Want to build an addition to your house within 25 feet of a tree? You’ll need a city tree preservation review permit to do that if an ordinance up for a vote Monday is approved.

Not building anything, but want to take down a tree that’s not dead or diseased? Under the ordinance you’d need to get a variation approved by the City Council.

And removing a tree will also leave you faced with a replacement fee that takes several pages of ordinance text to attempt to explain.

Enforcing the ordinance, staff says, will require adding one-and-a-half employees next year at an estimated cost of nearly $150,000 plus a one time cost of nearly $35,000 to update the city’s permitting software.

Staff estimates that about 700 requests for building permits each year will require the new tree preservation review, generating perhaps $52,500 in fees.

The ordinance would apply to any tree measuring more than six inches in diameter at a height of 4.5 feet off the ground.

Depending on the species, trees typically reach that size at an age of anywhere from 12 to 42 years.

Evanston Now on Aug. 16 asked city staff for information about how many trees are being removed from private property now and about how the city’s doing in maintaining its own tree canopy on public property.

So far we’ve received no substantive response.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. So it’s going to cost the city twice as much to enforce this new rule than the fees for enforcing it will bring in. Just another hair-brained way to take away more of Evanston citizens’ rights and tax them even more in order to cover the costs of their new rules.
    I thought the alderpeople are supposed to represent their constituents, not increasingly repress them.
    Please vote against this.
    Most Evanstonians use common sense when choosing to remove trees from their properties. Please allow common sense to prevail.

  2. Wow, I thought private property gave jurisdiction to the OWNER? Aren’t there more dire policing things that could be done with that money?

  3. So many old beautiful
    Trees are getting cut down so
    Someone can have additions to their home. Save the trees !

  4. I think this is perfectly reasonable. While they’re at it, they should monitor what’s said inside people’s homes to ensure it meets city standards. Oh, also shrubbery, those should be monitored.
    Has anyone on the council ever read Daniel Pinkwater’s The Big Orange Splot? There’s no intrusion into the life of the individual too small for this council.

    1. 25′? That has to include most homes in Evanston. No wonder they need more staff. I could see within 10′, but 25?

    2. Peter
      We elected this council for a few reasons. Voters who went on spring break did not bother to vote. NU students in first ward were urged to vote against alderman Fiske to preserve their beer pong in yard rights. The 8th ward and 4th ward races were not taken seriously by the incumbants. People said they wanted change…fresh ideas. Here we are…tree police…smelly food sold on our beaches…endless spending on ideas and consultants that don’t carry their own costs. VOTING MATTERS. 10 folks in a ward swing the difference. You can work for and fund a candidate out of your own ward. I assume CM Reid will run for mayor next cycle. He pushed the idea of having voters pay for the mayoral race…so now it is cheap to run that campaign. Voters need to wake up.

  5. Another new “nanny” department for the evermore irresponsible residents of Evanston… Just like the awesomely cost effective Leaf Blower Police… Good grief.

    Sadly, Brian G. Becharas

  6. While the city’s physical infrastructure and public buildings are crumbling the city council occupies itself with intrusive minutiae.

  7. Apparently the city has everything else under control and funded. Where to start – prioritization of resources, property rights and overreach by government come to mind. And pretty much all the trees I have noticed come down are by the city on parkways, you can count the stumps that aren’t removed.

  8. Unsurprisingly, the city seeks to create rules that they then think don’t apply to them…what was the first thing they did to the property lots they acquired by Emerson and Jackson? Cut down 80-100 year old oaks….even before they tore down the buildings and knew what they want to do with the lot, they cut down all the trees.

    Similar to the gas leaf blower ban that ALSO doesn’t apply to city parks/workers.

