Chapter 4
Landscaping and Buffering

4.401 Intent.

Landscaping enhances the visual image of the City, improves property values, and alleviates the impact of noise, traffic, and visual distraction associated with certain uses. Screening is important to protect less intensive uses from the noise, light, traffic, litter and other impacts of more intensive, non-residential uses. These provisions are intended to set minimum standards for the design and use of landscaping and screening, and for the protection and enhancement of the City’s environmental and aesthetic quality.

More specifically, the intent of this chapter is to:

A.    Establish aesthetically pleasing, functionally appropriate, and sustainable landscape design for the long-term enhancement of the appearance of development in the community.

B.    Safeguard the public health, safety and welfare, and preserve and enhance aesthetic qualities that contribute to community character.

C.    Protect and preserve the appearance, character, and value of the City’s residential neighborhoods that abut non-residential areas, parking areas, and other intensive use areas.

D.    Improve the appearance of off-street parking areas, vehicular use areas, and property abutting public rights of way.

E.    Increase soil water retention and natural storm water filtering, thereby helping to prevent flooding and improve water quality.

4.402 Scope.

A.    The provisions of this section shall apply to all lots, sites and parcels of property which, hereafter are developed or expanded for which a site plan is required pursuant to Article 6, Chapter 2.

    The requirements in this chapter are minimum requirements, and under no circumstances shall they preclude the planning commission from requiring additional landscaping. Any landscape plan submitted for review and approval shall clearly indicate the location, number, size, and type of all species of plant materials proposed to meet the requirements of this chapter. A summary table shall be provided as part of the landscape plan, listing the required landscaping for the project and clearly indicating how each requirement is satisfied by the plan.

B.    No site plan shall be approved unless it shows landscaping consistent with the requirements of this chapter.

C.    A certificate of occupancy shall not be issued unless the provisions set forth in this chapter have been met.

D.    Following the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, any required landscaping shall thereafter be reasonably maintained consistent with the intent of the approved landscaping design plan.

E.    The requirements in this chapter shall not apply to single family detached homes or any land located in the C2 Downtown Mixed Use Zoning District, unless otherwise specifically noted.

4.403 Landscaping Design Standards.

A.    Design Creativity. Creativity in landscape design is encouraged. Accordingly, required trees and shrubs may be planted at uniform intervals, at random, or in groupings, depending on the designer’s desired visual effect and, equally important, the intent of the City to create a compatible landscape appearance on adjoining properties.

B.    Visibility. Landscaping and screening materials shall be laid out in conformance with the requirements for Clear Vision Areas as stated in Section 2.303 and shall not obstruct the visibility of motorists or pedestrians.

C.    Protection from Vehicles. Wherever landscaping is proposed adjacent to a paved area traversed by motor vehicles, a six-inch concrete curb or similar measure such as bumper stops or wheel chocks shall be provided to protect plants from damage by vehicles. Except for storm water management features such as bioswales, landscape areas shall be elevated above the pavement to a height that is adequate to protect the plants from snow removal, salt, and other hazards.

4.404 General Site Landscaping Requirements.

A.    Minimum Area. A minimum of five percent of the total site area of any site in any Zoning District other than the R-1, R-1A, R-1B, or C-2 zoning districts shall be developed as landscape open space. Such landscape open space shall be countable only when located in the front or side yards. Pedestrian walks, plazas, planters and other decorative elements may be included in such landscape areas.

B.    Sec. 9.1.1 Residential Entranceway. In any residential district, entranceway structures, including but not limited to walls, columns and gates marking entrances to single-family subdivisions or multiple housing projects may be permitted and may be located in a required yard, provided that such entranceway structures shall comply with the clear visibility standards of Section 2.303 and all codes and ordinances of the city.

4.405 Buffer Requirements.

A.    Buffer Types and Specifications.

Table 12. Buffer Types and Specifications





Option 1: Masonry Wall

Option 2: No Wall

Option 1: Masonry Wall

Option 2: No Wall

Option 1: Masonry Wall

Option 2: No Wall

Minimum Buffer Width

5 ft.

