Culling the canopy

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Certified arborist and Tree City USA member Chris Fischer told Planning commissioners last week that 75 percent of Eureka Springs is covered by tree canopy, the average American city has about 45 percent canopy coverage, and while more shade may sound better on a hot summer day, the fact is we need to do better forest management in town.

The Eureka Springs tree ordinance is "so toothy and complicated in its regulation of removal of trees on both private and public property that it needs some revisions," Fischer said. "It's a very unusual ordinance, and I believe it was created in the nineteen-nineties as a reaction to the massive building going on."

He suggested the city take a new approach. "Dangerous trees still need to come down before next winter's ice storms. There are also numerous trees growing on public lands and along rights-of-way that are in need of ongoing attention and care. At the same time, there need to be enough trees to help hold water in the soil and prevent massive runoff, a common problem in places with steep slopes and a lot of impervious materials, such as paved streets."

Fischer urged commissioners to consider and act on the issues when creating the new master plan for the city, for which commissioners are having workshops.

The other sky-scraping issue on the agenda, the cell tower ordinance, was discussed by city attorney Tim Weaver, who said it is basically a good ordinance, but had some areas of ambiguity that needed to be addressed before the commission sent it to city council. He did not elaborate.

The Master Street Plan is still on hold for comments from Public Works.

There was no public comment on changes in zoning codes before the commission, and those changes will now be sent to council.

Commissioner David Graupner announced that city planning maps and the municipal code are now published on the city's website,

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