City commissioners tabled discussion regarding proposed changes to the city's tree ordinance that would include a historic tree designation, penalties for violations and an expanded tree list.
Under the existing ordinance, Nebraska City Tree Board approval is required to legally remove a healthy tree growing in the street right-of-way.
The proposed historic tree ordinance, for the first time, would give the city authority to preserve a tree anywhere in the city.
The tree board may also order a property owner to remove a tree in the right-of-way that is declared unsafe to people or utility infrastructure.
The proposed ordinance will reduce the amount of time a landowner has to remove a nusiance tree from 60 to 30 days.
Finance Commissioner Mark Mercer said Monday the proposed ordinance appears to endow the tree board with a lot of power.
“There needs to be a definition of an unsafe tree. It seems overreaching unless they define all unsafe conditions,” he said.
Also proposed is an expanded list of trees that the city bans from planting in the right-of-way.
The existing ordinance bans silver maple and scotch pine, but the new ordinance bans 20 varieties, including apple, elm, evergreens, mulberry, pin oak, black walnut and willow.
The proposed tree lists favors 34 small tree varieties, 18 medium trees and 52 large trees.
Giittinger said the new ordinance also addresses penalties for cutting down a healthy tree without permission, including historic trees.
The board would keep a list of trees and shrubs it has declared historical within the city limits and they would not be allowed to be removed unless the tree board declared them unsafe.
The proposed ordinance gives people 10 days to appeal a tree board decision to the city council.
The existing ordinance says people may appeal to the city council, but does not give a time limit to begin the appeal.City commissioners tabled the discussion until Davis and city staff can meet with tree board members regarding the changes.
City Attorney Bill Davis said the changes include expanding the board from five to six members.