[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Town Commissioners of the Town of Bel Air 11-23-1992 by Ord. No. 526 (Appendix H of the 1980 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter is provided to educate citizens of the requirements for successful tree planting sites and to encourage individuals and groups to evaluate the need for trees in and around the Town of Bel Air. With the guidance of the Town Tree Committee, this chapter is intended to solicit the cooperation and assistance of the residents of the Town in the planting and maintenance of trees on public and private grounds. It is, therefore, the purpose of this chapter to promote and protect the beauty, public health, safety and general welfare of the Town by providing for the regulation of the planting, maintenance and removal of trees within the Town of Bel Air, Maryland.
For the purpose of this chapter the following terms, phrases, words, and their derivations shall have the meaning given herein. When not inconsistent with the context, words used in the present tense include the future, words in the plural include the singular, and words in the singular include the plural. The word "shall" is mandatory and not merely directory.
- Includes all public parks located in the Town of Bel Air, Maryland.
- PARK TREES
- Herein defined as trees in public parks having individual names, or to which the public has free access as a park, plus all facilities, parking lots, open spaces and other areas owned by the Town, county or state.
- Any individual, firm, partnership, association, corporation, company, or organization of any kind.
- PROPERTY LINE
- The outer edge of the right-of-way associated with any street, lane or highway.
- PUBLIC AREAS
- Includes all grounds owned by the Town of Bel Air, Harford County and/or the State of Maryland.
- PUBLIC TREES
- Include all trees now or hereafter growing within any street right-of-way or any public areas where otherwise indicated.
- The entire width of every public way or right-of-way when any part thereof is open to use by the public, as a matter of right, for purposes of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
- STREET TREES
- Trees on land lying between property lines on either side of all streets, avenues, lanes or ways within the Town.
- A. Any removal or planting of a tree;
- B. Any maintenance to trim, shape, or sever the stem, branches, or roots of a tree;
- C. Any treatment to protect a tree from insects or disease or to improve the growth of a tree with direct application of fertilizers; or
- D. Any other treatment that may affect the health or growth of a tree.
It shall be the responsibility of the Departments of Public Works and Planning and Community Development and the Town Tree Committee to implement, administrate, and execute the requirements of this chapter in a consistent manner with the Natural Resources Article, §§ 5-401 through 5-406 of the Annotated Code of Maryland and its accompanying regulations under Title 8, Subtitle 7, Chapter 2, Sections 1 to 10.
The Director of Planning and Community Development and the Director of Public Works may use appropriate Planning and Community Development or Public Works Department personnel or their designated agents in the implementation of this chapter.
To ensure compliance with Maryland Roadside Tree Regulations, Section .09, the Tree Committee will utilize the Maryland Forest, Park and Wildlife Service's Recommended Tree List, as revised, as the official list of permissible street tree species for the Town of Bel Air.
Street trees shall be spaced so that they are no closer than 20 feet to any other street tree, unless otherwise approved by the Town Tree Committee. The minimum distance trees may be planted from any curb or sidewalk is two feet in order to allow a minimum four-foot-wide growing space. Any proposed planting areas that do not meet the minimum four-foot-wide requirement may be utilized for the purpose of planting trees upon review and approval of proposed spacing and species selection by the Committee.
No trees shall be planted along streets that do not have curbing without prior approval and guidance of the Director of Public Works.
No street tree shall be planted closer than 35 feet to any street corner, measured from the point of nearest intersecting curbs or curblines. No street tree shall be planted closer than 20 feet to any fire hydrant or 10 feet to any streetlight.
No street trees shall be planted that may intrude upon or interfere with any overhead utility wire or any underground waterline, sewer line, transmission line or other utility.
The Town shall have the right to plant, prune, maintain and remove trees within the right-of-way of all streets and in parks and other public places as necessary to ensure public safety or to preserve or enhance the symmetry and beauty of such public grounds. The Town, upon recommendation by the Tree Committee, may remove or cause or order to be removed any tree or part thereof on public or private property which is in an unsafe condition or which by reason of its nature is injurious to sewers, electric power lines, gas lines, waterlines, or other public improvements or is infected with any injurious fungus, insect or other pest.
