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Agendas and Minutes

Tree Commission (View All)

Tree Commission Regular Meeting

Thursday, August 06, 2015

August 6, 2015
CALL TO ORDER – Chair Gregg Trunnell called the meeting of the Ashland Tree Commission to order at 6:01 p.m. on August 6, 2015 in the Siskiyou Room located at 51 Winburn Way, Ashland Oregon.
Commissioners Council Liaison
Ken Schmidt Carol Voisin (absent)
Gregg Trunnell Staff
Casey Roland Derek Severson, Associate Planner
Maureen Battistella Pete Baughman, Parks Liaison
Russell Neff  
Christopher John  
Mike Oxendine (absent)  
Schmidt/Neff m/s to approve the July 9, 2015 regular meeting minutes.  The motion passed unanimously. 
City Council Liaison - None
Parks & Recreation Liaison – There was discussion of there being anthracnose, a foliar fungal disease, present in the oaks in Lithia Park.  It was explained that this wasn’t lethal and was due to the drought.
There was also discussion of the failure of an oak in the upper park, noting that with warm summer rains like those that occurred recently, trees are unable to fully expel the water absorbed so quickly and the additional weight causes structural failure at weak points.  Another oak fell at 108 Granite Street as well. 
Community Development Liaison – Severson noted that Mike Oxendine had been appointed to the Commission, but that he was unable to attend this meeting due to illness.  Severson also reminded commissioners that there would be a Volunteer Appreciation Barbecue at the Oak Knoll Golf Course Clubhouse on the afternoon of August 30th, and invitations were handed out. 
PLANNING ACTION:        PA-2015-01357                                 
SUBJECT PROPERTY:     2350 Ashland Street  
OWNER/APPLICANT:      Jalaram Hospitality LLC
DESCRIPTION:                   A request for a Tree Removal Permit to remove one tree from the subject property. The Electric Utility Department recently removed sections of the trees that encroached into the 10 foot safety buffer around utility lines. Now that the trees have uneven canopies, the applicant is requesting to remove the trees for liability concerns.
Severson presented a brief staff report.  No representative was present on behalf of the applicant.  Roland noted that the lean present seems to be due to the prevailing angle of the sun, and that the pruning that has occurred is minimal, not severe, and would only mean about 200 pounds of material was removed from the canopy.  He suggested that this was less than ten percent of the canopy volume, and that there is less clearance from the power lines than is required by law.  It was noted that the materials provided were from an insurance company, not an arborist, but that the insurance company recommended that an arborist be consulted but no arborist report has been provided.  John suggested that the site would likely be better served by a more appropriately-selected street tree, but stated that he would prefer to see an arborist report and mitigation recommendations. 
Commissioners Trunnell/John m/s to recommend that the proposal as submitted fails to meet the burden of proof for the removal of a tree that is a hazard.   This recommendation was unanimously approved, with the Commissioners noting that they would reconsider this recommendation if the applicants wished to come back with an arborist’s report and mitigation proposal.  Commissioners also noted that the existing maple tree should not be an issue if pruned regularly. 
Election of Officers – Battistella noted that she was not interested in serving.  Schmidt indicated that he was not interested in continuing to serve.  John suggested that he would be willing to serve as Vice Chair.  Trunnell noted that he was willing to continue in his roll as chair.  After discussion, Commissioners unanimously approved Gregg Trunnell as Chair and Christopher John as Vice Chair. 
Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) Brown Bag Lunch – Severson explained that the ODF had been looking for communities willing to host a “brown bag” lunch discussion of trees.  He provided a hand-out and noted that Commissioners wishing to attend could go to sessions within the region in either Rogue River or Central Point.  He noted that if Commissioners were interested, there may be an opportunity to host a similar session in Ashland later in the year.
Tree Watering During Drought Handout (Conservation Division) – Severson provided a brochure prepared by the Conservation Division on watering trees during drought.  He explained that the brochure was loosely based on one sent from Washington state by former Parks Liaison Ann Thayer. 
Commissioners suggested that the brochure might better begin with a statement or quote on the value of trees. 
Commissioners discussed tree watering and drought, noting that the City of Medford was recommending gaiters or grow bags. 
Roland suggested that people be directed to consider a soil moisture probe available from A.M. Leonard for $75-$80.  He emphasized that this was not the moisture meter typically seen, but rather a probe which extracted a core sample of soil from the tree’s root zone to determine whether the soil was adequately moist or if watering was needed.  There was discussion about whether the Commission could purchase a probe or two and make them available for citizen check-out, along with information on their proper use, either through city offices or through the public library.  Roland noted that if this were to be done, there would need to be some means of disinfection to avoid the accidental spread of soil-borne disease.     
Commissioners discussed the importance of mulch, and suggested that the brochure could more clearly equate mulching to a reduction in water use and the associated cost.  It was also recommended that mulching be moved to the top of the section in the brochure, and that there be a statement on the percentage of water savings that might be achieved with proper use of mulch.    Commissioners discussed that the best mulch was fine wood or green waste that had been “tub-ground” and not bark unless it was fine.
There was also discussion of the appropriateness of recommending that neighborhoods share in the cost of paying for a water truck to water trees.
