall inspect the site to determine the need for a tree removal permit. If the planning administrator determines that no tree removal permit is required, then the planning administrator shall certify that determination to the director of community development, who shall retain a record of such determinations.

(c)    Small tracts. For undeveloped single-family residential small tracts, the permit application shall include five copies of a plan drawn to scale containing the following information:

(1)    Property dimensions. The boundaries and dimensions of the property, and the location of any existing and proposed structure or improvement, with a statement identifying the type of structure or improvement.

(2)    Inventory of trees. Trees proposed to remain, to be transplanted, or to be removed shall be so designated.

(3)    Tree protection. A statement describing how trees intended to remain will be protected during development.

(4)    Easements and setbacks. Location and dimension of existing and proposed easements, as well as all setbacks required by the Zoning Ordinance.

(5)    Grade changes. Designation of grade changes proposed for the property.

(6)    Intended tree replacement. A cost estimate for the proposed tree replacement program with a detailed explanation including the number, size and species.

(7)    Tree identification. A statement that all trees being retained will be identified by some method such as painting, flagging, etc., and, where protective barriers are necessary, that they will be erected before work starts.

(8)    Building envelope, utilities and driveway. The plan shall show the building envelope, utilities and driveway as existing and/or proposed on the property.

(d)    Large tracts. For large tracts the permit applicant shall provide five copies of a plan containing the same information required for small tracts, and the following additional information:

(1)    Plan. A topographical survey sealed by a registered engineer or registered surveyor shall be shown on the plat.

(2)    Tree survey. A tree survey prepared by a State of Michigan registered forester for all areas for which a tree removal permit is required.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 5, 8-31-00)

130-6 Application review procedure.

(a)    Department review. The community development department shall review the submitted tree removal permit application to verify the applicant has provided all required information. Upon request of either the applicant or the City of Pontiac, the city may conduct a field inspection or review, and the applicant shall be required to cooperate in the field inspection. In the event that the applicant fails to cooperate, the community development department is authorized to cease further processing of the application until such a time as it achieves the necessary cooperation.

(b)    Reviewing authority. Where the site is proposed for development necessitating site plan review or the preliminary plat review by the planning commission, the planning commission shall be responsible for granting or denying the application for a tree removal permit. Where site plan review or plat approval by the planning commission is not required by ordinance, the grant or denial of the tree removal permit application shall be the responsibility of the community development department. Where the use of a consultant is reasonably required by the city in connection with a site plan or plat review, the property owner shall establish an escrow in an amount determined by city council resolution to be a reasonable fee, out of which the consultant’s fee shall be paid. The decision to grant or deny a tree removal permit by the city planning commission, the city council, or the director of community development shall be governed by the review standards enumerated in section 130-7, below.

(c)    Notice. Before the granting of a tree removal permit, notice of the application shall be sent by regular mail to all owners contiguous to the property where the trees are located (including property directly across rights-of-way and easements) and within 500 feet of the affected property. The notice shall indicate where the application may be inspected, and the time of any public hearing. The responsibility for sending the notice shall be that of the planning administrator.

(d)    Denial of tree removal permit. Whenever an application for a tree removal permit is denied, the permit applicant shall be notified in writing of the reasons for denial using the section 130-7 standards.

(e)    Tree removal permit. Whenever an application for a tree removal permit is granted, the reviewing authority shall:

(1)    Conditions. Attach to the granting of the permit any reasonable conditions considered necessary by the reviewing authority to ensure the intent of this chapter will be fulfilled and to minimize damage to, encroachment in or interference with natural resources and processes within wooded areas, including, without any limitation, the trees to be preserved.

(2)    Completion of operations. Fix a reasonable time, up to a maximum of 18 months, to complete tree removal, transplanting and replacement operations ensuring that plantings occur at correct times of the year; and

(3)    Security. Require the permit grantee, in residential or commercial development cases, to file with the City of Pontiac a cash or corporate surety bond or irrevocable bank letter of credit in an amount reasonably determined necessary by the city to ensure compliance with the tree removal permit conditions and this chapter in regard to transplanting and replacement of trees, except that vacant small tracts involving development of one single-family residential home shall be exempt from this requirement.

