Landscaping code changes up for consideration at April 7 city commission meeting

After about a year of review, city staffers are bringing proposed changes to the landscaping code to City Commissioners for final consideration.

During the April 7 meeting, commissioners will conduct a public hearing on the proposed changes, which staff said in January are “pretty aggressive.”

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The proposed changes were presented to commissioners in a January work session and to the development community in a January town hall and during planning board meetings.

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Staff is proposing to reduce the landscaping requirements for a number of land uses, adding design flexibility and removing outdated sections of code.

Staff is also proposing to take the list of allowable street trees out of the municipal code so that staff can better adapt to changing conditions, particularly tree diseases, city planner Lonnie Hill said during a January meeting.

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The proposed changes include a reduction in the number of required trees for single and two family residences. The code would still require that turf grass or ground cover plants cover at least 50 percent of the lot area not covered by a structures, but would be change to require at least one interior tree in addition to the required boulevard trees. The existing code requires one tree per 1,500 square foot of net lot area.
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Staff is also proposing to codify design flexibility using low maintenance plants, sculptures and boulders into landscaping to give developers more options. Staff has been testing those ideas with some recent projects, including West Bank Landing and is now proposing building that into the code.

The proposed changes would allow developers to substitute two perennials or one ornamental grass for one shrub to up to 30 percent of the total required shrubs; nine cubic feet of sculpture integrated into the landscaping can substitute for one shrub up to 10 percent of the required shrubs; and each two foot boulder or larger can substitute for up to one shrub up to 10 percent of the total required shrubs.

Currently, the code requires 1 boulevard tree per 35 lineal feet for non-residential developments. The proposed change would reduce that to one per 50 lineal feet and exclude driveways, sidewalks or other approved hard surfaces from that calculation.

Using one existing project, staff said the existing code would require 17 boulevard trees for the project while the proposed code would require 10.

Planting rates would also be reduced under staff’s recommendations.

Existing code for project sites under two areas requires one tree and seven shrubs for every 400 square feet of required landscaping. The proposed code would require one tree and four shrubs for every 400 square feet.

Staff used the example of a one-third acre site with 2,176 square feet of interior landscaping.

The existing code would require six trees and 39 shrubs.

The proposed code would require five trees, a 17 percent reduction, and 22 shrubs, a 43 percent reduction.

For project sites two acres and larger, the current code requires one tree and seven shrubs per 400 square feet. The proposed code would require one tree and four shrubs per 500 square feet.

Using an example of a two acre site with 13,038 square feet of interior landscaping area, the current code would require 33 trees and 229 shrubs.

The proposed code would require 26 trees, a 21 percent reduction, and 105 shrubs, a 54 percent reduction.

Erin Borland, a city planner and former landscape designer, said that the reduced requirements could give developers more flexibility with their site designs and ideally, they will integrate their landscaping with storm water management systems to accomplish multiple things at once.