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Vegetation Removal Act Would Give Environmental Control to Developers Over Communities

Brandon Grysko, Esq.

The vegetation removal preemption act ("Lame Duck" Senate Bill 1188 of 2018), if passed, would take environmental control away from local communities. At the moment, most developed communities have ordinances that "speak for the trees" when a developer comes in looking to clear them out. Communities have strong interests in protecting their trees. Tree-rich areas serve as much-needed habitats for animals and also purify air and stormwater and maintain the aesthetic quality of a community, among other benefits.

Development, on the other hand, is also beneficial to communities. Developers pay wages and taxes, stimulate the economy, and generally build structures that are needed in civilized society. But development doesn't come without a cost. Any development necessarily requires tree removal and interference with wind, water, and sunlight. Tree-removal ordinances and zoning schemes seek to offset the downsides of development.

However, SB 1188 and its associated package of bills would take away local control of those important issues. Under the bill, a local government would not be able to prohibit or restrict the removal of most trees. The bill would also prohibit a community from collecting money for a tree fund or requiring the planting of replacement trees.

In short, if the bill passes, communities would be helpless to protect their local environments from the burdens of development.

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