Hinsdale residents remodeling or building a new home could be forced to pay the village up to $25,000 if a parkway tree is neglected and destroyed during construction under a new ordinance was approved unanimously Tuesday night by village trustees.
The ordinance approved by the Village of Hinsdale Board of Trustees, which amends the Public Ways and Properties section of the village code, is a reaction to repeated requests by residents and homebuilders to remove parkway trees that are often in the way of new driveways, said trustee Laura LaPlaca, the chair of the board’s Environment and Public Services (EPS) Committee.
According to the new ordinance, any resident who wants to remove any tree in any public street or parkway will have to get the approval of village staff and, if requested before any building permits are acquired, pay a $5,000 fee to the village. If the request is made after building permits are issued, the fee will increase to $10,000.
If a resident removes or cuts down a parkway tree without a permit from the village or causes the death of any tree “by negligence or failure to adequately protect said tree during construction on that person’s property,” the ordinance reads, he or she will be required to pay the village a $25,000 fee.
Sometimes residents come early on in the building process, LaPlaca said, while others come late in the process and put the trustees on the EPS Committee in a tough spot.
"We’ve had people come who already have the foundation poured and everything laid out," LaPlaca said.
The new fee structure will eliminate the need for EPS trustees to make case-by-case decisions.
"We really just wanted to try and take the guessing out of it," LaPlaca said, "and make it very clear to people up front what the standards are, what the fees are, so that everybody's on the same page."
The fee structure was first discussed by the EPS Committee at its September meeting. Since then, the new ordinance was drafted and, at the EPS Committee's latest meeting Monday night, was recommended for approval and put on Tuesday night's Board of Trustees agenda.
All money collected by the village from the new fees will go into a “tree fund,” LaPlaca said, that will be dedicated to planting new village trees and treating existing ash and elm trees against the emerald ash borer and Dutch elm disease.
Village President Tom Cauley commended the EPS Committee on the new ordinance.
"I think you guys have done a really good job ... of laying down guidelines with sidewalks and with trees so that people don’t think there’s an ad hoc way of approaching it," Cauley said.
The new fee structure was approved after a couple building a new home in the 5800 block of Giddings Avenue came to the EPS Committee's Monday night meeting and asked for permission, early in the building process, to remove three parkway trees on the property. One of the trees was in the way of the new house's driveway, and two the homeowners weren't fond of, LaPlaca said.
The committee allowed only for the removal of the tree obstructing construction of the driveway according to the village's old practice of requiring the resident to pay for new trees that have a combined diameter equal to that of the removed tree.
From now on, LaPlaca said, the village would simply have charged the resident $5,000 to remove that tree.
Village staff still has the right to say no to a resident who wants to remove a parkway tree if it is not necessary. The fees only apply to those tree removals the staff approves of.