Rules on how to landscape have changed in Edmond
EDMOND — Urban Forestry Commission members have been working since 2012 to amend the city's landscaping ordinance to be more flexible and, hopefully, eliminate crowding caused by too many required trees, shrubs and other plants.
The forestry commission discussed the landscape ordinance 25 times and the landscape code subcommittee of the forestry commission met more than 17 times to craft the revisions. A workshop on the ordinance was held in 2016.
Planning commissioners and Development Impact Review Committee members also worked on the 60-plus-page document.
Their efforts were completed this week when the city council unanimously approved the amended ordinance that will take effect Jan. 1.
“There is the same amount of area to be landscaped, it is just not as dense,” said Ryan Ochsner, green infrastructure planner. “With crowding of the trees and plants, you have the risk of losing not just one plant but both plants.
“Basically, we wanted to fix the issues we found in the code. We wanted something that was enforceable.”
“The goals included increasing preservation of trees and of the Cross Timbers Ecosystem, to fix issues in the current code, to improve enforceability, and ensure long-term health and viability of the trees,” said City Planning Director Randy Entz.
One of the biggest changes is that landscaping discussions will begin earlier in the planning process and proposed designs will come from a professional landscape architect.
“In the end, we believe it will be a better product,” Ochsner said.
Former Mayor Dan O'Neil campaigned against the amended ordinance, claiming the new code provided fewer standards, particularly along the Interstate-35 corridor.
O'Neil, a member of Edmond Beautiful, was part of a committee nearly 20 years ago that created the I-35 corridor standard for Edmond.
“We hammered it out for a year,” O'Neil said. “We wanted to encourage a pleasant driving experience. We want to be different from Oklahoma City. We wanted to make sure what we had was something special.”
The amended ordinance reduced the number of plant units from 40 to 30 along the interstate.
“Much of the work done in this section was to address struggles regularly faced with the existing code, while focusing on the objectives of the district,” Ochsner said. “All other plant unit requirements are reduced, but remain higher than the general standards.”
Mayor Charles Lamb said when the I-35 corridor code was written it started with 30 plant units in September 1998, but was increased to 40 in 2005.
“That is not a different plant unit now than when we started,” Lamb said.
When a project has more parking spaces than the code requires, the amended landscape ordinance will require 15 trees for each four spaces over the regulated number. The current ordinance used a sliding scale that made it difficult to include all the required plantings.
“The purpose to this is to shift the focus to landscape that provides a value,” Ochsner said. "It has been a real challenge. It has been an absolute struggle."