Article X Update: July 22, 2018

Sunday, July 22, 2018

We are several weeks into the implementation of the new ordinance, and I must say I'm already seeing the potential for a great success.  Even before we kicked it off, I had received interest from developers who wanted to know more about the new 'Old-field' forest stand delineation process.  It's certainly a large challenge for groups of people not accustomed to this type of field and historical assessment, but the benefits could certainly play out well for them on old agricultural field sites and properties not encumbered with creeks or other ecologically sensitive areas.

The real test for these processes are the numbers of conversations - real conversations - with owners, engineers, landscape architects, and others, who now explore ideas they did not before consider, or did so very limitedly.  It's simply communicating ideas and helping them draw their own conclusions about what is profitable and what is sustainable.  We may find they are not exclusive of each other.  The City of Dallas has had the Community Unit Development regulation available for platting under Article VIII for a long time, and we can identify the potential wins in applying these reduced lots for more open space in the development.  The tool box was full of stuff down in the bottom.

I have now loaded up a 'clean' version of Article X on my unofficial website and it can be found on the main page embedded with links to each section.  You can scroll down the page and find the 'old' ordinance and the 'new' ordinance links side by side. It is a work in progress, so be patient in waiting for new helpful tools and information which will help support your study and use of the code.  The combined landscape checklist is also available at a link just above the section links, and of course, the Reference Page is also available with its own link to the ordinance and checklists.  Check further for additional ordinance references including the PD 193 Oak Lawn District.

Additional training in Article X will commence soon and I'm just a tad behind in preparations. I am hoping that the Dallas Trees site will help to some degree and I'll be able to increase my blog posts to communicate important facets to this ordinance.  I'm working with the building inspectors in the district offices this coming week to make sure our landscape inspections and field communications are not interrupted.

The Landscape and Tree Manual is currently just a blip on the Building Inspection website, but there is movement to get the first edition of the document published in the next couple of months.  A great small group had worked for a couple of years to put the initial pieces together and had done a magnificent job.  I'll have more on this later as we get closer to a time release.  

The 'Approved Tree List' is also posted on the Building Inspection site and it should be noted we are making some late corrections to the document.  The final list of recommended and mitigation trees will be dated and posted with the approval of the director and only amended according to a limiting policy.  We view this now as a living document and the markets and professional input can go far in supporting species selection.  But the timing of amendment must be controlled to avoid confusion.

I am greatly encouraged in that, in this past couple of weeks, we have been able to turn around some building projects under the new ordinance which were doomed to the scheduling of the Board of Adjustment under the old ordinance.  The balanced approach to a 'flexible' landscape to a zoning and space restricted development site appears to have the ability to help solve problems, though nothing will be perfect.   It came down to key adjustments in basic ordinance provisions, and the ability of the building official to make minor adjustments alongside it.  We are finding ways to making transitions in some cases, but in very small properties with packed density, any ordinance will have its limitations. In some situations, we can get close to solutions but the challenges may be too extensive.  There are some important considerations when reviewing landscapes:

  • The Street Buffer Zone is now measured from the property line and not the street curb.  However, the right-of-way may still be used if license provisions with the City can be met and a minimum area of landscape area is provided along the property boundary.  
  • Large and medium trees are restricted from overhead power lines.  This may determine in some cases that small trees only will be planted in certain pre-existing environments.
  • Street buffer zones are measured for each street separately.  Also, a local street would have a smaller SBZ average width requirement than one facing a thoroughfare.  The average allows for a minimal buffer width of 5 feet, but to be able to expand up to 30 feet for a portion, to maintain a minimum average of at least 7.5 feet for local streets or 10 feet for arterials. 
  • Residential buffer zones still apply where applicable to residential adjacencies.  
  • Landscape design option total points are based on the size of the property.  There are 11 categories to use to make up the required number of points, but there are many more potential combinations which may be utilized in various fashion to fit the site.  Some points can be made up by just adding more new vegetation to the front yard than required.
  • The new ordinance encourages the planting of more new trees on site with the classification of protected trees and the provided mitigation reduction based on the species. The financial rate for paying a fee in lieu of planting has gone up to a rate of $193 per inch with most trees being replaced at 70% (or $135 per inch) or at 40% ($77 per inch).  Planting the reduced inches is made easier by expanding the range to 5 miles, or to Parks, or by other methods, including the planting of Legacy Trees.  More on those coming up in a later post.