Article X Update: August 27, 2018

SITES - Sustainable Sites Initiative was the foundation for much of the site design incentives used in the new Article X landscape and urban forest conservation ordinance.  Although SITES is only directly used minimally for landscape design option credits (10 points), the Reference Guide is an excellent resource for understanding the intent of the regulations. SITES provides a support document for guiding how a Sustainable Development Incentive review should begin.

The new ordinance has been in effect officially since July 1, 2018.  Of course, there is a long list of documents which would be helpful for explaining how to plan and implement this ordinance, but much of it is not yet available.  I'm working intently to get important instructional information out for the general public.  You can currently find landscape checklists, mitigation information, and general landscape requirements at the Landscape and Tree Manual webpage at Building Inspections.
On that note, the small task force (comprised of city staff and a small group of ASLA-registered landscape architects) which had been organizing the first draft of a Manual for the past few years while Article X was being debated, has reassembled and is meeting to complete an initial publication by (hopefully) early October.  This manual is supplemental in nature so the application of the ordinance may be completed without the manual.  Once the manual is completed and online, it will provide supportive information for conducting forest stand delineations, providing soil resource plans, installing tree protection on construction sites, as well as provide homeowners with information on how to install and maintain their trees. The manual will be the location for viewing the Approved Tree List and information related to Reforestation rates. 

Sustainable Development and Construction is in the process of having the city arborist office fully staffed in September.  This will give the department the means to greatly improve its presence in the field for site inspections and to be able to help guide designers and builders in following the landscape and tree regulations. Enforcement efforts will be stepped up once training has been completed.

Meanwhile, the arborist office is open for business and ready to talk (and email) with designers and developers to help coordinate projects under the new ordinance.  There are some misreadings by some folk which needs to be clarified and I will be working to do just that in the coming weeks with some new blog updates and document additions to the Building Inspection website.  Some items to be posted include:

STREET BUFFER ZONE (SBZ) - Landscape code.  
The regulation requires the SBZ to be on the property at the property line. The street buffer trees are placed within the SBZ at 1 per 40 linear feet measured at the property line, excluding paved points of vehicular ingress.  It is when site conditions and setback-based restrictions occur, that the SBZ may be applied in the right-of-way (or urban streetscape). In case of site restrictions, the street buffer trees may be reduced to small species and planted according to the tree placement requirements.

FOREST STAND DELINEATION (FSD) - Urban Forest Conservation code.
The FSD is a prescriptive tool where the owner may be allowed to adjust how and where certain inventories, samples, surveys, or other relevant information, is provided to describe the property for specific purposes.  The FSD provides a general assessment in some cases for conservation easement calculations, or may be used to calculate if an 'old-field' site reduction is appropriate.  

SOIL RESOURCE PLAN - General code (10.104).
The plan is a bit misunderstood at this point, but that is understandable.  Very little information has gone forward on this subject.  I am working to resolve this and give some clarity on the matter.  A plan is designed to inform all parties where undisturbed landscape areas and 'damaged' areas occur on a construction site, and what areas will need to be amended for it to hold a healthy growing environment on the property.  Each site will be different so one standard template will not work in all cases.  If the site is small for a limited addition and heavily compacted and paved, any soil on the property is likely an urban complex with high levels of compaction.  The documentation would determine how to resolve the soil damage.  Larger sites would need to identify full tree protection zones and be a bit more comprehensive in how the uncompacted soils will retain their suitable planting conditions.  These sites vary and it is recommended to contact the city arborist office for clarification of the specific case. 

There will be more coming shortly so keep tuned to the Dallas Trees blog and the website for updates.  As always, keep looking to the Building Inspection site for the full new Article X ordinance (two versions) and related documents to assist in the plan review.

Before leaving you, I should help clarify one important matter about the landscape ordinance.  This ordinance provides a greater adaptability potential, which only means the building official can authorize certain adjustments to the landscape plan of a site when specific limiting conditions apply.  The ordinance provides a flexibility in designing for the building site that all parties (including the review staff) are not regularly accustomed to with a city ordinance. But even here there are limitations and the staff may determine the best recourse is a Board of Adjustment request or other changes including site design.  It's not a miracle ordinance, but it does have the ability to adjust under Council-mandated parameters.  The city has many types of development with various densities.  No two properties are perfectly alike.