(4)    Term of permit. A tree removal permit issued under this section shall be null and void if completion of work permitted under the permit has not occurred within a reasonable time, not to exceed 18 months after issuance of the permit. The date of issuance of a permit shall be considered to be commencement of work and shall determine the beginning of the 18-month period referred to above. In addition, a permit shall be void after the expiration of 18 months from the date of issuance. Permits are not transferable, and successors in interest are required to submit a new or renewed application for a permit.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 6, 8-31-00)

130-7 Application review standards.

The following standards shall govern the granting or denial of an application for tree removal permit:

(1)    Limitation. Removal or transplanting of protected trees shall be subject to the minimum preservation requirement set forth in paragraph 130-3(c)(5) above for large tract development, and shall otherwise be limited to instances where:

a.    Necessary for construction. Removal or transplanting is necessary for the construction of a building, structure, or other site improvement, and the permit applicant has shown there is no feasible and prudent location alternative on-site for improvement; or

b.    Disease, damage, etc. The tree is diseased, damaged or in danger of falling, is located too close to existing or proposed buildings or structures, interferes with existing utility service or drainage, creates unsafe vision clearance, or does not conform to other ordinances or regulations.

(2)    Preservation and conservation. Tree preservation and conservation shall be of paramount concern and importance, provided, that an application shall not be denied solely because of the presence of some trees on the site.

(3)    Developmental alternatives. Preservation and conservation of wooded areas, trees, similar woody vegetation, wild life and related natural resources and processes shall have priority over development when there are feasible and prudent location alternatives on-site for proposed buildings, structures or other site improvements.

(4)    Diversity of species. Diversity of tree species shall be maintained where essential to preserving a wooded area.

(5)    Land clearing. Where the proposed activity consists of land clearing, it shall be limited to areas to be improved for roadways, sidewalks, drainage and utilities and areas necessary for the construction of buildings, structures or other site improvements as shown on an approved site plan or subdivision plat. This subsection shall not be construed to undermine other standards of this chapter.

(6)    Residential development. Where the proposed activity involves residential development, residential units shall, to the extent reasonably feasible, be designed and constructed to blend into the natural setting of the landscape.

(7)    Compliance with statutes and ordinances. The proposed activity shall comply with all applicable statutes and ordinances.

(8)    Relocation or replacement. The proposed activity shall include necessary provisions for tree relocation or replacement, in accordance with section 130-8, and tree protection, in accordance with section 130-9

(Ord. No. 2115, § 7, 8-31-00)

130-8 Tree relocation or replacement.

(a)    Requirement established. For each protected tree required to be preserved under the terms and standards set forth above, and, which is permitted to be removed by permit granted under this section, the developer shall replace or relocate trees according to the replacement tree requirements set forth below.

(b)    Replacement tree requirements.

(1)    Replacement trees shall have shade potential and/or other characteristics comparable to the removed trees, shall be State Department of Agriculture Nursery Grade No. 1 or better and must be approved by the City of Pontiac prior to planting. Replacement trees must be staked, fertilized and mulched, and shall be guaranteed for two years.

(2)    Trees usable for replacement trees may be transplanted on-site using appropriate and accepted procedures and precautions.

(3)    All replacement trees shall have a d.b.h. or height as follows: for deciduous trees, replacement shall be on a total caliper basis, that is, for example, for reach tree with a twelve inch d.b.h. there shall be replacement trees with an aggregate of calipers totaling twelve inches, provided, no replacement trees shall have a d.b.h. less than two inches; for conifers, replacement shall be based upon total height, with no replacement tree having a height less than six feet.

(c)    Replacement tree location.

(1)    City approval required. The City of Pontiac shall approve tree relocation or replacement locations in order to provide optimum enhancement, preservation and protection of wooded areas. To the extent feasible and desirable, trees shall be relocated or replaced on-site and within the same general area as trees removed, provided that survival shall not be jeopardized by improvements or activities.

