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Your trees spared city control — for now

Evanston aldermen Monday rejected a last-minute plea to force residents who want to remove a tree from their yards to pay the city for the privilege of doing so.

But members of the Human Services Committee invited Paul Janicki, a local architect speaking on behalf of the Preservation League of Evanston, to bring up the idea again once the City Council has acted on a tree ordinance targeting developers.

The committee voted to send the proposed ordinance to the council for action.

The ordinance would require that builders of all planned developments and any subdivision on parcels of two acres or more submit plans to minimize the harm to trees from the project and replace trees that are harmed. It also provides fines for violations of the rules.

Janicki said individual homeowners should have to get permission from the city to take down what he called "legacy trees."

"Every other North Shore town has a provision like that," Janicki said, adding that such trees need to be protected not just against developers but also "average everyday homeowners" who might want to put a deck on the back of their house but have a tree standing in the way.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, called Janicki’s proposal "a good suggestion."

"A tree ordinance ought to be as comprehensive as possible," Jean-Baptiste added, but expanding it, he suggested, would have "a lot of implications."

He noted that the city already can force homeowners to remove diseased trees from their property — at a cost to the homeowner than can exceed $3,000, depending on the size of the tree.

"We also have to balance the issue of private property interests," he said, "and that’s not what we’re trying to address at this point in time."

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said Janicki was bringing up "a whole other issue — a very appropriate discussion to be having."

But she said she didn’t want to hold up the current ordinance to have that discussion.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she supported the ordinance before the committee, but might not be as inclined to back one that targeted private homeowners. 

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