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Your September Useful Community Plus
September 15, 2022

This month: Taking care of trees in your city, good reading

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September, 2022

If your city doesn't choose wisely, and doesn't maintain its street trees, this could be the result. One of our editors woke up to the street tree in front of her house completely blocking the neighbor's driveway. This was the third time this tree had dropped a branch of comparable size, but the city still refuses to take down the tree, saying they have similar problems all over the city. It's a cautionary tale.

Did you know that more than 3,500 cities in the U.S. have been recognized with the Tree City USA designation? There are similar recognition programs in other nations too. We'll talk about the one most familiar to us.

Tree City USA means that a city has a tree board or department, celebrates Arbor Day with a proclamation and more, and spends at least $2 per resident on its urban forestry. Some towns use the designation as a catalyst for new initiatives or for doing more; others see it as a savvy marketing move to prove how clever they are.

Regardless of the motivation, and whether or not you want or need a recognition, it's worth paying attention to your city's trees. They improve the aesthetics of almost every neighborhood, since buildings inherently are angular and static, and trees by their nature are organic and ever-changing. They also provide shade, color, movement, air pollution absorption, stormwater diversion, reduced need for air conditioning, improved property values, and a bit of noise abatement. Well-maintained street trees give off an almost subliminal message that the town cares.

But if you don't manage your street trees correctly, you can cause all kinds of havoc, ranging from interference with utility lines, to trees of an inappropriate species dropping large limbs, to all your trees dying at the same time if you didn't make good planting selections. To read more about why you should care about your city's trees, both on public and private land, as well as how to make good choices, see our expert interview on tree canopy.

You may want to consider street trees as part of a streetscape package too.

If you need to encourage your city to be recognized by Tree City USA, or if you are curious about that program for any reason, see the Tree City USA entry web page.

This article on conditional uses begins with a paragraph or two specific to the state of Washington, but quickly moves to solid advice for every city considering whether its conditional use mechanism under the zoning ordinance has gotten out of hand.

A community toolkit produced for the Neighborhood Leadership Academy at the University of Missouri-St. Louis offers excellent resources for neighborhood-level leaders.

Landlords may shield themselves from neighborhood scrutiny, public view, and even tenant awareness through their creation of a legal form of organization known as an LLC. This Shelterforce article addresses a problem that one of our website visitors referred to in a question to us this last month.

The title of this article, Land Grab: Why a Desperate City Kept Cutting Deals with a Developer Who Didn't Deliver, says it all. If you are in or near a desperate city, this saga about Baltimore will be helpful.

Remember that our page of seasonal newsletter ideas gives some ideas for your fall newsletters, email blasts, social media, or texts.

Here's an interesting account of a new development, the Orbit, in a commuter city north of Toronto, based on adding a commuter rail stop and making it walkable for new residents.

Questions and answers kept us very busy so far this month. We've answered questions about:

Town codes not being enforced

Process to rezone property industrial, or actually probably pretty much any other zoning district too

Does a foreclosure void a deed?

Junk yard in the city limits

Can a code enforcement officer take furniture and other items from the backyard?, which is an interesting read to say the least.

Attracting a grocery store to a rural small town

What is a water trail? and why is it relevant to planning?

As always, to ask your own, or to encourage a community member to do so, go to the question and answer page and scroll down to the form.

Feel free to reply with comments. To ask a question, use that public-facing community development questions page on the website. We'll be back soon on a Thursday in October.

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