Council tables tree ordinance
The Fairfield City Council elected to postpone the third reading of an ordinance that included a ban on drench insecticide for commercial applicators in the city.
The council took up the issue at its meeting Monday, when it heard from Joe Ledger of the Iowa Farm Bureau. Ledger said he thanked the council for amending the original tree ordinance to exempt agricultural land from the ban on drench insecticide. He said he was worried about government telling property owners what they could do with their land.
Ledger asked the council to delay passing the third reading of the ordinance to give the public more time to chime in, considering the number of revisions that had been made to the ordinance since its initial draft. Councilor Michael Halley said he wasn’t keen on delaying implementation of the ordinance because he wanted it to be in effect before the ground thawed and people became tempted to apply insecticide.
Councilor Doug Flournoy motioned to postpone the third reading until the council’s next meeting April 14. Halley said he would go along with that. The council voted 5-0 to table the ordinance, with councilors Flournoy, Halley, Daryn Hamilton, Tony Hammes and Jessica Ledger-Kalen voting in favor. Councilors John Revolinski and Martha Rasmussen were absent.
Since its first reading in February, the council had amended the ordinance to narrow its scope of application. The original ordinance would have banned drench insecticide from being used in the city. It was later changed to exempt agricultural land in the city. The council also learned that state code prevented the city from adopting any ordinance that regulated pesticide use for anyone who was not a commercial applicator, so now the ordinance would apply only to commercial applicators and to city-owned property.
Furthermore, the ban on drench insecticides applies only to insecticides for trees and specifically to products used to treat an infestation of emerald ash borers. Emerald ash borers were discovered in Chautauqua Park last year. The Fairfield Arbor Committee is making plans to replace the ash trees in town that will be killed by the ash borer in the next few years. The council wishes to limit the use of drench insecticide in the city because of its deleterious effects on bees and squirrels and because of the possibility of it contaminating groundwater.
In addition to banning drench insecticide on city property, the tree ordinance before the council would provide special protections for “heritage trees” by requiring property owners to obtain a permit before removing the trees. The five species of heritage tree are oak, American elm, sugar maple, hickory and walnut.
Once those trees reach a certain size (specified in the ordinance) it will be unlawful for a property owner to remove them unless the owner obtains a permit. A permit may be granted to an owner if the tree is dying, diseased or damaged such that it is likely to die, or removing the tree would alleviate a hardship borne by the property owner.
Agricultural land would be exempt from the special protections for heritage trees just as it is exempt from the portion of the ordinance covering drench insecticide.