    I do love the fact that Evanston has so many old trees and we should seek to preserve them (I was sad when a neighbor next to me cut a beautiful tree down on their lot because they didn’t like all the leaves on their garage…), but also believe there should be a balance in how we regulate it. We should seek to educate people and allow private owners to largely do what they see is best for their property. People are just going to be more likely to avoid the permitting process I expect if this comes to pass…

  9. How about Canal Shores, which is taking down more trees along the canal than anyone as part of its redesign?

  10. Toronto has a more rational ordinance. “According to the by-law, you need to obtain a permit if you wish to remove, injure or cut down a tree that has a diameter of more than 30 cm (12 inches). The diameter of the tree must be taken at 1.4 meters (4.5 feet) above ground level…” And endangered species are protected no matter what the size. But apparently unless things have improved, it has cost them a chunk of change. https://www.torontoauditor.ca/report/review-of-urban-forestry-permit-issuance-and-tree-by-law-enforcement-require-significant-improvement/ But first of all we should address parkway trees which taxpayers pay for; the City should do a better job of planting native trees in appropriate parkway spots. And spending money on water for at least newly planted trees if it can’t figure out a way of insisting property owners water them. And volcano mulching by private companies of parkway trees should not be allowed, just stop. Oak Park does not seem to have the proliferation of swings, slack lines etc and such on parkway trees that damage them– (we are no longer in full covid folks)– they have fewer parks than we do and our parks are so often empty –didn’t used to be that way. Just fyi Oak Park has a wonderful tree map so you can find out what the different parkway trees are https://communitymapviewer.gisconsortium.org/OakParkIL )

  11. And what about those people who need affordable housing? Who else thinks that ADU’s will not become instantly more expensive with all the new restrictions?
    Pick a side already – save trees or cram more people into the same area!

  12. If you own a business or a home, the City thinks it is up them to tell you what do do. On the other hand if you are among the unhoused, no one is gonna tell you what to do and is going to pour resources down the toilet trying to make your life better.

  13. Meanwhile they are cutting down perfectly healthy trees at Canal Shores for spurious reasons. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

  14. Meanwhile the city is allowing canal shores golf course to cut down around 500 trees with zero concern.

  15. Evanston is an over-regulated, death-by-a-million-cuts city run by a bunch of fake “leaders”. Telling us what to do, what to say, how to think– what our morality should look like. What’s next?? Maybe if you don’t comply, don’t think as the leaders tell you to think, aren’t actively “doing the work” in accordance to the gatekeepers here — they’ll consider using eminent domain to acquire peoples’ homes for public use. Don’t laugh. This kind of cockamamie idea is right up their alley. In fact, under Kelo v. New London, the IL SP CT expanded the definition of “public use” to include private economic development. So, I mean…..why not at least try? Isn’t that Alderman Reid’s M.O.? This seems to be a perfect solution for the governing class running the show in this town. No one in this town seems to care or notice what’s going on anyway….trust the leaders or some such nonsense like that, right??

    As the commenter said above, there is one remedy to this: voting. Evanston needs to wake up. LOCAL ELECTIONS MATTER. For the love of all that’s good, it’s time for Evanstonians to stop acting like zombies and engage.

  16. Another wacko idea from the esteemed (?) city council.

    Let’s see. This weird ordinance would last *until* the first person who wanted a tree removed because it was diseased or leaning & posed a hazard to their house, if not the neighbor’s, fell down injuring people as well as property. What was the delay? Filling out forms & having them approved by, yes, the new highly paid additions to administration of Evanston. This could result in a costly lawsuit.

    As a taxpayer, I strongly disapprove of the craziness the Evanston CC has been proposing for a long time now.

    My property, my tree, none of anyone else’s business.

    Pay your 50% cost of fixing the uneven sidewalks, a danger to all. Take care of the potholes. Better yet, address the ever growing hole in the city budget.

  17. This town is turning into little North Korea under the disguise of ‘freedom” and “protecting the environment “. The constant barrage of new rules and regulations only applies to the residents, not to the city itself. Evanston can, and does, cut down trees left and right, uses gas blowers etc.
    Vote these jokers out before it’s too late.

  18. Is this an actual problem? Like, are many Evanston residents deforesting the terrain to make room for their additions? As far as I’m aware, Evanston people like trees. They’re hardly in a hurry to remove them. The only deforestation I know about comes Canal Shores.

    Who benefits from a tree protection task force? Is the city counting on it being a money maker, so they can hand out gotcha fees and fines? Or does someone just have an arborist friend that they want to create a job for?

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