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Preserving "Tree"tments for Developments

By Dan Jamison, PE, Group Manager - Residential, Koontz-Bryant, P.C.

From an environmental standpoint, the Swift Creek Reservoir is one of Chesterfield County’s most valuable and challenging resources. As a major supply of drinking water, providing environmental protection from all land use, including development, is a County priority and requires additional measures to be implemented. Chapter 19 of the Chesterfield County Code of Ordinances has a section under the Community Development Standards specifically addressing the Upper Swift Creek Watershed. Section 19-240 addresses the need to preserve or replace trees damaged or destroyed during the development of single family residential projects.

Did you know that this ordinance has been in the Code for some time, but only recently has it started to be required on construction plans?

The intent of this ordinance is to provide a certain percentage of tree canopy cover based on the density of the proposed development in order to better protect the Upper Swift Creek Reservoir Watershed. In general, vegetation acts to remove pollutants being transported to the reservoir and reduce the impact of the development. Fifteen percent tree canopy is required for densities between ten and twenty units per acre, and twenty percent tree canopy is required for densities of ten units or less per acre. There are exclusions listed in the Code that can be used when calculating the site area for a project or the cover provided.

To satisfy the requirements, existing trees that are not being disturbed during development may be used in the preservation calculations. Trees within the RPA limits or in protected wetlands work well to meet the requirements. If the existing trees do not meet the n eeded canopy cover, a plan needs to be submitted showing tree plantings to meet the cover requirements.

What has not been determined as of yet is how phased projects can address this requirement, particularly when there are areas in the project with high density development. Chesterfield has asked that each section meet the canopy requirements independently. Koontz-Bryant has been working with the Environmental Engineering department to show how phased projects can meet and exceed the requirements on a whole project basis even when certain sections within the development fall below the required canopy cover. A similar approach is taken when meeting the Chesapeake Bay requirements for an overall development that we believe would apply to the tree preservation requirements as well. Resolving this aspect of the ordinance will be critical when looking at high density developments such as townhomes as part of a phased project. Koontz-Bryant will continue to work with Chesterfield to find an agreeable solution to phasing development projects while providing a tree canopy cover necessary to protect the Upper Swift Creek Watershed.

For more information on tree preservation and local ordinances, contact Dan Jamison at (804) 200-1903 or via email.