Trees do add value and preserving that value is a big part of smart development. Perdue University and, I’m sure, a number of other sources are considering methods to add value, based on the presence of trees on a site or near a site. Some of the trees you see are exceptional specimens. As a developer, my first step would always be to have a tree survey and consult with a landscape architect or design firm, specializing in developing to preserve “AND” maximize value.
Where do we sometimes go wrong? Missing opportunity to allow preservation is a huge issue. Are we looking for incentives to allow for both the development of a site and preservation of trees. Smaller roads might be one way to minimize the impervious surface and, in turn, create less need for retention. Why is retention important? In a development I considered years ago, I used Genesis Group to put together a preliminary design, specifically to preserve trees. Parts of the proposed design included ways to avoid disturbing heavily wooded areas with retention. Allowing smaller roads or alternative surfaces, can mean less area for dry retention. After the local government planning finished, my design saving every tree, became a design losing a pretty extensive strip of trees and forcing lots into smaller footprints, if I planned to keep the original number of homesites. This meant a probable loss of more trees as each future owner built on the property. Good intentions with retention and design requirements indirectly or directly would lead to destroying a canopy I wanted to preserve.
So, how would we move toward a “Win-Win” approach to preservation? The path of resistance is always offering a benefit to some at the expense of another. This leads toward court time and is the least desirable way to encourage tree preservation. Setting an arbitrary size on trees creates a problem as well. I would see developers or lot owners as reluctant to even plant trees or species, they may later be penalized for disturbing. Trees should be viewed as “added value” by the owner, developer and nearby residents. I would hope we would look at setback variances, density offsets for tree preservation, impervious surface use, PUD’s encouraged for smaller sites to allow flag lots or unusual shaped lots and other creative means leading to tree preservation, would be used. Could we use preservation easements to create incentives for preservation. Fines and restrictions don’t always work. The cost is in avoidance of planting.
We should encourage a view of “Trees Add Value” for property owners, developers and residents. Restrictions, in my opinion, do not solve the problem.
“Value = Basic Tree Cost x Species Rating % x Condition Rating % x Location Rating %” https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/fnr/fnr-473-w.pdf