[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the City of Washington 6-27-1994 by Ord. No. 1478 (Ch. 25 of the 1986 Code of Ordinances). Amendments noted where applicable.]
Trees and/or shade trees are herein defined as trees, shrubs, bushes and all other wood vegetation on land lying within the property lines on either side of all streets, avenues or ways within the City.
There is hereby created and established a Shade Tree Commission for the City of Washington, Pennsylvania, which shall consist of five members who shall be residents of the City and who shall be appointed by the Mayor and Council.
The terms of the Commissioners to be appointed by the Mayor and Council shall be as follows: the terms of two of the members appointed to the first Commission shall be for three years, and the terms for two members of the first Commission shall be for four years, and the term of one of the members appointed to the first Commission shall be for five years.
Members of the Commission shall serve without compensation.
It shall be the responsibility of the Commission to study, investigate, counsel and develop and/or update annually and administer a written plan for the care, preservation, pruning, planting, replanting, maintenance, protection, removal or disposition of trees and shrubs in parks, along streets, and in other public areas. Such plan will be presented annually to City Council at Council's first stated meeting each October, and upon its acceptance and approval shall constitute the official comprehensive City Tree Plan for the City of Washington. At said meeting, the Commission shall also report in full to Council of its transactions and expenses for the last fiscal year of the City. The Commission shall also provide reports of its transactions and expenses periodically, at the request of City Council or of the Director of Accounts and Finance. Said plan may require the planting and replanting of shade trees, and the kind of trees and the alignment of locations of the trees shall be determined by the Commission and approved by Mayor and Council, but shall not prevent necessary or reasonable use of streets, sidewalks, abutting property or the conduct of business. The Commission may also make, publish and enforce regulations for the care and protection of the shade trees of the City. However, no such regulation shall be in force until it has been approved by City Council and until it has been published at least twice in not more than two newspapers of the City.
The Commission, when requested by the City Council, shall consider, investigate, make findings, report and recommend upon any special matter or question coming within the scope of its work.
The Commission shall choose its own officers, make its own rules and regulations, and keep a journal of its proceedings. A majority of the members shall be a quorum for the transaction of business.
The City Shade Tree Commission shall develop and maintain a list of desirable trees for planting along streets in three size classes based on mature height: small (under 20 feet), medium (20 to 40 feet) and large (over 40 feet). Lists of trees not suitable for planting shall also be created by the Commission, and said lists shall be submitted to the City Council and subject to the approval of City Council.
The spacing of shade trees will be in accordance with the three species size classes listed in § 282-7 of this chapter and shall be determined by regulation of the Commission, subject to the approval of City Council.
The distance trees may be planted from curbs or curblines and sidewalks will be in accordance with the three species size classes listed in § 282-7 of this chapter and shall be determined by regulations of the Commission, subject to the approval of City Council.
The distance that trees may be planted from street corners and fireplugs shall be determined by regulations of the Commission, subject to the approval of City Council.
The Commission shall adopt regulations with regard to the planting of trees under or near overhead utility wires or other structures or improvements, subject to the approval of City Council.
The City shall have the right to plant, prune, maintain and remove trees, plants and shrubs within the lines of all streets, alleys, avenues, lanes, squares and public grounds, as may be necessary to ensure public safety or to preserve or enhance the symmetry and beauty of such public grounds.
The City Commission may remove or cause or order to be removed any tree or part thereof which is in an unsafe condition or which by reason of its nature is injurious to sewers, electric power lines, gaslines, waterlines or other public improvements, or is affected with any injurious fungus, insect or other pest. This section does not prohibit the planting of shade trees by adjacent property owners, providing that the selection and location of said trees is in accordance with this chapter and with the regulations of the Commission.
It shall be unlawful as a normal practice for any person, firm or City department to top any shade tree, park tree or other tree on public property. Topping is defined as the severe cutting back of limbs to stubs larger than three inches in diameter within the tree's crown to such a degree so as to remove the normal canopy and disfigure the tree. Trees severely damaged by storms or other causes, or certain trees under utility wires or other obstructions, where other pruning practices are impractical, may be exempted from this chapter at the determination of the Commission.
Every owner of any tree overhanging any street or right-of-way within the City shall prune the branches so that such branches shall not obstruct the light from any street lamp or obstruct the view of any street intersection. Said owners shall remove all dead, diseased or dangerous trees, or broken or decayed limbs which constitute a menace to the safety of the public. In the event that the Commission determines that any person is in violation of this section, the Commission or an authorized member or agent of the Commission shall notify said person, in writing, of said violation and provide said person with written notice of what is needed to remedy the violation and setting forth a time limitation for said person to remedy the violation. Any person may appeal such decision by the Commission or its agent to City Council within 20 days from the date of said notice by filing a written appeal with City Council. Upon receipt of a timely appeal, Council may hear the matter and make a final decision. In the event that a person fails to make such a remedy, as set forth herein, the City shall have the right to prune any trees or shrubs on private property when it interferes with the proper spread of light along the street from a streetlight or interferes with visibility of any traffic control device or sign or sight triangle at intersections. Tree limbs that grow near high-voltage electrical conductors shall be maintained clear of such conductors by the electric utility company in compliance with any applicable franchise agreements. A utility tree trimming policy must be reviewed by the utility company and Commission prior to any trimming by the utility company.