10 ft.

5 ft.

20 ft.

10 ft.

40 ft.

Deciduous Trees per 100 Lineal Feet







Evergreen Trees per 100 Lineal Feet







Shrubs per 100 Lineal Feet







Wall Height

4’6” – 6’


4’6” – 6’


6’ – 8’


Berm Required







Berm Height


Up to 3 ft.


Minimum 3 ft.


Minimum 6 ft.

General Requirements Applicable to All Buffer Strips:

1.    The remainder of the buffer strip shall be covered with grass, ground cover, or other acceptable landscape elements, such as woodchips, landscape stone, boulders, etc.

2.    The height of walls or berms shall be measured from the immediate ground level of property on the nonresidential side.

B.    Type of Buffer Required by Use or District Abutting R-1, R-1A, R-1B or R-2 Zoning District. The following table lists the type of buffer that must be provided by a use in a developing zoning district along a side or rear property line abutting an R-1, R-1A, R-1B or R-2 residential district.

Table 13. Type of Landscaping Buffer Required Abutting R-1 or R-2 Zoning District

Developing Use or Use District

Required Buffer

R-3, R-4 or R-5

Type A

C-0, C-1, or CC

Type A


Type A

M-1, M-2, or IP-1

Type C

Loading Areas, Hospital Ambulance Areas, and Storage Areas

Type B

Utility Buildings, Stations, or Substation

Type A

Off-Street Parking Lot

Type A

C.    Wall and Berm Standards. Whenever a wall or berm is required as part of a buffer, it shall comply with the following standards:

1.    Sec. 9.2.3 Location of Walls and Berms. Required walls or landscape berms shall be located on the nonresidential side and on the property line except where underground utilities interfere and except in instances where this ordinance requires conformance with front yard set-back lines in abutting residential districts. Required walls may, upon approval of the planning commission, be located on the residential side of an alley right-of-way, when mutually agreeable to affected property owners. The location of such walls may be revised where in the opinion of the planning commission such relocation will as effectively or more effectively serve the intended screening or obscuring functions.

2.    Berms. Berms shall be a landscaped earthmound with a maximum slope of 3:1, three foot horizontal to one foot vertical. All berms shall have a nearly flat horizontal area at their highest point of at least two feet.

    Berm slopes shall be protected from erosion by sodding or seeding. If slopes are seeded they shall be protected with straw mulch held in place by jute netting until the seed germinates and a permanent lawn is established. The berm area shall be planted with lawn and trees and/ or shrubs and shall be maintained in a healthy, growing condition.

3.    Sec. 9.2.4 Masonry Walls.

a.    Openings. Masonry walls shall have no openings for any purpose except as may be required for the purpose of public safety, or for vehicular and service access to buildings.

b.    Materials. All walls herein required shall be constructed of decorative masonry material (including paneled or pre-cast masonry material) with the surface area facing a residential district or public thoroughfare constructed of a common or face brick, decorative block, decorative poured concrete, or similar material that is compatible with the adjacent residential district.

c.    Alternate Materials with Planning Commission Approval. The Planning Commission may at their discretion approve a fence/wall of a different material instead of the required masonry wall.

4.406 Parking Lot Landscaping Requirements.

A.    Parking Lots Abutting Public Rights-of-Way. When an off-street parking lot or other vehicular use area in any zoning district abuts a public right-of-way excluding abutting alleys, landscaping shall be provided at all locations (excluding walkways and driveways) which are between any portion of the right-of-way and the parking lot or vehicular use area visible from the right-of-way as follows:

1.    A minimum depth of eight feet abutting right-of-way and off-street parking area shall be landscaped with a minimum of one tree (minimum two-inch caliper or minimum ten-foot height at time of planting) for each 30 lineal feet or fraction thereof of property abutting such right-of-way. Necessary access ways from public rights-of-way through landscaped strips shall be permitted, but such access ways shall be subtracted from the lineal dimension used to determine the minimum number of trees required.

