Protecting Trees During Development

Protecting Trees During Development

The most common cause of tree decline during development or construction is due to root damage. Roots can be cut during the installation of different types of  infrastructure such as water lines, sewer lines, sidewalks, or any kind of pavement. They can also suffer from construction activities stripping soil away from the tree. This root damage can cause tree decline and sometimes mortality, as these problems can affect the tree’s intake of nutrients and the water and its strength and structure. In addition to root cutting, soil compaction during construction can deprive roots from the oxygen they need to thrive. Mechanical wounds to tree trunks and limbs may also make trees more susceptible to disease, pests, and overall decline. There are many specifics you need to know before deciding on the best approach to protecting your trees during development.

In Virginia, any locality with a population density of at least 75 persons per square mile or any locality within the Chesapeake Bay watershed may adopt an ordinance providing for the planting and replacement of trees during the development process pursuant to the provisions of § 15.2-961.

The ordinance shall require that the site plan for any subdivision or development include the planting or replacement of trees on the site to the extent that, at either 10 or 20 years (depending on locality), minimum tree canopies or covers will be provided in areas to be designated in the ordinance per zoned district. Please see § 15.2-961 for determining your zoned usage. In meeting these percentages, the ordinance shall first emphasize the preservation of existing tree canopy where that canopy meets local standards for health and structural condition, and where it is feasible to do so within the framework of design standards and densities allowed by the local zoning and other development ordinances; and second, where it is not feasible in whole or in part to preserve existing canopy, the ordinance shall provide for the planting of new trees to meet the required percentages.

Please see § 15.2-960, § 15.2-961, § 15.2-961.1, § 15.2-961.2, and § 15.2-961.3 for additional information on Virginia Code pertaining to trees and development. View Virginia Code.

See ANSI A300 part 5 and part 8 for additional guidance. View ANSI A300 Standards.