News Story

New Restrictions On Property Owners Advance Officials’ Pursuit Of ‘Tree City’ Label

Trees that have to go would become a big problem for lot and land owners

A tree ordinance proposal in Plymouth Township that would impose local government restrictions on property owners who need to remove, replace, or plant trees on their property brought controversy when put forward.

During a May 25 Board of Trustees meeting, Kurt Heise, township supervisor of Plymouth Township, offered an updated version of a proposed ordinanced.

Steep fines, fees, and costly consultations with certified arborists are part of the proposal, which may be, in part, the product of officials’ desire for the township to get a “Tree City” designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Heise said he meant the original proposal to be a starting point for new regulations.

“I took the existing ordinance from the city of Plymouth and used their ordinance so we could work off of it. Their tree ordinance was not without controversy, but I wanted to use it as an example of a comparable proposal. Since the original discussion at the May 25 board meeting, it has been substantially modified, and the only provision dealing with private property are heritage trees,” Heise said.

The original version would have defined any tree over 18 inches in diameter as a “heritage tree.”

Under the ordinance, any property owner who wants to replace a heritage tree would have to conform to a township formula. The property owner would also have to submit a tree replacement plan to the township, and a township official could make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

The threshold for a heritage tree under the new version of the ordinance is 24 inches or more in diameter. The new version would also prohibit property owners from planting or replacing any of 10 specified tree varieties.

If it were not possible to do what the ordinance demands, a property owner who removed trees would have to pay into a township tree fund, at a rate prescribed by the number and diameter of the trees removed.

The Michigan Senate passed a bill introduced by the late Sen. Tom Casperson in 2018. It would have preempted local governments from restricting property owners’ ability to cut down or trim trees on their land. But the House did not take up the bill before the end of the 2017-18 Legislature. It had been introduced after reports appeared of Canton Township threatening a property owner with $450,000 in fines for removing trees.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.