The City shall have the right to cause the removal of any dead or diseased trees on private property within the City when such trees constitute a hazard to life and property, or harbor insects or disease which constitutes a potential threat to other trees within the City. The Commission shall notify in writing the owner of such trees. Removal shall be done by said owner at his own expense within 90 days after the date of service of notice by regular mail. In the event of failure of owners to comply with such provisions, the City shall have the authority to remove such trees and charge the cost of removal on the owners, as set forth herein.
It shall be unlawful for any person to prevent, delay or interfere with the Commission or any of its agents while engaging in and about the planting, cultivating, mulching, pruning, spraying or removing of any shade trees, park trees or trees on private grounds, as authorized in this chapter. Any person violating any part of this section shall be, upon conviction, subject to a fine not to exceed $100 for each offense.
[Amended 11-16-1995 by Ord. No. 1510]
It shall be unlawful for any person or firm to engage in the business or occupation of pruning, treating or removing shade trees within the City without first applying for and procuring a license from the City Clerk. The license fee shall be $25 annually, in advance; provided, however, that no license shall be required of any public service company, including electric utilities and their agents and contractors or City employees doing such work in the pursuit of their public service endeavors. Before any license shall be issued, each applicant shall first file evidence of possession of liability insurance in the minimum amounts of $200,000 for bodily injury per person and $100,000 property damage, indemnifying the City or any person injured or damaged resulting from the pursuit of such endeavors as herein described. Any person violating any part of this section shall be, upon conviction, subject to a fine not to exceed $100 for each offense.
Whenever the Shade Tree Commission proposes to plant, transplant or remove shade trees on any street or sidewalk, notice of the time and place of the meeting at which such work is to be considered shall be given in not more than two newspapers published in the City, once a week for two weeks immediately preceding the time of the meeting. The notice shall specify, in detail, the streets or sidewalks or portions thereof upon which trees are proposed to be so planted, replanted or removed.
The cost of furnishing, planting, transplanting or removing any shade trees in or along the streets of the City, of the necessary and suitable guards, curbing or grading for the protection thereof, and of the replacing of any pavement or sidewalk necessarily disturbed in the execution of such work shall be paid by the owner of the real estate in front of whose property the work is done, except that part of such cost may be certified by the Commission to Council and to the City Treasurer as a charge to be paid by the City, subject to the approval of City Council.
The amount each owner is to pay shall be ascertained and certified by the Commission to Council and to the City Treasurer.
Upon the filing of the certificate with the Council, the City Clerk shall cause 30 days' written notice to be given by mail to the person against whose property an assessment has been made. The notice shall state the amount of the assessment, and the time and place of payment, and shall be accompanied with a copy of the certificate. The expense of the notice shall be paid by the City.
The amount assessed against the real estate shall be a lien from the time of the filing of the certificate with the Council, and if not paid within the time designated in the notice, a claim may be filed and collected in the same manner as municipal claims are filed and collected.
The cost and expenses of caring for such trees caused to be planted by the Commission after they have been planted shall be paid by the City.
The needed amount shall each year be certified by the Commissioners to Council in time for inclusion in the proposed budget ordinance, and the funds provided by Council shall be drawn against, as required by the Commission, in the same manner as money appropriated for City purposes.
The City Council may levy a special tax, not to exceed the sum of 1/10 of one mill on the dollar on the assessed valuation of the property in said City, for the purpose of defraying the cost and expenses of caring for such shade trees and the administrative expenses connected therewith, or it may provide for such expense by appropriations.
The City Council shall have the right to review the conduct, acts and decisions of the Commission. Any person may appeal from any ruling or order of the Commission to the Council, who may hear the matter and make final decisions.
[Amended 3-13-1997 by Ord. No. 1545; 12-7-2006 by Ord. No. 1766]
Any individual, person, firm, corporation or other entity who shall violate any provision of this chapter shall, upon being held liable in any civil proceeding or upon conviction thereof, be sentenced to pay a penalty, fine or charge of no less than $100 nor more than the maximum amount permitted by law, but not to exceed $1,000, and in default of payment or any failure to pay any fine or penalty, upon a summary or other criminal conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a period not to exceed 30 days, or both.
Each day that a violation of this chapter shall continue shall constitute a separate offense, subject to the fines, costs, penalties and charges set forth above for each offense.
Nothing herein shall limit, prevent or preclude the City of Washington from taking any and all legal action or exercising any other remedy available to the City by law, including but not limited to the initiation of civil or criminal proceedings or injunctive relief, in order to enforce or ensure compliance with this chapter. As an additional remedy, the City of Washington may abate any nuisance, dangerous or hazardous condition by any means permitted by law, which shall include but not be limited to an action in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Pennsylvania, for injunctive relief; the use of any City of Washington personnel, equipment and materials or that of an authorized agent or contractor hired by the City to remove or abate any nuisance, dangerous or hazardous condition, and with all costs thereof or related thereto to be charged against the property owner(s) and/or person or entity who has violated the chapter or portion thereof; said costs shall include all actual costs and expenses, including all costs of collection and reasonable administrative costs of the City, incurred in enforcing the provisions of the chapter.