Chair’s 3 Minutes: Bill aims to protect trees; removal may require permit

I have introduced a trio of bills that would enhance tree protection throughout the county by setting standards for tree installation, replacement and removal.

The centerpiece of this package of legislation can be called the Tree Protection Bill. This measure is an amendment to Chapter 12.24A of the Maui County Code, relating to landscape planting and beautification.

The Tree Protection Bill covers street trees, park trees, parking-lot trees and trees included in a landscaping plan approved by the Department of Planning. The measure does not impact removal of existing trees from private residential property.

A permit-application process would clarify the type and exact location of the candidate tree to be removed. Physical attributes of the tree, such as the size of the canopy, the diameter at breast height and a scale diagram with dimensions and photos, would also be requested in the application.

Most important, the current condition of the tree and reason for removal would be required.

This bill aims to minimize the removal and loss of trees within the county. Trees are an important social, cultural, economic and environmental resource.

Thanks to our trees, we have majestic scenic views boosting our visitor industry and providing a unique sense of place. Our trees serve as a filter for unwanted pollution, including noise.

Our trees have protected us during climate extremes and have played a significant role in energy conservation. It’s in our best interest to protect them when we can.

However, when trees pose an imminent threat to our safety, no removal permit would be required under the Tree Protection Bill.

Trees may physically interfere with utility services and may even cause damage to infrastructure. In that case, no permit would be required.

Other exceptions in the bill include diseased or injured trees that cannot adequately recover. The county arborist could also designate trees as hazardous and recommend their removal without a permit.

The Tree Protection Bill would request the arborist to annually provide a list of hazardous trees that have been removed.

If a tree needs to be removed, the Tree Protection Bill would require a replacement at the same location when feasible. This would ensure the future of trees in our environment.

Over the years, tree protection standards within the Maui County Planting Plan have not been strictly followed. This oftentimes resulted in heated debates between the arborist and property owners. As chairman of the Council’s Land Use Committee, I want to find a common ground between development and tree protection.

The Tree Protection Bill is the result of collaboration between the county, the Maui County Arborist Committee, the Maui Outdoor Circle and concerned residents. This bill has been referred to a standing committee, where I hope it will be heard later this summer.

We can all agree on the importance of protecting and preserving trees as part of our obligation to care for the land. I urge the community to review the Tree Protection Bill, voice any suggestions to strengthen it and play an active role in protecting our trees for future generations.

* Robert Carroll holds the County Council seat for the East Maui residency area. He’s vice chairman of the council and chairman of the Land Use Committee. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.