2.    Shrubs, hedges, walls or other landscape barrier of at least 30 inches in height may be required along the perimeter of the property in lieu of the landscaped strip at t he discretion of the planning commission.

3.    Walls shall be decorative in appearance, and shall be constructed of durable materials. Brick or stone are preferred materials. Walls shall have a brick, stone, or concrete cap, and shall have a maximum height of 42 inches.

4.    The remainder of the landscaped strip shall be planted with grass, living plant material, ground cover, or other acceptable landscape elements, as defined under Section 4.411.

5.    Landscaping shall be protected from parking spaces with curbing, bumper, blocks, wheel stops or other permanent means to prevent automobiles from encroaching more than two feet into the landscaped area.

B.    Parking Lots Adjacent to Residentially Zoned or Used Land. All off-street parking lots shall be screened from adjacent residentially zoned or used properties by a buffer strip at least a ten feet in width, landscaped with at least one tree and one shrub for every ten feet (10’) of buffer strip length. At least one-half of the required trees shall be an evergreen variety. The Planning Commission may approve an alternative screening mechanism, such as a 6’ high decorative masonry wall, during Site Plan Review.

C.    Interior Parking Lot Landscaping.

1.    Interior Landscaping Required. Interior landscaping areas shall be required in parking lots with 40 or more spaces. The vehicle use area includes all areas used for vehicular circulation and parking.

2.    Landscaping Required. One deciduous shade tree shall be required for every 6 parking spaces.

3.    Location. Parking lot landscaping shall be in internal islands or medians between parking rows, landscaped areas surrounded on two or three sides by a parking area, or landscaped areas at the corners of parking areas unless otherwise approved by the reviewing authority. If interior landscaping is provided along the perimeter of the parking lot, it shall be in addition to the perimeter landscaping requirements.

4.    Size and Area. Interior landscape areas shall have a minimum width of 8 feet and a minimum area of 180 square feet.

4.407 Street Frontage Landscaping Requirements.

A.    Street Trees Required. One deciduous canopy tree shall be planted for each 35 feet (or fraction thereof) of street frontage.

B.    Tree Lawn Landscaping. The area within the public right-of-way between the curb and sidewalk, referred to herein as the tree lawn, shall consist of grass and trees only. Trees shall not be planted within a tree lawn narrower than four feet wide. Where the sidewalk extends to the street edge, street trees may be planted in tree grates.

C.    Acceptable Tree Species. Trees within the public right-of-way shall be selected and planted in accordance with chapter 25, article I, section 25-2 of the Code and by written permission of the deputy director of public works or his designee. Landscaping along state trunk line shall be provided by approval of the state highway department only.

D.    Existing Trees within the public right-of-way shall be removed only by a permit from the deputy director of public works or his designee after approval by the planning administrator.

E.    Front Yards in Residential and C-O Zoning Districts. Portions of the front yard not utilized for an unenclosed porch, deck or patio and/or improved driveway shall be landscaped with living trees, shrubs, flowers, grass and/or ground cover, excepting provision of a walkway of no more than a five foot (5’) width between the entry to the dwelling and the adjacent right-of-way. For every 50’ of lot width, one (1) or more tree(s), of at least a 2” caliper at the time of planting shall be provided within said front yard. Alternatively, given specific approval by the City’s Engineering Division, said tree(s) may be provided within the adjacent right-of-way, if the dimension between the sidewalk and back-of-curb is at least eight feet (8’). These same landscape provisions shall apply along the side street of every corner lot.

4.408 Loading, Storage, and Service Area Screening Requirements.

A.    Service Area Screening. Trash receptacle or dumpster areas shall be indicated on-site plans, and shall be screened on at least three sides with a masonry wall at least equal to the height of the trash receptacle with a gate on the fourth side. In locating trash receptacle facilities, primary consideration shall be given to access for service, and minimizing visibility from a public right of way or from adjoining properties. The planning commission may waive the required screening when they determine that no significant negative effects will result from the waiver of such screening.

