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updated: 1/22/2013 6:03 PM

Elgin to address tree preservation ordinance

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The Elgin City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to approve a new tree preservation ordinance.

The proposed ordinance would exempt single-family properties of less than two acres, orchards and commercial nurseries, trees on government property, and trees on properties whose development plans have been approved.

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A three-month moratorium on tree removal -- with exemptions -- was enacted in mid-November.

No residents spoke Dec. 3 when the planning and zoning commission voted to recommend approval of the ordinance, commission chairman Robert Siljestrom said.

Elgin's desire to protect its natural beauty, including trees, goes back to the city's 1917 plan, Siljestrom said.

"It just seemed to me like this was the time to enact an ordinance that was in sympathy with environmental approaches to things such as existing forest."

Most Chicago area municipalities comparable to Elgin -- including Arlington Heights, Evanston, Oak Park, Joliet, Skokie and Waukegan -- already address tree preservation, Corporation Counsel William Cogley said.

"We've seen over the last 25 of years or so, as developments increase in metro areas, a concern about preservation of trees on private property," he said.

The ordinance would require property owners to get a no-cost permit from the city to remove trees. Developers would be subject to rules such as identifying the type and size of trees on their property; they would have to either replace trees or put money in a "tree bank" that the city would then use to plant new trees, ideally in the same neighborhood.

Trees are beneficial in addressing stormwater runoff, stabilizing topsoil and reducing energy consumption with summer shade, Cogley said.

"What we have tried to do is provide for a balanced approach in preservation of trees," he said.

Other communities with tree preservation ordinances include Arlington Heights, Bartlett, Crystal Lake, Geneva, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Schaumburg, South Elgin, Streamwood, St. Charles and Waukegan.

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