City of Lowell, MA
Middlesex County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Lowell 9-9-2003 (§ 17-118 of the 1988 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
A. 
Intent. Shade trees contribute to the character and heritage of the City of Lowell's (hereinafter called the "City") neighborhoods. It shall be a priority of the City to preserve and protect shade trees. The protection of trees throughout the City is vital to the quality of life of its residents. This chapter provides standards for the preservation and protection of shade trees to make the City a more attractive place to live.
B. 
Goals:
(1) 
To maintain and increase the canopy cover of the City and improve the urban forest's diversity to ensure its sustainability for future generations.
(2) 
Annual recertification as a recognized Tree City USA.
Trees provide the following benefits to the City and its residents. Trees:
A. 
Protect and enhance the visual quality of the City and the quality of life of the City's residents.
B. 
Protect and increase property values.
C. 
Reduce stormwater runoff and the costs associated therewith.
D. 
Reduce energy consumption through the wind break and shade effects of trees when they are properly placed.
E. 
Reduce noise within the City through the baffle and barrier effect of trees on the spread of noise.
F. 
Reduce topsoil erosion through the soil retention effect of tree roots.
G. 
Purify water and replenish groundwater supplies.
H. 
Provide wildlife habitat (i.e., nesting areas for birds and other wildlife) which in turn assists control of insects.
I. 
Enhance and preserve the air quality by providing beneficial oxygen while reducing the levels of harmful carbon dioxide.
A "protected shade tree" is any tree which is within a public way, in a public park or on other public property, as well as any public shade trees as defined by MGL c. 87. Protected shade trees shall also include those planted with public funds in public ways or upon adjoining land at a distance not exceeding 20 feet from a public way, provided that such trees have been planted in accordance with MGL c. 87, § 7.
A. 
Protected shade trees shall not be cut, trimmed or removed, in whole or in part, by any person other than the Tree Warden or his deputy, even if said person is the owner of the fee in the land on which such tree is situated, except upon a permit in writing from said Tree Warden, nor shall said tree be cut down or removed by the Tree Warden or his deputy or other person without a public hearing in accordance with MGL c. 87, § 3 and as specified herein, except that, in accordance with MGL c. 87 and c. 132, the Tree Warden or his deputy shall have the right to cut, trim and remove said trees within the public right-of-way where necessary to ensure public safety.
B. 
In addition, except as provided in a tree work permit or tree removal permit, construction activities under the drip line of protected shade trees are prohibited. These activities include but are not limited to trenching or grading, storage of materials or equipment, passage of heavy equipment within the drip line and spillage of chemicals or other materials which are damaging to the trees.
A. 
Qualifications. The Commissioner of Public Works or his designee, as approved by the City Manager, shall perform the functions of Tree Warden for the City of Lowell. The Tree Warden shall be qualified for the position by demonstrated training and experience in the field of arboriculture. The Tree Warden should be a Massachusetts-certified arborist or certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and possess a Massachusetts pesticide license. The Tree Warden shall report to the Commissioner of Public Works and/or Commissioner of Parks and Recreation.
[Amended 12-23-2008; 11-19-2013]
B. 
Responsibilities.
(1) 
General. The Tree Warden, in accordance with MGL c. 87, is hereby given authority, control, and supervision of all protected shade trees which now or which may hereafter exist upon any public property, street or highway belonging to the City of Lowell, except those within a state highway and those in public parks or open places under the jurisdiction of the Board of Parks, and shall have authority, control and supervision of the latter if so requested in writing by the Board of Parks. The Tree Warden shall further have authority, control and supervision over all protected shade trees which exist upon any private property in the City of Lowell.
(2) 
Urban Forestry Plan.
[Amended 11-19-2013]
(a) 
The Tree Warden, with input from the Conservation Commission and all other applicable City departments, shall be responsible for the creation every five years of an Urban Forestry Plan. The Urban Forestry Plan shall serve to establish a long-term and comprehensive framework for the development of the City of Lowell's urban forests and public trees so as to effectuate the intent and goals of this chapter. The first Urban Forestry Plan to be completed within the first year after adoption of the chapter.
(b) 
Upon completion, the Tree Warden shall present the Urban Forestry Plan to the Conservation Commission for review. The Conservation Commission, after review, shall submit the Urban Forestry Plan to the City Council, which shall be active upon acceptance.
