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Another jurisdiction moves forward in tree-preservation efforts

New ordinance in town of Vienna will kick in three months from now

Vienna Town Council members on April 29 unanimously approved a series of town-code text amendments aimed at preserving and enhancing Vienna’s tree canopy.

The actions were the culmination of nearly four years’ worth of discussions regarding the tree canopy, which one study found had declined by 13 percent between 2011 and 2021.

“It’s been a long time coming, and we’re basically there,” said Council member Charles Anderson before moving for passage of the amendments.

The new nine-page ordinance, which is listed in Chapter 18 of the town code and takes effect July 29, repeals some sections of town code and replacing them with a “Vienna Tree Conservation Ordinance.” The new ordinance is intended to conserve and manage trees in the town during development or redevelopment of 2,500 square feet or more of land.

“These forest resources provide important aesthetic, social and economic benefits and are indispensable to the conservation and management of vital atmospheric, water, soil and ecological resources,” the ordinance read.

The new code provisions require that within 20 years after development, between 15 and 25 percent of sites in various residential zones and 10 percent of parcels in commercial and transitional zones must be covered with tree canopy.

All effort first must be made, when feasible, to preserve viable trees at sites; the rest of the canopy requirements need to be met via tree planting.

To help with these efforts, a Vienna Tree Preservation and Planting Guide will list commercially available tree species, varieties and cultivars capable of thriving in the town’s climate and various planting environments.

The Council also approved another ordinance, which becomes effective 10 days after adoption, that eliminates the town’s former Tree Board and creates a new Tree Advocacy Committee to advise and assist the town on all things tree-related.

The nine-member committee will consist of four people appointed by the Town Council; one current or rising high-school junior and senior, also chosen by the Council; two Conservation and Sustainability Commission members, chosen by that group; and one Vienna Planning Commission member, selected by that body. All will serve two-year terms.

The Council tipped its hat to former members Steve Potter, Ed Somers and Nisha Patel for their earlier tree-advocacy efforts.

“This is an intentional policy decision with a lot of support,” said Council member Jessica Ramakis. “There are a lot of positive environmental impacts . . . A lot of residents find [the tree canopy] to be part of the character of the town.”