Monday, February 18, 2019

Voice Contestant Keith Paluso returns to Germantown Parks job; Proposed Tree ordinance Modified

Keith Paluso demonstrates use of app
Dean Massey picked up from some of my posts that I was interested in the new tree ordinance making its way through the commissions, and he suggested that I attend the February 12 Tree Board meeting. I previously discussed the proposed tree ordinance in these posts:    

Tree Ordinance Getting Axed?  

Constitutional Issues Delay Park Fee, Tree Ordinance and Cell Tower Ordinance Pass Planning Commission

I noticed on the Tree Board agenda that the tree ordinance "update" was included under "old business," so I attended the meeting.

It turns out that my main objection to the proposed tree ordinance was addressed-- that is, the maximum $200,000 fee per development that I was unsuccessful in convincing the Planning Commission to drop during its November 6 meeting. The inclusion of that maximum would have blatantly favored large developers over small ones, and provided no incentive for a large developer to preserve trees. Once a developer realized the maximum would be hit, why not just clear cut the entire property? The ordinance changed between the November 6 Planning Commission meeting and the January 22 Design Review Commission meeting. The ordinance that passed the Design Review Commission no longer had a set maximum. Instead, the Commission has the power to set a maximum, but a developer has to apply for it and submit a report from an arborist justifying it. This may not be the perfect solution, but it is much preferable to the mandated maximum, so I will stop beating my drum about this particular issue. Interestingly, there was no discussion about this alteration at the Design Review Commission meeting, simply a vote. This is an example of the City working behind the scenes in various committees, executive sessions, etc., and not discussing important changes in the commission meetings themselves. From the discussion at the Tree Board, I gathered that this particular item was hotly debated behind the scenes. 
I wish I could clue you in to the details of the negotiations, but I simply do not know. Thank goodness logical thinking prevailed. 

At the Tree Board, Alderman Massey, the alderman liaison for the Board, described himself as "preservation minded". He initiated discussion on whether the Tree Board should try to have more input in development projects. The ordinance establishing the Tree Board only specifies oversight over public land, but an informal committee will be formed to look at the issue. It is probably a good idea to have a Tree Board have some kind of input on private development projects. I got the distinct impression that it was members of the Tree Board who suggested the beneficial changes to the tree ordinance. The Tree Board was only involved in the tree ordinance because some of the funds from the fees for developers would be available for planting trees on public land, and this would come under the purview of the Tree Board.

The upcoming free giveaway of dogwood trees (as long as they last), and and the fruit tree sale was a topic of discussion at the meeting.

My favorite part of the meeting was when Keith Paluso, natural resources manager for the City, described how he wanted to return to his job after being a contestant on "The Voice" for most of the year. Abigail Warren describes his journey on "The Voice" in this Commercial Appeal article.

As a result of Mr. Paluso's presentation at the Tree Board, I immediately downloaded the free iNaturalist app when I returned home from the meeting. With the iNaturalist app, we can all contribute to a scientific database about flora and fauna in Germantown. Here is his presentation and explanation. MUST SEE! Great idea, great app, and great demonstration: 

In other news, native species of trees were purchased for Oaklawn gardens through grant funds that were made available. I also learned that there is another good use for your smart phones. At Oaklawn, when you scan a QR code with your smart phone, an artist will sing about the tree that you are viewing.  
Trees being purchased for Oaklawn Gardens

"If Trees Could Sing"

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