(3) 
Oversight of tree work contracts. The Tree Warden shall oversee the execution of any and all City contracts which concern the application of pesticides or fertilizers to protected shade trees or the cutting, trimming, pruning or removal of protected shade trees. The Tree Warden shall further be responsible to monitor performance under any and all such contracts.
(4) 
Public safety.
(a) 
The Tree Warden shall be responsible for the periodic inspection of public shade trees to ensure they are free from disease or other conditions that may endanger tree health or are a clear and immediate safety hazard to the public. However, in no event shall the provisions of this chapter operate to create or increase the City's responsibility or liability with respect to public safety. The provisions of this chapter shall not operate to increase the City's liability as determined by Massachusetts General Laws, including but not limited to MGL c. 84.
(b) 
The Tree Warden shall conduct an annual hazard tree survey in early spring, to evaluate winter tree damage.
(c) 
The Tree Warden shall make every effort to maintain shade trees in accordance with the ANSI Z-133 Standards, or most current edition.
(5) 
Issuance/oversight of all tree work and tree removal permits. The Tree Warden shall be responsible for the issuance and oversight of all tree work and tree removal permits as herein described. In particular, the Tree Warden shall oversee permit holder compliance with the particular provisions of each such permit as well as compliance with any/all rules and/or regulations as may be promulgated and adopted by the Tree Board.
(6) 
Recommendations to relevant boards. The Tree Warden shall provide recommendations to the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission regarding the adoption, if needed, of rules and regulations promoting the preservation and conservation of public shade trees in City subdivision and development projects in accordance with the recommendations set forth in the Urban Forestry Plan.
[Amended 12-23-2008; 11-19-2013]
(7) 
Recordkeeping. The Tree Warden shall keep complete, accurate, and up-to-date records on the condition of, and work completed on, all public shade trees. The Tree Warden shall provide every year to the Conservation Commission a report on the City's care and maintenance of public trees. The yearly report shall include information on the number of public shade trees cut, the number of public trees planted, and the amount of funds expended in the care and maintenance of public shade trees.
[Amended 11-19-2013]
(8) 
Training. The Tree Warden shall be responsible for the training of all City employees involved with tree pruning, tree removal or tree planting.
(9) 
Enforcement. In accordance with MGL c. 87, the Tree Warden shall be authorized to enforce any and all ordinances, laws, rules, regulations, and orders concerning the trimming, spraying, removal, planting, pruning, or any other alteration of protected shade trees within the City. In particular, the Tree Warden may suspend or revoke a tree work or tree removal permit at any time upon written notice to the permit holder if the permit holder has failed to comply with this chapter or any conditions imposed upon such permit. The written notice shall be sent via certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, or by hand delivery and shall provide reasonable opportunity for the permit holder to correct the noncompliance and to apply for a renewal of the tree work or tree removal permit where practicable. The suspension or revocation of a tree work or tree removal permit in accordance with this section shall not affect the validity of a building permit issued in reliance on such permit nor shall such suspension or revocation be cause for withholding the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.
A. 
Creation of Board; duties and responsibilities. This chapter hereby grants the Conservation Commission all the authority and duties entitled as Tree Board for the City of Lowell. In addition to its original duties, the Conservation Commission shall also be responsible for:
[Amended 11-19-2013]
(1) 
Hearing appeals of the Tree Warden's decisions or official actions if warranted.
(2) 
Promulgation and adoption, subject to the approval of the City Council, of such rules and regulations as may be necessary to effectuate the intent of this chapter.
(3) 
Review and provide input to the Tree Warden on the care and maintenance of the City's public shade trees.
(4) 
Hold public hearings pertaining to the removal and replanting of public shade trees pursuant to § 260-4 and § 260-8 of this chapter.
B. 
Members. The Tree Board shall wholly consist of the members of the Conservation Commission as appointed by the City Manager.
[Amended 11-19-2013]
C. 
Term of office.
(1) 
Nothing in this chapter shall constitute entitlement to a member of the Conservation Commission to an extension or reduction of his or her term of service. The term of each member of the Conservation Commission shall remain governed by all applicable provisions of the Lowell Code of Ordinances effectuating appointment, terms of service, and successor appointments in the event of vacancy of the members of the Conservation Commission.
