At a work session Monday, Aberdeen city forester Aaron Kiesz presented seven proposed changes to the city's landscape ordinance. While those changes received a positive response, some of the people speaking at the meeting wanted to see even more changes.
The landscape ordinance has been in effect since 2008, city manager Lynn Lander noted at the start of the work session. The last session devoted to the ordinance was in November 2011, Kiesz said.
The biggest change in the list unveiled by Kiesz would increase the trigger values for nonresidential construction. Landscaping would be required if the project totals 1,000 square feet, rather than the current requirement of 500 square feet. Landscaping would also be required if the total project evaluation is $100,000, instead of the current level of $50,000.
The changes would also eliminate the requirement of boulevard trees for residential projects, except for new construction.
If the changes are approved, the city would also:
• Require landscaping whenever an existing paved or gravel parking lot is constructed or reconstructed.
• Require increased tree species diversity.
• Require increasing boulevard soil depth from 18 to 24 inches.
• Change boulevard tree spacing from 40 feet to between 30 and 40 feet.
The latter change would give the city more flexibility in dealing with fire hydrants and other objects, Kiesz said. The final change would also eliminate an existing tree bonus.
The changes listed by Kiesz still need City Council approval. The list of proposed changes may be reduced or increased.
Kiesz began his presentation by showing pictures of businesses, some of which have been constructed or remodeled since the landscaping ordinance was revised in 2007. The owners of many of the projects, he said, have gone above and beyond the requirements for adding greenery.
Kiesz also showed photos of businesses that were built before the ordinance took effect.
Kiesz stressed that the ordinance is mainly aimed at breaking up large expanses of hard surfaces, or parking lots, around the city.
Three representatives of Aberdeen's Sacred Heart Catholic Church spoke at the work session. The church has to replace part of its slate roof, Bob Wilson explained. Sacred Heart has received $200,000 from its insurance company. But the job will cost about $325,000, Wilson said. So Sacred Heart still needs another $125,000. When a Sacred Heart representative went to get a building permit Friday, he was told the building permit was being held because landscaping would cost up to 10 percent of the total. Wilson took that to mean that Sacred Heart has to come up with another $32,000.
City attorney Adam Altman, though, said that Sacred Heart was issued the building permit earlier Monday. He had spoken with attorney Rory King, a member of Sacred Heart, earlier in the day. Altman said the city would never hold up a project based on landscaping needs if the situation is an emergency. And, he noted, the church's roof is leaking.
Councilman Todd Campbell said the biggest flaw in the ordinance is that existing green areas can't be used to count toward landscaping requirements. He said that if all the green spaces surrounding Lakewood Mall were totaled up, meeting the landscaping requirement wouldn't be a problem.
Jim Schriver, speaking on behalf of Schriver's Memorial Mortuary and Crematory, said the funeral home was supposed to add four trees at a cost of $10,000. The funeral home needs parking spots more than it does trees, he said.
Agreeing with a Sacred Heart representative, councilman Mark Remily said he doesn't see the need for landscape islands in smaller parking lots.
Campbell said he was told by Tim Kessler that the first landscaping plan for Kessler's grocery store, as part of its remodeling, called for the loss of 12 parking spots.