More trees! New developments would need to plant more under proposals

Developers in Louisville might have to start considering something besides parking and building materials: more trees. 

A set of proposed changes to the land development code call for most new and modified projects to have a higher percentage of tree canopy than what was required before.

The proposals from the city Planning and Design Department represent months of work and may change before being presented to the Metro Planning Committee on Monday morning.

Cindi Sullivan, executive director of Trees Louisville, said the proposal to require more trees is a good start. “I think that the percentages that have been proposed are hopeful,” she said, adding that they could always be increased.

The proposal is part of the city’s effort to restore its vanishing tree canopy. The Metro Council, acting on a resolution from Council Members Bill Hollander, Brandon Coan and Cindi Fowler, asked for the revisions. 

The proposal would require developers to plant street trees for all types of developments (among them, single-family and nonresidential) and to obtain tree removal permist when clearing trees on nonresidential and multifamily sites. 

To enforce this rule, new developments would be restricted if any illegal tree removal had occurred on its site in the last two years.

The amendments also simplify canopy requirements for new developments. Instead of different standards for developments based on their current canopy percentage, there would be, in many cases, a flat percentage requirement based on the development’s neighborhood and type.

There would be exceptions. For instance, in cases where a developer is building more than five single-family residences in a regional center or suburban marketplace corridor, 40 to 50 percent of their ground area would have to be covered by trees. That would be at the highest end of the tree canopy spectrum.

Developers would also no longer get away with reducing their tree canopy requirements for building affordable housing or building in certain parts of the city, such as downtown. 

There would still be alternatives for developers in the form of planting trees at alternate sites, on public property or by participating in the city’s fee by lieu program, which would be promoted in the planning department’s changes. 

Check out the entirety of the proposal here. 

Monday’s committee meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. in the first floor conference room of the Metro Development Center at 444 S. Fifth St. 

The changes will be presented before the planning commission, too, before making their way to the council.