[Amended 11-19-2013]
(2) 
In the event that a vacancy shall occur during the term of any member, his/her successor shall be appointed for the unexpired portion of the term.
D. 
Compensation. Members of the Board shall serve without compensation.
A. 
Permit required. A valid tree work permit shall be obtained from the Tree Warden by any individual or entity, including by not limited to City departments or private contractors doing work on behalf of the City, prior to cutting, trimming and/or pruning of any protected shade tree. Any such permit issued shall be conditioned upon compliance with any and all rules and regulations as may hereafter be adopted by the Tree Board. Upon the issuance of any tree work permit, the Tree Warden may prescribe in writing such protective measures for other existing trees as he/she deems necessary.
B. 
Permit application; fees.
(1) 
An application for tree work permit shall be submitted to the Tree Warden in such form as may be specified by the Tree Warden.
[Amended 11-19-2013]
(2) 
Except in the case of an application submitted by a City department or City-hired contractor, each application shall be accompanied by a fee as provided in Chapter 150, Fees.
[Amended 12-23-2008]
(3) 
All applications for tree work permits shall include a detailed description of the work to be done and shall specify the subject tree and particular location.
(4) 
Prior to the issuance of a tree work permit, the Tree Warden may, in his/her discretion, require proof of adequate insurance coverage in the form of a certificate of insurance.
(5) 
The Tree Warden shall review applications for tree work permits in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, in addition to any rules and regulations as may be adopted by the Tree Board.
(6) 
The Tree Warden shall date stamp or otherwise record the date of filing of each completed application for a tree work permit. The Tree Warden shall complete the review of each tree work permit application no later than 10 business days after the submission of a completed application to the Tree Warden as to whether said tree work permit has been granted or denied.
(7) 
The Tree Warden shall also report to the Building Commissioner within 10 business days of a request with respect to any tree work permit application submitted in connection with a building permit.
A. 
Permit required. A valid tree removal permit shall be obtained from the Tree Warden by any individual or entity, including but not limited to City departments or private contractors doing work on behalf of the City, prior to the removal of any protected shade tree. Any such permit issued shall be conditioned upon compliance with any and all rules and regulations as may hereafter be adopted by the Tree Board. Upon the issuance of any tree removal permit, the Tree Warden may prescribe in writing such protective measures for other existing trees as he/she deems necessary.
B. 
Tree removal permit generally. The removal permits shall be issued only after a public hearing before the Tree Board. Written notice shall be provided to all residents whose property directly abuts the public shade tree. Due consideration by the Tree Board shall be made regarding the benefits of public shade trees and the City's expressed intent to preserve the scenic and aesthetic qualities of that area or neighborhood, protect natural resources and environment systems, promote public safety and promote the preservation of neighborhoods. Tree removal permits shall be issued only where:
[Amended 11-19-2013]
(1) 
The tree is interfering with existing structures, utilities, streets, sidewalks or other existing improvements and the relocation of the tree is not feasible as certified to the Tree Warden by a certified arborist;
(2) 
The tree is dead, diseased, injured, in danger of falling, dangerously close to existing structures, is causing disruption of public utility service, is causing drainage or passage problems upon rights-of way, or poses a threat to pedestrian or vehicular safety;
(3) 
The removal of the tree is necessary and desirable in order to enhance or benefit the health or condition of other trees on the same site as certified to the Tree Warden by a certified arborist; or
(4) 
Removal of the tree is necessary to alleviate a substantial hardship to the general public or private property owner.
C. 
Permit application; fees. An application for tree removal permit shall be submitted to the Tree Warden in such form as may be specified by the Tree Warden and shall comply with all terms and conditions set forth in § 260-7B above, including Subsection B(1) through (7) thereof.
D. 
Mitigation.
(1) 
As a condition to the removal of any public tree, a City department, private contractor, utility or individual shall replace the removed tree with new trees on the basis of the number of public trees removed.
