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Lake Bluff OKs stricter tree ordinance by 4-0 vote
By Linda Blaser, Pioneer Press - Lake Forester, Waukegan, IL, September 11, 2008

The Lake Bluff Village Board Monday night approved a tougher tree preservation ordinance aimed at better protecting and enhancing the village's urban forest.

The final vote was 4 to 0. Trustees Michael Peters and Geoff Surkamer were absent; President Christine Letchinger also was not in attendance.

The vote ended a 15-month process undertaken by the village's Plan Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Village Board which collectively dedicated 11 meetings and dozens of hours to the preparation of the ordinance.

New regulations outlined in the ordinance for removing, replacing and protecting village trees in the parkway and on private property went into effect Tuesday.

Under the new ordinance, property owners must obtain a tree permit and complete a tree permit application to remove any tree from their property. The total cost for the application process is $100, $50 for the application and $50 for the permit. Those fees are waived if the tree to be removed is considered a non-protected tree or diseased, dead or dangerous.

Different value
The main difference in the new ordinance is the value it places on certain trees, based on the type of tree, size and condition, and what its replacement will cost the owner.

The village prepared a Tree Preservation Administrative Manual for residents, which outlines the ordinance in detail. The manual includes a complete listing of:

  • Protected trees
  • Tree permit process
  • Tree replacement
  • Tree replacement mitigation fees
  • Tree protection during construction
  • Appealing a decision

Manuals are available on the village's Web site,, and in Village Hall, 40 E. Center.

Residents should call Village Hall at 847-234-0774 to request that the village forester come out to their property to verify what types and sizes of trees the property owner is considering removing. The forester will determine which trees need to be replaced and how much it will cost, based on a tree replacement formula listed in the manual, and the condition of the tree.

"I'm thrilled," Plan Commission Chairman Linda Hinde said Monday night after the meeting.

"For so many years we've needed to do something about our Tree Preservation Ordinance, and now we have. I applaud the Village Board for enacting this very important ordinance."

Larry McCotter, president of the Lake Bluff Open Lands Association, has promoted a toughened-up tree ordinance in Lake Bluff for years.

"Our old ordinance allowed for the removal of 50 percent of the trees regardless of size or species. This new ordinance places a value on each tree, but also discriminates in favor of significant native species and has a lesser penalty for some of the more weedy or non-native trees," McCotter said.

Hinde said the most important aspect of the new regulations is the effect it will have on new construction, teardowns and similar projects.

"Instead of being allowed to go in and clear off a given site, the owners will have to preserve trees and work around them," she said.

"This is something I think many communities, in hindsight, wish they would have enacted 10 years ago."

The Plan Commission began looking at the tree preservation ordinance in June 2007 and sought input from the public, Lake Bluff Open Lands Association and the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Village Board granted the Plan Commission's request to conduct a review of the ordinance with village staff.

The village hired Chuck Stewart of Urban Forest Management to help prepare the new ordinance.

At Monday's meeting, the Village Board also approved a resolution to hire Stewart and his company to assist with administration of the new ordinance when required. It is anticipated, however, that the majority of permit applications will be processed in-house, officials said.

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