The Hailey City Council in a unanimous vote early Thursday enacted an emergency ordinance prohibiting the cutting of large trees within the city for a 182-day period.
The temporary ordinance is largely a response to the removal of five mature spruce trees between Walnut and Pine streets on Main Street last weekend by a private landowner.
That action drew a quick and strongly worded rebuke from many in the Hailey community who witnessed the tree cutting, including residents and city officials. Although it was legal, many objected to the loss of the large and attractive trees, which were located at a highly visible site along Main Street.
At a regularly scheduled meeting Monday, the City Council discussed placing a moratorium on tree cutting in the city, but decided to hold off until the city's attorney Ned Williamson was able to properly review the matter.
On Thursday, Williamson said he felt confident with the ordinance's legality. "I think it's good to go," he said. "I'm comfortable with it."
Except for several exceptions, the emergency ordinance enacted Thursday prohibits the cutting of live trees with a 15-inch diameter or greater as measured at the base of the tree. The exceptions to the ordinance are:
· A tree recommended for removal by a certified arborist due to its being a hazard or because its removal would substantially improve the health of other trees may be removed.
· A tree located within the buildable area of a lot and not within any required setback in a residential district may also be removed. Those areas include the Limited Residential, General Residential and Transitional zoning districts.
Violating the emergency ordinance will be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than $300, six months imprisonment in the county jail or both.
Under the temporary 182-day ordinance—which was set to take effect Thursday afternoon—the Hailey planning department will study and make recommendations for a regular tree ordinance that would permanently regulate the cutting of large trees within the city. At some point during the 182-day period the planning department will make recommendations to the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission for their consideration.
In the event that the P&Z and Hailey City Council approve such a new tree ordinance, the temporary emergency ordinance prohibiting tree cutting would end.