Section: News

After pushback, Village Council discusses Tree Commission

After pushback, Village Council discusses Tree Commission

Over the summer, the Gambier Village Council began exploring options for cracking down on commercial tree-cutters, provoking pushback from villagers. Once more, the Village Council has decided to send the Tree Commission back to the drawing board as it works to craft a passable ordinance. 

The Oct. 1 Village Council meeting saw a withdrawal of the Tree Removal Ordinance that was tabled at the Sept. 4 meeting. The Tree Commission plans to piece together a fuller ordinance with the hopes of discussing it when the Village Council meets in November.

The Tree Removal Ordinance began as a response to citizens selling timber off their land, which other members of the village feared would disrupt Gambier’s wooded character, according to Jerry Kelly, Tree Commission chair. Citizens were approached by a commercial tree cutting company that offered to haul off lumber, for which market demand is currently high.

Most commercial tree cutting companies do not engage in the timbering process and were not targets of this ordinance. Concern is with a few small tree cutters who did this in a couple of instances. Since this first became prominent, there have not been many occurances, according to Kelly.

Tree Commission proposed an ordinance that would limit this activity. It was judged by villagers as too broad and too restrictive. At the Aug. 6 Village Council meeting, 10 villagers expressed concerns about its severity. The consensus was, according to the meeting minutes, that “homeowners should be able to decide what they do with the trees on their property.”

At the Oct.1 meeting, Kelly remarked that the practice the original ordinance had intended to prevent had disappeared in Gambier due to social pressure.

“I think the Tree Commission would like to try to put together a long-term plan designed to enhance the urban forest that we live in,” he said in his opening remarks at the meeting. Kelly proposed that the Council withdraw the ordinance that was first discussed in August so that the Commission could put together a completely new draft.

Specifically, the Commission is setting out to provide guidelines, suggestions and technical support. The Commission has been focusing on the health of the trees on the tree lawn, which  means the trees ten feet back from the curb. Per the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s suggestion, the Commission has been inventorying trees on the tree lawn and hopes to build diversity in the tree population into ordinance guidelines.

In line with this goal, the future ordinance may try to help citizens select tree species in order to improve biodiversity, based on tree species projected to do better or worse under climate change and ones especially subject to predation by deer, so that people can choose to either attract or repel the animal.

It remains to be seen how this newer, more suggestion-based ordinance will impact the College. The first proposed ordinance would have required landowners to apply for a permit to remove more than three trees in a twelve month period or to remove “Protected Trees,” which the ordinance defined as those having 14-inch or greater diameters. While primarily targeting individual homeowners, the ordinance in its original form may have affected the College as well since it is also a landowner, though Kelly said that the ordinance received no formal pushback.

After the Council voted to formally withdraw the ordinance, Gambier Mayor Kachen Kimmell thanked those in attendance for their willingness to further extend the village’s tree debate.

“This is going to be good,” she said of the decision to craft a new ordinance. “I appreciate you guys having patience with all this, but it’s gonna be good.”

Among the other items of business, Kimmell noted that the Police and Personnel Committee is continuing to meet to develop an up-to-date job description for the position of Village Administrator. As the Village looks towards hiring a new administrator, Kimmell invited villagers to submit to the council their thoughts on the responsibilities of the administrator. Kimmell also said that food trucks are continuing to make one-off deals with Gambier to set up shop in the downtown area; she expects longer term arrangements to come about once business owners have experimented with the partnership.

Grant Miner and David Han contributed reporting.

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