First-of-its-kind bill filed to fund and protect Nashville’s Tree Canopy

Revenue stream will come from development activity
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Posted at 6:37 AM, Oct 28, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Mayor John Cooper’s administration filed first-of-its-kind legislation to establish a dedicated revenue stream for the restoration and maintenance of the city’s tree canopy.

Ordinance BL2021-972, is being co-sponsored by Council members Burkley Allen, Angie Henderson, Zach Young, Russ Bradford, Kyonztè Toombs, Ginny Welsch, Freddie O’Connell and Colby Sledge.

The proposed bill would amend the Metropolitan Code to identify funding sources most closely aligned with and sensitive to development — building permits, grading permits and general obligation bond funded construction projects.

The result would allocate amounts equivalent to one of each of these funding sources to fund tree canopy restoration and maintenance.

“If you look at Census data and building permits over the last few years, you’ll see that Nashville’s growth continues on a strong pace. But we also know that with development comes the loss of trees, which can harm our environment, wildlife, and stormwater management, with especially negative impacts affecting low-income areas,” said Mayor John Cooper. “With this ordinance, for the first time in Metro history, we will have dedicated and reliable funding to finance the restoration and maintenance of our tree canopy as we work to protect the environment and enhance our neighborhoods.”

Tree canopy restoration results in significant environmental benefits, including greenhouse gas emissions reductions, shading and cooling effects, water quality improvements, enhanced stormwater management and wildlife habitat, as well as economic benefits.

“I am really excited about the opportunity this ordinance will bring to Nashville and, hopefully, serve as a national model for prioritizing sustainable practices that enhance development,” said Kendra Abkowitz, Metro Nashville’s Chief Sustainability & Resilience Officer.

“During one of Nashville’s biggest development booms, we saw nearly 13% of the existing tree canopy within Nashville’s urban area disappear. This legislation helps us address some of these related impacts and make a smart investment in our future, which will result in real cost and environmental savings for Metro government and Nashville.”

A 2018 report regarding Metro Nashville’s tree canopy and urban tree population confirmed that Davidson County has lost nearly 1,000 acres of tree canopy, primarily on parcels undergoing development, during the period of 2008 to 2016.

Additionally, the loss of these trees during that period amounted to the following:

  • $308,873 in lost stormwater abatement and filtration benefits.
  • $66,458 in lost air quality benefits, including removal of particulate matter.
  • $258,378 in electricity and/or natural gas costs from additional home utility use.

The fund has an annual cap of $2.5 million and would end on June 30, 2023 to allow for review and renewal if deemed effective.

The bill will appear on the November 2 Metro Council agenda and will have to pass on three readings before becoming adopted.