Knoxville’s Tree Mitigation Bank Promotes a Greener City
In December 2020, the city of Knoxville took an important step forward to protect its trees and promote green development by passing an ordinance to establish a tree mitigation bank. This program is a creative, alternative means to help developers meet the requirements of planting and maintaining trees and landscaping as specified in the city code. It’s designed to assure that, without exception, every property development will do its part to green up the surrounding neighborhood.
Addressing Issues with the Tree Protection Ordinance
Knoxville’s existing Tree Protection Ordinance requires developers to plant or preserve at least six to eight trees per acre when building. However, sometimes this isn’t possible or practical, as in the case of downtown high-rises, or mixed-use development that spreads across city blocks. In other cases, the terrain may not support healthy tree growth.
When these situations arise and developers are not able to meet tree requirements, Knoxville’s Tree Bank allows them to seek an exemption to pay the equivalent funds for such activities into a city fund. These resources are then used by the city’s urban forester to plant trees elsewhere on public property. The forester determines the type of trees to be planted, and the participant pays a one-time, flat cost for the planting and maintenance. The forester endeavors to ensure that trees planted through this program are located in the vicinity or watershed of the development with which they are associated.
As Knoxville Urban Forester Kasey Krouse explained, “This will be used very sparingly. It’s not all going to be a way to get around the Tree Protection Ordinance. But there are rare circumstances when a developer doesn’t have room to plant the trees on his property. For example, the footprints of some urban building designs go almost from one lot to the next.
“Previously, there wasn’t a good alternative for a well-intentioned developer who couldn’t meet the tree standards. Going forward, they can buy trees and green up their neighborhood, knowing experienced City forestry crews will pick the right tree species and planting locations.”