There was discussion of the brochure distribution, with Severson noting his assumption that it would be distributed with utility bills as an insert.  Commissioners questioned whether it could be presented (slightly differently) on the website.  Severson noted that this could certainly be suggested, and he recommended that Commissioners review the city’s website regarding water-wise landscaping ( ). 
Commissioners summarized their recommendations for the brochure:  1) Include a statement or quote on the value and benefits of trees on the front of the brochure; 2) Move mulch to the top of its column, before soil type and emphasize that mulching can save water and money, and include a statement that fine to medium wood waste makes the best mulch rather than decorative bark;   3) Discuss symptoms of drought and the need to know your soil’s moisture content, and recommend the use of a 16- to 18-inch soil profiling probe which produces a core sample to gauge the need to water (not a moisture meter used for houseplants).  It was noted that there was a recent New Yorker article on trees, and that the Save the Plaza group had some good quotes about trees.  Battistella stated that should would follow-up on quotes about the value and benefits of trees.   
Commissioners also questioned whether trainings from Oregon State University’s Agricultural Extension Service could be presented in Ashland, with Battistella noting that she could speak with Max Bennett at the Extension Service offices about this possibility. 
Review of Recent Tree Commission Recommendations on Planning Actions - Severson noted that 156 Van Ness had been denied, as recommended by the Commission.  He also noted that the Planning Commission had denied the request to removed the tree at 380 Clay Street, but further explained that the applicant had subsequently requested an extension to delay adoption of a final decision while options were considered.  He noted that work with Southern Oregon University continues and they will ultimately come back to the Commission with a mitigation plan as they proposed last month.   He further explained that the University has contracted with a sound engineer to look at mitigation of the mechanical equipment noise, and have invited neighbors to be present for that analysis. 
Severson noted that decisions had not yet been made on 233 Granite Street or 440 Glenview Drive, that the contractor at Granite Street had been cited as recommended by the Commission, and that monitoring of the work at that site continues. 
There was brief discussion that the tagging and flagging of trees and providing site access were not approval criteria for a decision, and that generally if a tree inventory, protection plan and assessment of trees are provided and the decision can be conditioned to meet requirements (as with standard conditions that trees be tagged and flagged for inspection by the Staff Advisor prior to removal) an action could not be denied.  Severson further explained that within Oregon land use law, decisions are subject to specific criteria and to a timeline which means that if a decision is delayed the applicants can simply petition a court for approval once 120 days have passed and circumvent the review process.  He emphasized that the times built into the process for noticing and hearings mean that even a small delay could make it difficult to meet this timeline, which has to accommodate a decision and the potential for appeals.  He suggested that staff would look more closely at actions where access or visibility are limited, and in these instances site visits by the commission could be scheduled at a specific time as they are for the Planning Commission.      
Study Session Follow-Up – Severson noted that the Planning Director had seen some difficulty with adding additional meetings to the Commission schedule.  He explained that the department had lost two experienced planners and was still training their replacements while things are very busy.  He had instead recommended that the Commission look at prioritizing a list of topics and having a recurring agenda item that would reserve time on each agenda to look at these items. Commissioners discussed the list of items that should be included: 
  • Tree Watering in Drought.  Finalize recommendations.
  • Tree Protection Requirements (Fencing, Penalties and Enforcement).  Commissioners discussed that the current tree protection regulations don’t seem to be working without giving the Commission some teeth for enforcement.  Roland suggested that the Commission purchase tamper proof tags which would be installed on tree protection fencing at the Tree Verification inspection by staff and which could only be removed with the approval of the project arborist or staff advisor.  The arborist would call staff and maintain a logbook of any tag removal, and there would be enforcement action for tags improperly removed. 
  • Street Trees and the Street Tree Guide.  There has been previous discussion of the Street Tree Permit process, street tree pruning and permitting standards, and updating the Street Tree Guide.  Roland noted that he would also like to see some discussion of options for the pruning and replacement of trees growing in areas with limited or constrained growth space (i.e. street trees in narrow parkrows).  He noted the three oaks along Hersey Street in front of the condominiums near Oak Street as an example.    (Commissioners also noted that it would be helpful if new commissioners received a current  Street Tree Guide at the time of appointment.)
  • Training in meeting conduct and land use.
Commissioners asked that staff provide an update on the Tree of the Year process at next month’s meeting. 
Battistella noted that there is an Oregon Heritage Tree process, and she noted that there is only one heritage tree in Southern Oregon, outside of Central Point.  There was brief discussion of whether it would be appropriate to nominate the Clay Street tree.  Battistella noted that she thought the Osage Orange at the corner of Helman and Orange Streets would be an appropriate nominee. 
The meeting was adjourned at 8:07 p.m.
Next Meeting:  September 3, 2015

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