The Committee shall have the right to receive, from property owners, rights to plant and maintain trees on the private property of such property owners within 10 feet of the boundary of a public area. Such easements shall be in writing, executed and acknowledged by such property owners, and shall be recorded and registered. Such easements, when obtained, shall then thereafter be public areas insofar as the trees situated thereon are concerned and shall be replaced and maintained by the Town in the same manner as other trees in public areas. The Commission shall have no power to take or condemn any such easement. Such easements shall be, insofar as possible, uniform.
Authorized Town employees and/or public utility companies may be permitted to top street trees under public utility wires, when necessary. It shall be unlawful for any other person, firm or entity to top any street tree, park tree, or other tree located on public property without prior written approval of the Committee. As used in this section, "to top" or "topping" means the 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.
The Committee may grant written approval to allow topping in cases where a tree has been severely damaged by storms or other causes or when a tree creates a dangerous condition relating to utility wires or other obstructions. Prior to granting any such approval, the Committee shall obtain a recommendation from the Department of Natural Resources Regional Forester. In emergency situations, immediate authorization to top trees may be given by the Town's Director of Public Works.
No person or firm engaged in the business or occupation of pruning, treating or removing trees shall engage in the practice of tree topping within the Town except as provided for in Subsection B or in cases where a tree has been severely damaged by storms or other causes or when a tree creates a dangerous condition relating to utility wires or other obstructions.
The Town may have the right to cause the removal of any dead or diseased trees on private property within the Town when such trees constitute a hazard of life and property or harbor insects or disease which constitutes a potential threat to other trees within the Town. The Town will notify in writing the owners of such trees. Removal shall be done by said owners at their own expense within 60 days after the date of service of notice. In the event of failure of the owners to comply with such provisions, the Town may have the authority to remove such trees and charge the cost of removal to the property owner. Said cost may be a lien on the property upon which tree is located and may be collected in the same manner as the collection of delinquent taxes.
All stumps of street and park trees shall be removed below the surface of the ground so that the top of the stump shall not project above the surface of the ground unless the Committee authorizes an alternative method of removal.
The cost of planting and maintaining trees within public rights-of-way and/or acquired easements shall be financed by the Town of Bel Air.
No person or firm shall engage in the business or occupation of pruning, treating, or removing street or park trees within the Town without having a valid tree expert license issued by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as well as proof of liability and property damage insurance consistent with State of Maryland requirements. A license shall not be required of any public service company or Town employee performing such work, provided that the employee is supervised by a Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division Forester or a certified tree care expert on the Town's staff. However, all permits required by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Town shall be obtained prior to performing such work.
In the case of trees located in the public right-of-way, it shall be unlawful for any person to:
Prevent, delay, or interfere with the Tree Committee, Department of Public Works and/or Department of Planning and Community Development, or any of its agents, while engaging in and about the planting, replanting, cultivating, mulching, pruning, spraying or removing of any street tree, park tree or tree on private property, as authorized in this chapter.
Cut, break, climb with spikes, disturb the roots, or otherwise injure or destroy trees, or to authorize such actions.
Cause or authorize a privately owned wire or other conductor charged with electricity to come into contact with any tree in a manner that may injure or kill it.
Cause or authorize any oil, gasoline, herbicide, paint, brine, hot water, steam or other gas, liquid, or solid substances deleterious to the tree to contact any tree or to enter the soil about the base or root systems of a tree in any manner that may injure or kill it.
Supervise or authorize construction, alterations, repair or demolition activities in the vicinity of any tree without first placing sufficient guards or protectors as shall prevent injury or destruction of said tree arising out of such activities.
Place or maintain upon the ground any asphalt, cement, stone or other material or substances in such manner as may obstruct free access of air and water to the roots of any tree.
Fasten any rope, wire, electric attachment, sign or other devices to a tree or to any guard about such tree, with the exception of holiday or ornamental lighting.
Remove or tamper with any object or device set for the protection or treatment of any tree.
Pile any building material or make any mortar or cement within six feet of a tree.
Have a fire within 10 feet of a tree.
Hitch or fasten any animal or vehicle to any tree.
Any violation of this chapter is declared to be a municipal infraction. The penalty for violations shall be as provided in Chapter 1, Article II of this Code.
Any applicant seeking Committee approval under §§ 435-5, 435-10 and 435-12 may appeal an unfavorable decision of the Committee to the Board of Town Commissioners within 10 working days after receipt of the Committee's decision. After its review, the Board of Town Commissioners may affirm, reverse or modify the Committee's decision by resolution within a sixty-day period from the date of the appeal. The decision of the Board of Town Commissioners shall be final.