(2)    Relocation or replacement off-site. Where it is not feasible and desirable to relocate or replace trees on-site, relocation or replacement may be made at another location in the City of Pontiac approved as part of the permit.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 8, 8-31-00)

130-9 Tree protection during construction.

(a)    Placing materials near tree. No person may conduct any activity within the drip line of any protected tree designated to remain, including, but not limited to, placing solvents, building material, construction equipment or soil deposits within the drip line.

(b)    Attachments to trees. During construction, no person shall attach any device to any remaining protected tree except for the protection of a tree in accordance with forestry procedures.

(c)    Protective barrier. Before development, land clearing, filling or any land alteration for which a tree removal permit is required, the developer shall erect and maintain suitable barriers to protect remaining trees. Protective barriers shall remain in place until the city authorizes their removal or issues a final certificate of occupancy, whichever occurs first. Wood, metal or other substantial material shall be utilized in the construction of barriers. Barriers are required for all trees designated to remain, except in the following cases:

(1)    Rights-of-way and easements. Street right-of-way and utility easements may be cordoned by placing stakes a minimum of 50 feet apart and tying ribbon, plastic tape, rope, etc. from stake to stake along the outside perimeters of areas to be cleared.

(2)    Large, separate areas. Large property areas separate from the construction or land clearing area onto which no equipment will venture may also be cordoned off as described in paragraph (a) above.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 9, 8-31-00)

130-10 Display of permit; stop work, certificate of occupancy.

(a)    [Generally.] The tree removal permit grantee shall conspicuously display the permit on-site. The permit grantee shall display the permit continuously while trees are being removed or replaced or while activities authorized under the permit are performed. The permit grantee shall allow city representatives to enter and inspect the premises at any reasonable time, and failure to allow inspection shall constitute a violation of this section.

(b)    Stop work; withholding certificate of occupancy. The director of community development may issue a stop work order or withhold issuance of a certificate of occupancy, permits or inspections if this chapter is being violated and/or until the provisions of this chapter, including any conditions attached to a tree removal permit, have been fully met.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 10, 8-31-00)

130-11 Violations of Woodlands Preservation Regulations.

Any person violating any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.00 or imprisonment for up to 90 days, or both. Inspectors of the community development department or police officers may issue tickets or citations for violations of this chapter. The law department may issue complaints and warrants for violations of this chapter. The removal or damage of each protected tree shall constitute a separate offense.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 11, 8-31-00)

130-12 Severability.

Should any provision or section of this chapter be held unconstitutional or invalid, such holding shall not be construed as affecting the validity of any of the remaining provisions or sections, and the remaining portions of this chapter shall be enforceable unless the court determines that the sections held to be unconstitutional or invalid require the invalidation of the balance of the chapter.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 12, 8-31-00)

130-13 Repealer.

All other ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict herewith are hereby repealed only to the extent necessary to give this chapter full force and effect.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 13, 8-31-00)

130-14 Variances and rights of appeal.

Upon the application of a person denied a tree removal permit by the planning commission or the community development department, or upon the application of a person who reasonably believes that a practical difficulty exists with respect to strict compliance with this chapter, the city council shall hold a public hearing with respect to such denial or with respect to the existence of a practical difficulty involving strict compliance with the ordinance. The city council shall give public notice of the hearing in a newspaper having general circulation within the city not less than five days preceding the hearing. In determining the existence of a practical difficulty, council shall consider: 1) the intent and purposes of the ordinance; 2) the character and community value of the protected trees affected; 3) the presence of unique circumstances which make compliance with the ordinance physically impractical; 4) the imposition of such conditions upon the grant of a variance as may be necessary to preserve, protect and/or propagate protected trees. City council may affirm the denial of a tree removal permit, grant a tree removal permit, grant a tree removal permit with conditions, or waive the operation of the ordinance with respect to the individual applicant. Persons aggrieved by a decision of the city council shall have a right of appeal to the Oakland County Circuit Court.

(Ord. No. 2115, § 14, 8-31-00)


Editor’s noteOrd. No. 2115, §§ 1—14, adopted Aug. 31, 2000, did not specifically amend the Code; hence, inclusion herein as Ch. 130, was at the discretion of the editor. See the Code Comparative Table.