B.    Storage Areas, Loading and Unloading, and Service Areas shall be screened from view form public right-of-ways or adjoining properties by a Type B buffer as required by Section 4.405 unless otherwise determined by the planning commission.

C.    Ground Mounted Mechanical Equipment located in any zoning district (such as air compressors, pool pumps, transformers, HVAC equipment, sprinkler pumps, satellite dish or DSS antennae, and similar equipment) shall be screened on at least three (3) sides by evergreen or deciduous shrubs or trees. Insofar as practical, said screening shall exceed the vertical height of the equipment being screened by at least six (6) inches within two (2) years of planting.

4.409 Storm Water Management Pond Landscaping Requirements.

Refer to Article 4, Chapter 6.

4.410 Existing Plant Materials.

Healthy existing trees on a site may be used to satisfy any of the requirements of this Article, provided such substitution is in keeping with the spirit and intent of this Article and subject to the following:

A.    Identification of Existing Trees. Site plans shall show all existing trees which are located on the portions of the site and on portions of adjacent sites within 20 feet of the site that will be built upon or otherwise altered, and which are six (6) inches or greater in caliper, measured 4.5 feet above grade for deciduous trees or 20 feet in height for evergreen trees. Trees shall be labeled "To Be Removed" or "To Be Saved" on the site plan, with tree species and caliper noted for both types of tree. Only existing trees six (6) inches or greater in caliper may be used to satisfy any landscaping requirement of this Ordinance.

B.    Inspection. The Planning Commission may require City inspection of existing plant materials prior to or as a condition of site plan approval to determine the health and desirability of such materials.

C.    Protection of Trees to Be Saved. Throughout construction, protective fencing shall be placed at the critical root zone of existing trees marked on the site plan as “To Be Saved” and around the perimeter of other preserved plant materials, with details of protective measures noted on the site plan. No person shall conduct activity within the critical root zone of any tree designated for preservation, including but not limited to the storage or placing of solvents, building materials, construction equipment, soil deposits, or the parking of any vehicles.

D.    Replacement of Trees to Be Saved. In the event that healthy plant materials which are intended to meet the requirements of the Ordinance are cut down, damaged, or destroyed during construction, said plant material shall be replaced with an equivalent species to the damaged or removed tree. Replacement trees shall be provided at the ratio of one (1) replacement tree for each six (6) caliper-inches measured one foot above grade level (or fraction thereof) of tree that is cut down, damaged, or destroyed, unless otherwise approved by the City based on consideration of the site and building configuration, available planting space, and similar considerations.

    Alternately, a fee may be paid to the City in an amount equivalent to the value of the replacement trees, as determined by the City.

4.411 Plant Material Standards.

A.    Quality. No plant materials used to satisfy some or all planting requirements of this chapter shall be comprised of nonliving materials, such as petrochemical plants.

B.    Native Species. The use of native species for landscaping applications is encouraged. As an incentive to use native species, the numerical landscaping requirements may be reduced by 10% if exclusively native species are used in the landscaping plan. Following is a list of common plant species native to Southeast Michigan:

1.    Trees. Basswood, American Beech, Yellow Birch, Blackgum, Butternut,Eastern Red Cedar, Northern White Cedar, Wild Crabapple, Flowering Dogwood, Hackberry, Cockspur Hawthorn, Downy Hawthorn, Bitternut Hickory, Pignut Hickory, Shagbark Hickory, Ironwood, Black Maple, Red Maple, Silver Maple, Sugar Maple, Musclewood, Black Oak, Bur Oak, Chinkapin Oak, Dwarf Chinkapin Oak, Red Oak, Shingle Oak, Swamp White Oak, White Oak, Pawpaw, American Plum, Redbud, Sassafras, Sycamore, Tuliptree, and Black Walnut.

