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Board wants ban on removing trees

Evanston’s Environment Board wants the City Council to impose a one-year ban on removing trees from private property.

The proposed ban would apply to trees eight inches or more in diameter unless they were dead or hazardous.

It’s the latest effort in a multi-year campaign by the environment group to restrict homeowners’ rights to control what happens on their own property.

So far the City Council has discussed a variety of restrictions, but has yet to adopt any.

A city staff memo to the Planning and Development Committee says the latest proposal would unfairly burden homeowners with small lots, would require additional city staff to enforce and require additional expensive documentation.

Community Development Director Johanna Nyden says in the memo that property owners with smaller lots “are more likely to encounter tree-location issues when looking to upgrade properties with building additions, garages, decks and patios.”

So a ban, she says, would prohibit improvements on such properties — while landowners with larger properties could move ahead unimpeded — or be able to afford to pay the fine if they chose to take down a tree.

A study published last year by the Chicago Region Tree Initiative showed Evanston has 36% more of its land area covered by trees than the average for Cook County.

It’s not clear from the available data whether the tree canopy — now said to cover 38% of Evanston’s land — has increased or decreased in recent years. However, regionwide the number of trees is said to have increased 12% between 2010 and 2020.

A more extensive tree canopy, the CRTI study says, tends to mitigate the heat island effect in urban areas, lowering summer temperatures. Trees also retain rainwater, slowing runoff that causes flooding and also tend to reduce pollution levels.

The City Council’s Planning and Development Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its meeting scheduled for 6 pm Monday.

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