Zoning Watch: Street Tree Killed to Make Room for Parking Spot

by / May. 17, 2017 12am EST
“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.”
—Joyce Kilmer, 1913
This is why decisions of the Zoning Board of Appeals matter. At its April 19 meeting, the ZBA approved the construction of a front yard parking pad at 470 West Delavan Avenue. During the public hearing, the ZBA never once brought up the street tree in front of the house. The Kentucky coffee tree—owned by you and me, Joe and Jane Taxpayer—is now gone. It will soon presumably be replaced with a driveway for a parking spot.
Pictured above shortly after the April 19 hearing, the Kentucky coffee tree was healthy and mature. It was 21 inches diameter at breast height (the tree diameter measured at 4.5 feet above the ground). It was a beautiful tree.
Few amenities offer more public benefits than mature, healthy street trees. They absorb rainwater, clean the air, reduce traffic speeds and noise, and increase property values. They even have been proven to improve the emotional and psychological health of residents.
When the Zoning Board of Appeals hears a case for an area variance, the Board is required to undertake a balancing test—in making its decision, it must balance the benefit to the applicant against the detriment to the health, safety, and welfare of the community.
The street tree was clearly delineated in the site diagrams submitted with the application, though it was never once mentioned by the applicant or discussed by the Board during the hearing. It would be fair to say, since not all relevant information was discussed, that the Board did not adequately apply the balancing test. The ZBA made a bad decision, the consequence of which is the destruction of a street tree that took a generation to grow.