2.    Shrubs. Speckled Alder, Highbush Blackberry, American Bladdernut, Buttonbush, Chokeberry, Chokecherry, Creeping Strawberry Bush, Northern Dewberry, Alternate-leaf Dogwood, Gray Dogwood, Redosier Dogwood, Roundleaf Dogwood, Silky Dogwood, Red-berried Elder, American Elderberry, Gooseberry, American Hazelnut, Michigan Holly, Old Field Juniper, Leatherwood, Meadow-sweet, New Jersey Tea, Ninebark, Prickly Ash, Black Raspberry, Carolina Rose, Smooth Rose, Allegany Serviceberry, Shadblow Serviceberry, Spicebush, Fragrant Sumac, Smooth Sumac, Staghorn Sumac, Winged Sumac, Downy Arrowwood, Maple Leaf Viburnum, Nannyberry, and Witchhazel.

3.    Perennials. Canada Anemone, Big Leaved Aster, New England Aster, Smooth Aster, Doll’s-eyes Baneberry, Beebalm, Bellwort, Black-eyed Susan, Dwarf Blazing Star, Rough Blazing Star, Bloodroot, Blueeyed Grass, Boneset, Cardinal Flower, Blue Cohosh, Columbine, Yellow Coneflower, Culver’s Root, Dutchman’s Breeches, False Dragonhead, Foam Flower, Wild Geranium, Wild Ginger, Golden Alexander, Golden Ragwort, Bluestem Goldenrod, Showy Goldenrod, Stiff Goldenrod, Round-lobed Hepatica, Hairy Beard Tongue, Ironweed, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Joe-pye Weed, Wild Leek, Michigan Lily, Blue Lobelia, Marsh Marigold, Mayapple, Early Meadow Rue, Tall Meadow Rue, Butterfly Milkweed, Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, Miterwort, Mountain-mint, Nodding Wild Onion, Woodland Phlox, Prairie Dock, Rue Anemone, Sneezeweed, False Solomon’s Seal, Starry false Solomon’s Seal, True Solomon’s Seal, Spiderwort, Spring Beauty, Steeple Bush, Wild Strawberry, Rough Sunflower, Woodland Sunflower, Sweet Black-eyed Susan, Thimbleweed, Trillium, Turtlehead, Blue Vervain, Hoary Vervain, and White Vervain.

4.    Grasses, Rushes, and Sedges. Big Bluestem Grass, Bottlebrush Grass, Hardstem Bulrush, Indian Grass, Junegrass, Little Bluestem Grass, Path Rush, Pennsylvania Sedge, Prairie Cordgrass, Purple Lovegrass, Canada Wild Rye, Wild Rye, Switchgrass, Tussock Sedge, and Wool-grass.

C.    Deciduous Trees shall be species having an average mature spread or crown of greater than 15 feet and having trunk(s) which can be maintained in a clean condition over five feet of clear wood. Trees having an average mature spread of crown less than 15 feet may be substituted by grouping the same so as to create the equivalent of a 15-foot crown spread. Deciduous trees shall have a minimum size of 2 inches caliper at time of planting.

D.    Evergreen Trees shall be a minimum of 5 feet in height at planting, with a minimum spread of 30 inches.

E.    Shrubs and Hedges. Shrubs shall be a minimum of two feet in height when measured immediately after planting. Hedges, where required, shall be planted and maintained so as to form a continuous, unbroken, solid, visual screen within a maximum of one year after time of planting.

F.    Ground Covers. Ground covers used in lieu of grass, in whole or in part, shall be planted in such a manner as to present a finished appearance and reasonably complete coverage within one year after planted.

G.    Lawn/Grass. Lawn areas shall be planted in species normally grown as permanent lawns in Southeast Michigan and may be sodded or hydro-seeded.

H.    Landscape Elements:

1.    Mulches. Mulching material for planted trees, shrubs and vines shall be minimum of three-inch deep shredded hardwood bark. Straw or other mulch may be used to protect seeded areas. Mulches must be installed in a manner as to present a finished appearance.

2.    Other Materials. Woodchips, landscape stone, boulders, may be used in landscaped strips or around plantings to compliment the landscape areas.

