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Mayor Greg Fischer backing away from tree protection as heat island increases 

The Mayor’s Tree Advisory Commission met on August 27th at the University of Louisville Club Board Room at the Uof L campus. The Commission, chaired on that day by civic activist, Henry Heuser, heard reports from its project committees that are locating tree planting spots mostly Downtown. Some 2000 new trees are being planted on public property locations. One new installation in front of the Old Jail building at 6th and Liberty also installed a pervious paving material instead of cast iron grills in the tree well. Trees have been donated by sponsors such as Ecotech and UPS, because the Commission has essentially no funding. The Commission is focusing on planting 10,000 new trees by 2015.

Elsewhere, across town, the Middletown City Commissioners are planning to repeal their Tree Protection Ordinance enacted in 2010. The ordinance codified as Chapter 95 of the Middletown City Ordinances is to be eliminated. When I asked the Metro Mayor’s tree commission members about whether they could send a letter to Middletown advocating retaining the Middletown tree protection ordinance, the answer was ‘no.’

In Middletown, the developers and land owners have raised hell with the local government for restricting their ability to cut mature trees on private land. At first Middletown attempted to attach an “agricultural use” exemption to the tree protection ordinance, but now the plan is to eliminate the tree protection law altogether.

An emerging practice is to locate a green parcel for development and before submitting a development plan get the land owner to cut down the trees under a logging or agricultural use exemption to the development code. After the canopy is felled, the developer submits his development plan to P&Z and a ‘tree preservation plan’ is agreed to based on the few remaining trees.

This subterfuge is ignored, and the tree preservation provisions in Louisville’s Metro Code allow for 80% removal of the canopy anyway. The chance of Louisville passing a new version of the Code adding more protection for existing tree canopies seems remote.

In April this year, Mayor Greg Fischer, while touting the creation of his Office of Sustainability, also put the brakes on drafting and enacting a city-wide tree protection ordinance. In a letter to the Commission he said,

”I share your interest in updating our Metro ordinances and policies to protect and enhance our tree canopy.

However, I believe we also share the concern that it is premature to pursue a Tree Protection Ordinance until

we have an adequate inventory of our trees. A legislative or regulatory framework may also need to be explored depending on the outcome of the tree canopy analysis.”

Hardly a green light for aggressive tree protection. As residential and commercial development is heating up again, inflating a new real estate bubble, the Mayor has put tree canopy protection in a stall. The Tree Advisory Commission got the message and new ordinance provisions to protect more of the existing tree canopy on private land has been tabled and is not expected to emerge from the Commission for two years.

The Mayor’s loud noise about sustainability and planting new saplings in Downtown tree wells is a cover-up for courting political favor from elite developers. Remaining  mature canopy on private land will have little protection over the next two years while the slow committee process  slumbers through a tree inventory project, and an ‘urban forester’ is hired. In the interim, Louisville could lose major acreage of existing forest cover, which seems to be the intent. No one anywhere in government is asking for a moratorium on cutting mature trees.

(Writer is the attorney for a party challenging the Middletown City Commission repeal plan.)

Louisville’s Heat Island

“The average increase in the temperature difference between urban and rural environments in the Louisville area has been 1.67 degrees Fahrenheit every decade between 1961 and 2010," explains Goodyear. "That’s nearly double the rate of the next city on the list, Phoenix, which saw an average change of .96 degrees in the same period."

In addition to "the unfortunate meteorological conditions" of the Ohio River Valley, "another likely contributing factor is the lack of tree cover in Louisville," she notes.



Jonathan Nettler

Riverside Parking lot on Market Street coated with black coal tar driveway sealant

paved parking lots at Metro Air Pollution Control lack stormwater controls and shade                  Below:    Barrett Avenue Government Center bakes in the sun

Above: Tree well on Broadway at Lutheran Church                                                             Above:    At Second and Muhammad Ali

Above: Dead saplings in new tree wells on Market Street                                                             Above:    New saplings with pervious pavement  at Old Jail bldg.

Above: Dead and dying trees on Market Street                                                             Below:    Extensive dead branches on Market Street

Above: Forest removal in 2013 at Meridian on Shelbyville in Middletown                          Below:    Forest removal in 2013 at the East End Bridge route

Above: Before forest removal at River Road and Harrods Creek                      Below:    After forest removal in 2013 at the same location

See more top stories HERE

The Louisville Mayor’s strategic plan ignores the loss of forest cover in the building boom now underway. The Strategic plan won’t have a tree canopy survey or tree protection ordinance until 2015.

No moratorium on cutting mature trees

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