Get a Permit Before Planting a “Street Tree” in Columbus

tree_lined_columbusAlthough winter is still hanging around, ’tis the season for graph paper, gardening manuals and many plans and plots for improving curb appeal, in hopes that spring will soon be here!

Are you planning a project which includes planting or removing trees to improve your home’s curb appeal, or is your neighborhood is one of the many in Columbus affected by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle? Several of our communities have lost their tree-lined streets to the state and city’s efforts to combat that pesky bug; and homeowners there are planning to remove diseased trees, or to plant one or more of those shade-giving beauties to fill in those gaps left by the city tree removal crews. Many folks are unaware of the city’s regulations about tree planting and removal when they begin their plans. A few minutes on city websites can save you from fines and the loss of your just-planted tree to city removal: Plus they can give you great tips on the proper planting and pruning for best results for the city AND your tree!

Most homeowners are aware of easements and right-of-ways around their homes. We see them on the maps of our property, and are reminded of them when a utility repair is done in our backyards, or when we erect a fence. Did you know the grassy strip between the curb and the sidewalk is also a right-of-way? It belongs to the city, but as a homeowner you are required to maintain it. This becomes especially important when considering planting trees. If you’re planning a tree well inside your property line and away from the sidewalk, you’re good to go. However, Columbus regulations are clear that to cut down or plant a tree on the grass berm between the sidewalk and the street, otherwise known as a “street tree” without a permit is against the regulations. You can be fined the cost of replacing an illegally removed tree, and the city can remove your new tree at your cost if it was planted without a permit. The rules are clear and easy to follow, and applying for a permit online is simple. Well worth doing in order to be able to enjoy lovely trees for decades to come!

If you want to remove an old, damaged, or infested tree that’s already in the right-of-way, you need to apply for a removal permit on the Urban Forestry website, and the city will often remove it at no cost to you. You may have to have the stump removed at your cost, if that is important to your landscaping plans.

Citizens are welcomed and encouraged to plant their own street trees, but within Columbus regulations and guidelines. To apply for a tree planting permit, the page on the Urban Forestry website has the online application. Planting according to city instructions means that your tree will have enough room to grow for many years before affecting a sidewalk or curb; and avoiding prohibited trees can reduce the chances that your tree may drop branches or fall on cars and pedestrians. Because of that risk, homeowners who plan to plant other trees inside the property line may want to avoid the prohibited trees on their own land…no sense planting a tree that has a significant risk of damaging your home or vehicle!

For questions, concerns, or to learn more about planting or removing a street tree in Columbus, please call the Urban Forestry office at 645-6640.