I.    Variety. To ensure adequate variety, to avoid monotony and uniformity within a site, and to preserve the diversity and health of the City’s landscaping, any single tree species may not comprise more than 40% of the total required deciduous trees and no more than 40% of the total required evergreen trees.

J.    Spacing of Plantings required under this chapter shall be as follows:

1.    Plant materials (except turfgrass or groundcovers) shall not be placed closer than four feet from a fence line or property line.

2.    Deciduous trees and all shrubs shall not be planted within 4 feet, and evergreen trees shall not be planted within 8 feet, of any curb (including the edge of interior parking lot landscape areas) or public walkway.

3.    Trees and shrubs shall not be planted within 10 feet of a fire hydrant.

4.    Where plantings are planted in two or more rows, planting shall be staggered in rows.

5.    Where shrub plantings are required to form a continuous hedge or used for screening purposes, the plants shall not be spaced more than 36 inches on center at planting, and shall have a minimum height and spread of 30 inches at planting. Shrubs that will not attain sufficient width to form a complete hedge spaced 36 inches on center shall be planted at a spacing that will allow them to form a complete hedge within 2 years of planting.

K.    Modifications. The planning administrator may approve modifications from the above specifications for appropriate landscape materials that do not meet the above minimum size requirements or are not readily available at landscape supply yards in the required size. If smaller materials are approved, the difference for the smaller materials shall be compensated with additional material being provided. In approving such a modification, the building official shall determine that the substituted plant material size will meet the intent of this chapter, and that providing a landscape material that meets the above size requirements is impractical or not feasible.

L.    Undesirable Plantings. The use of landscape plantings that are invasive to natural habitats, that cause disruption to storm drainage, or that are susceptible to pests or disease is not encouraged. The following landscape plantings exhibit such characteristics, and therefore their use is not encouraged in the City:

Common Name

Scientific Name

Box elder

Acer negundo

Norway maple

Acer plataniodes

Silver maple

Acer saccharinum

Tree of heaven

Ailanthus altissima

European barberry

Berberis vulgaris

Northern catalpa

Catalpa speciosa

Russian olive

Elaeagnus angustifolia


Fraxinus spp.

Common privet

Ligustrum spp.


Lonicera spp.


Morus spp.


Populus spp.


Rhamnus spp.


Salix spp.

4.412 Installation and Maintenance.

A.    All landscaping required by this ordinance shall be the responsibility of the owner and/or developer of the property which is being developed.

B.    All plant material shall be installed within 9 months after the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, and shall be maintained by the owner/ tenant to ensure growth; shall be kept in good condition so as to present a healthy, neat and orderly appearance. A maximum extension for a six month period may be granted to complete the landscaping if weather conditions prohibit the planting of landscape material.

C.    All dead plant material shall be replaced by the owner/tenant with six months. Failure to replace the plant material will be considered a violation of this ordinance.

4.413 Modification of Landscaping Requirements.

Recognizing that a wide variety of land uses and the relationships between them can exist, and that varying circumstances can mitigate the need for landscaping, the reviewing authority may reduce or waive the minimum landscape requirements or the screening and buffer requirements of this chapter and approve an alternate landscaping plan. In making such a modification, the reviewing authority shall find that the following standards have been met:

A.    The landscaping plan will protect the character of new and existing residential neighborhoods against negative impacts such as noise, glare, air pollution, trash and debris, or nuisances.

B.    The alternate width and landscaping of the buffer or screen will ensure compatibility with surrounding and nearby land uses because:

1.    The development is compatible with and sensitive to the immediate environment of the site and neighborhood with respect to architectural design, scale, bulk, building height, identified historical character, disposition and orientation of buildings on the lot, or visual integrity.

2.    The site has existing natural vegetation and/or topography, bodies of water, wetland areas, or other existing conditions which offer screening consistent with the standards set forth in this chapter. The preservation of these natural features in perpetuity must be ensured or else the modification may not be granted.

3.    The arrangement, design and orientation of buildings on the site maximize privacy and isolate nearby land uses from any negative impacts of the development.