[Amended 11-19-2013]
(2) 
The City shall replace public shade trees cut down on a one-to-one basis, with the replacement tree to be 2 1/2 inches to 3 1/2 inches caliper. In the event that the public tree to be removed has a caliper of 24 inches or more, the City shall replace the tree on a one-to-two ratio, with the two replacement trees to be 2 1/2 inches to 3 1/2 inches caliper. Off-site plantings and replantings shall be made in accordance with the written polices as set by the Tree Warden and/or the rules established by the Conservation Commission pursuant to § 260-6A(2) of this chapter. Furthermore, replacement trees shall be located in accordance with a replication policy as established by the City Manager.
[Amended 11-19-2013]
(a) 
A replacement public shade tree shall be planted within one year of the removal of the original public shade tree.
(3) 
The Tree Warden shall have the discretion to take into account the condition of the tree(s) when determining the appropriate replacement plan.
(4) 
Payment in lieu. In lieu of planting a replacement tree, a person who has been granted a tree removal permit with the approval of the Tree Warden may make a contribution to the tree replacement fund in an amount determined by the Tree Warden which would adequately cover the costs of replacement pursuant to this chapter.
No permit issued pursuant to this chapter shall take effect until a final decision by the Tree Board has been made with respect to any appeal brought thereto and in no event until at least five days from the date of its issuance by the Tree Warden.
If any person is dissatisfied with a decision or other official action of the Tree Warden adversely affecting such person involving the application of this chapter, such person may file an appeal of the Tree Warden's decision or other official action with the Tree Board. Said appeal must be in writing and must be received by the Tree Board within five business days of the issuance of the Tree Warden's decision. The Tree Board shall hear and make a final decision on all appeals within 30 days from the date of receipt of any such appeal. The Tree Board shall file a written decision with the City Clerk and mail such written decision to all interested parties. The decision of the Tree Board shall be final and there shall be no further appeal of a matter decided by the Tree Board. No tree shall be removed while an appeal is pending.
[Amended 11-19-2013]
There shall be established a tree replacement revolving fund in accordance with MGL c. 44, § 53E 1/2, which shall be held in a separate identifiable account and administered in accordance with applicable provisions of the General Laws. All sums deposited into such fund shall be used solely for the purpose of buying, planting and maintaining trees in the City and shall be administered by the City Manager in accordance with the provisions of the revolving fund.
A. 
Tree species to be planted. The current official tree planting list for Lowell is available at the City Clerk's office. No species other than those included in the list may be planted within five feet from the edge of the sidewalk or 10 feet from the edge of the street where there is no sidewalk without written permission of the Tree Warden.
B. 
Distance from street corners and fire hydrants. No trees shall be planted closer than 20 feet to any corner, measured from the point of the nearest intersecting curbs or curblines. No street tree shall be planted closer than 10 feet to any fire hydrant.
C. 
Planting near utilities. No street trees other than those species listed as small trees in the street tree planting list may be planted under or within 10 lateral feet of any overhead utility wire, or over or within five lateral feet of any underground waterline, sewer line, transmission line or other utility.
D. 
Planting of trees by property owners within the public right-of-way. Any property owner may petition the Tree Warden for permission to plant a tree within a right-of-way. Any planting of trees within the right-of-way shall be consistent with the policies established herein. It is understood that some rights-of-way are unsuitable for the planting of trees and that some species of trees are not suitable for public rights-of-way.
A. 
Any person who violates any provision of this chapter or who fails to comply with notices issued pursuant to provisions of this chapter shall be subject to fines of up to $300 for each separate offense as provided in a schedule to be adopted by the Tree Board and as approved by the City Council. Any builder, contractor, or agent who intentionally assisted in the commission of any such violation shall be liable for each separate violation. All such violations which are of a continuing nature shall constitute a separate offense for each day of such continuance, and each tree removed shall constitute a separate offense. Any tree removed in violation of this chapter shall also be replaced by the violator on an inch-for-inch basis.
B. 
Said violations may be penalized by a noncriminal disposition as provided for under § 1-6 of this Code and MGL c. 40, § 21D, as amended. Pursuant to such disposition, the Tree Warden shall issue a notice to appear in court. The penalty shall be a fine of up to $300 for each separate offense as provided in a schedule to be adopted by the Tree Board and as approved by the City Council.
C. 
Fines collected pursuant to this chapter shall be deposited into and administered in accordance with the tree replacement revolving fund according to the provisions thereof.