The Park Rapids Urban Forestry Committee voted twice on Monday to stay out of issues relating to the use of private property.
City Planner Andrew Mack said the city’s planning commission was seeking input from the committee toward drafting ordinances guiding forestry management and tree removal on private properties where no development plan is in play.
One of the desired ordinances would aim to preserve “significant trees” from clear-cutting. For example, Mack said, “A good tree preservation ordinance describes the required protection; it describes what is a significant tree that needs to be protected; it prohibits somebody from just going in and clear-cutting property.”
He admitted that this would increase development costs “because somebody has to hire a surveyor to do tree surveys on a site, to determine the significant tree inventory. When a tree inventory is established, a tree expert would identify the diseased, dying or dangerous trees to be exempted out of the inventory.”
The difference between the two amounts, he said, “is the number you’d start working with the regulation. From there, based upon either a zoning district or a type of development, you prescribe the maximum percentage of removal that can occur before you trigger a replacement planting plan.”
Committee Chair Cheryle Wilke advised leaving this issue to the planning commission.
“We handle public trees,” said committee member Steve Jones. “We don’t want to dabble in private property.”
Jones made a motion for the committee to stay out of the issue on private property, which passed unopposed.
Regarding forestry land management or agricultural forestry, Mack said it’s about “a specific site of property that’s been put in as a plantation with the intention of a timber harvest over a 20- or 30-year period.”
The planning commission’s concern, he said, is whether a permit should be required to harvest timber on privately owned forest land within city limits; again, they thought the discussion should start with urban forestry committee.
Asked whether he has seen this become an issue, Mack said, “Yes, I’ve seen people flood the city council chambers, pissed as hell because the 10 acres next to them just got clear-cut.”
“Maybe there needs to be a regulation on this,” said Jones. “I just don’t think it’s our job to come up with it, or to say yes, there needs to be one.”
Wilke moved for the committee to have no involvement in forestry land management on private property. The motion passed with no dissent, and with Mack abstaining.
In other business, the committee directed Mack, without a motion, to prepare a revision of the city’s firewood ordinance, after he reported on a study of similar laws in other northern Minnesota cities.
Mack said the ordinance will clarify guidelines about nuisance issues, like requiring wood piles to be stacked neatly, and address the spread of tree diseases through firewood. Enforcement will include letters setting a due-date for compliance and, if necessary, a citation delivered by city police.
The committee also discussed the need to provide notice before entering a resident’s property to investigate nuisance complaints.
The committee scheduled a meeting to review the draft firewood ordinance for 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 4 at city hall.