The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Clearlake City Hall, 14050 Olympic Drive. A closed session for a conference between the council and legal counsel will begin at 5:30 p.m.
The tree ordinance was introduced at the council's April 10 meeting. An outgrowth of goals set by the city's Vision Task Force, the ordinance would require permits to remove native oaks and offer special protections for specially designated “heritage trees.”
While the council forwarded it for a second reading with a 5-0 vote, both council members and city residents raised questions about how potentially intrusive – and expensive – it might end up being for city residents.
Community members Alice Reece and Jim Honegger both suggested the ordinance should only pertain to commercial developments and subdivisions. They also questioned where replacement trees – which the ordinance requires when removing a tree – would be planted if a lot wasn't big enough.
Honegger said the ordinance needed better explanations. He added that the ordinance wasn't supposed to hurt homeowners but was meant to stop the “slaughter” of oaks trees by developers, a process which he said is almost too late to stop with so many large areas of native oaks now gone.
Council member Joyce Overton questioned why the ordinance was covering the city's residential lots, which would be difficult to develop if trees couldn't sometimes be removed.
“It's almost like you're making it impossible for anybody to do anything on their property,” she said.
City Administrator Dale Neiman said situations would be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Planning consultant Melissa Floyd, who helped draft the ordinance, explained that disease trees or those in the footprint of a home could be removed without any issue.
One concern was how much it might cost to maintain trees that were replanted. Staff didn't have the specifics on that issue.
Said Floyd, “The whole idea underlying the tree protect regulations is really to encourage the maintenance of the oaks we do have existing, to ensure their health and longevity.”
It's also meant to close a loophole where people can simply start the process of killing a tree in order to justify removing it because it's diseased or dying, she explained.
In drafting the document Floyd, who is herself an arborist, said she drew on best practices adopted by the International Society of Arboriculture.
“I'm all for a tree ordinance to a point,” said Overton. However, she said she didn't believe the ordinance, in its current form, is feasible.
Neiman said staff could still fine tune the ordinance more and develop some more specific policies that would answer her concerns.
Vice Mayor Chuck Leonard said he felt the ordinance's $1,000 fine for taking down an oak tree without the proper permits wasn't a high enough amount. He said he could see people simply cutting down the trees to avoid the process. Neiman explained the fine amount was the highest allowed under state law.
The tree ordinance will be the first item the council considers under business items Thursday.
In other council business, a hearing on the merits of the city selling nearly two dozen lots to the city's redevelopment agency will continue. At the last meeting the item raised the issue of whether or not the city should continue redevelopment, and if it could in fact meet its housing element goals.
Other items include:
– Authorization for Neiman to execute a change order to add additional street rehabilitation work on Old Highway 53 and Lakeshore Drive.
– A policy for street maintenance work.
– Adoption of the 2006 Lake County Regional Bikeway Plan.
– Rejection of a claim submitted March 17 by the California State Automobile Association on behalf of Miguel Figueroa.
– Temporary street closure for Lakeshore Drive from Golf Street to Olympic Drive and Lakeshore Drive from Austin Road to Olympic Drive.
– Clearlake Business Watch.
E-mail Elizabeth Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org.