New Prairie Village ordinance gives more protections to city’s aging trees

Prairie Village's new tree ordinance is intended to protect its 60-year canopy — and, if any trees are removed, to replenish its tree inventory. File photo.

The Prairie Village City Council Monday evening approved an ordinance that will give further protections to most of the city’s trees.

Why it matters: Prairie Village hopes to maintain mature trees — those at least 60 years old — with the newly adopted ordinance, for aesthetic, economic and environmental purposes.

City staff has been working on the ordinance since August 2020, when the city’s tree board first requested the council consider action “to provide greater” tree protection, according to city documents.

The details: The ordinance classifies trees to be protected in four categories, based primarily on their location on residential streets in on private lots.

Those classifications include right-of-way or street trees, frontage trees, lot trees and buildable area trees.

Tree removal is not completely prohibited by the ordinance, but it does put more barriers in place.

If the tree is dead, diseased, dying, or needs to be removed for construction or safety purposes, it can be taken out and replaced.

Under the ordinance, a tree may be removed for construction purposes if the following criteria are met:

  • All reasonable efforts have been made to avoid tree removal, including asking the city architect if the development’s design could be adjusted to keep the tree.
  • The tree creates a financial burden on the applicant.
  • No other reasonable accommodations to preserve the tree can be made.

Trees that are removed must be replaced, which accomplishes the tree board’s long-term goal to replenish the city’s tree inventory.

Those who violate the ordinance by removing a tree without permission could receive a $500 fine per tree.

What’s next: The newly adopted tree ordinance, which passed in an 11 to 1 vote, will go into effect on June 1, 2021.

Additionally, the city council could potentially see city staff propose to hire its current part-time arborist for a full-time position.