Special to the Times-Free Press
Boston City Councilor Gabriela Coletta along with co-sponsor Councilor Kenzie Bok, offered an order for a hearing in the council regarding a tree mitigation fund for the City of Boston.
“As our City continues to grow, we must ensure that residents can thrive in the face of any impacts related to climate change including extreme heat. Expanding our tree canopy to protect against the heat island effect in neighborhoods like East Boston and Chinatown should be an obligation not held by just the City, but by everyone who wishes to build in Boston,” said Councilor Coletta. “I look forward to the conversation in hopes of creating a tree mitigation fund that requires developers to submit money for every tree that is lost or if they can’t meet their open space requirements on site.”
Colettar points to similar tools at the City’s disposal as a model, including linkage which extracts mitigation for affordable housing and workforce development. She is also interested in regulations related to the loss of rear and side yard setbacks, which largely result in the loss of trees in small developments.
“Environmental and housing justice go hand in hand,” said Councilor Bok. “Creating a tree mitigation fund could help accelerate our work towards our climate and urban forestry goals, as we also build more affordable, resilient housing and neighborhoods in the City of Boston.”
“In addition to reducing noise and air pollution as well as cooling our streets, trees increase property values and provide a sense of community to our neighborhoods,” said Bill Masterson, founder of Tree Eastie. “Developers have a moral obligation to replace any trees removed and add new trees whenever possible, particularly street trees which can reduce heat islands.”
“Protecting and growing Boston’s urban tree canopy is critical as Boston faces hotter summers due. With the majority of Boston’s tree canopy found on private land, the city needs to develop a mechanism to reduce tree removals and to fund the planting and care of new trees.” said David Meshoulam, Executive Director and Co-founder of Speak for the Trees.
Highlights of the Order include:
“WHEREAS, The City of West Palm Beach in Florida has developed a “tree mitigation” fund that developers pay into if they can’t meet city requirements for trees or open space on their property, and as of July 2022, there was $582,000 in the account to pay for the resources necessary to plant thousands of trees; and
WHEREAS, Boston utilizes mechanisms like linkage payments to extract private funds related to development to assist with affordable housing and workforce development goals; and
WHEREAS, Similar tools should be implemented to advance expanding our tree canopy and assist our goals of becoming a Green New Deal city; and
WHEREAS, These funds have the potential to be part of a wider range of strategies to promote an equitable response to heat resilience by investing directly into environmental justice communities experiencing generations of systemic injustice and inequities;”
The Boston City Council will hold a hearing at a later date through the Environmental Justice Committee where members of the Energy, Environment, and Open Space cabinet as well as the Boston Planning and Development Agency will be invited to testify. Members of the public are encouraged to provide written or oral comments.