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Q and A

Q. What is the Street Tree Maintenance Program?

Q&A Clip ArtAlmost everyone would agree that over 37,500 trees lining our streets and boulevards comprise one of Novi’s most cherished public assets. What many people don't know, however, is that the professional care and maintenance of these trees is the responsibility of the Novi Forestry Division. A trained ISA certified arborist and contracted tree crew comprise our forestry operation.

Their main task involves the pruning of street trees, those trees that are planted between the street and the sidewalk, with the goal of making the trees as safe and healthy as possible. In the spring and fall, they also plant new street and park trees.

Q. Which trees in my neighborhood are maintained by the Forestry Division?

Generally speaking, trees that are in the "street right of way" (or between the street and the sidewalk) are maintained by Department of Public Works' (DPW) Forestry Section. Trees, shrubs and other vegetation on private property or private utility easements don’t fall under DPW’s purview, and instead are the property owner’s responsibility to maintain.

Q. Can I prune a tree myself in the street right of way?

Yes, with the written consent of the Forestry Asset Manager who can be reached at 248-735-5640. Currently written consent is not needed if only small lower limbs are to be removed.

Q. Can I plant a tree myself in the street right of way?

Yes, with the written consent of the Forestry Asset Manager who can be reached at 248-735-5640, you can plant a tree in the street right of way. The Forestry Asset Manager will advise you of the tree species that are suitable and also which species are not to be planted. You can request a plant a tree application by calling the above number or you may download an application if you wish. Applications are due prior to any tree being planted.
 Street Tree Permit Application

Q. Do you have a program where I can plant a tree to celebrate an occasion or to honor a person or memorialize a family member?

Yes. Through this program you can have a tree planted to celebrate an occasion, or to honor a person or achievement. At the same time, our community will be enhanced with a beautiful, living tree for future generations to enjoy. This program includes: Planting a tree, permanent care of the tree, and a dedication marker. The City of Novi Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department will assist in choosing the type of tree and planting location. The permanent dedication marker is made of polished light granite. The markers are set into the earth so the surface is flush with the ground.

The cost is $500. Click here for more information about the Commemorative Tree Program.

Q. I think the trees in my neighborhood look great now. Why do you have to prune these trees?

We want to be sure that they live as long as possible in the best condition possible. Not only that, we have to be sure that they are safe.

Our tree crews remove dead wood, crossed, split, hollow, and storm damaged limbs, shattered wood and sprout growth from the trees. This opens the crown of the tree and reduces the number of competing limbs.

Trimming provides clearance for buses, garbage trucks, moving vans, and other large vehicles that can damage the branches of trees.

Trimming opens up sidewalks for pedestrians, clears branches from rooftops, antennas, evergreens and traffic signs, and allows motorists a clear view of intersections.

Some types of trees cast a dense shadow. Trimming them allows sunlight to penetrate to lawns and shrubbery.

In some cases, removing lower branches increases night time security because street lights can cover a larger area.

During large wind storms, well-trimmed trees are less likely to cause damage and, afterward, they sustain less damage. Proper pruning gives strength to the branches and allows wind to pass harmlessly through the thinned crown.

During the pruning operation, trees are also checked for structural problems. Many times, these structural problems are only evident from a close inspection by the trimmer once he is up in the tree. Once discovered it is eliminated or corrected. If too extensive, the tree is marked for removal.

Following pruning, the tree starts growing new, stronger limbs. This new growth begins to fill in the empty spaces almost immediately.

Q. Sometimes it looks like healthy lower limbs are removed. Why?

Diagram showing tree clearance zone of 8ft for a Footpath and 14 feet for a Road
Tree Trimming Clearance Zones for Novi

Low limbs do not rise higher as a tree gets older; instead they bend lower toward the ground as the tree matures. Branches may grow 16 to 28 inches a year depending on the weather and the type of tree. Our tree trimming may seem severe because:

  1. Nationally accepted standards call for street trees to be "raised" 12 to 14 feet above the street for clearance purposes. (This is higher than trees in parks, golf courses, and private property.)

  2. The pruning cycle prevents crews from returning to each neighborhood to conduct routine pruning for several years.

Low limbs that will become a problem because of their location and should be removed when trees are young. Remember that the appearance of a newly pruned tree is temporary and becomes less dramatic with each passing season and each subsequent trimming.

Q. Why are trees trimmed differently?

Trees lining our streets and shading our sidewalks must be pruned much differently than trees standing in our parks or a homeowner's lawn. Our pruning methods reflect the street tree's specialized purpose and growing environment, which is to provide cooling shade over hard surfaced streets and sidewalks.

Q. What if I have an emergency with the street tree at my address?

If you have an emergency situation regarding a street tree at your address, please call the Department of Public Works at 248-735-5640 or the Novi Police Department at 248-348-7100.

Q. What does "Tree City USA" mean?

Tree City USA is greening communities across the country. This program is a great opportunity to celebrate the importance of an urban tree canopy and improve care of these vital city trees. The City of Novi has held the distinct honor of being a Tree City USA for over two decades. To become a Tree City USA, your department must meet four standards:

  1. You must have a Tree Board or Department,

  2. A tree care ordinance,

  3. A Community Forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita and

  4. An Arbor Day observation program and proclamation.

This certification is from the Arbor Day Foundation. Click here to learn more about the Tree City USA Certification.

Q. What can the City do to reduce the litter produced by the tree in front of my house?

Dog running with leaf
Source Credit - Puppy Toob

There’s not much that can be done about tree litter. Trees shade our houses and streets, and they shed leaves; the two are inseparable. Tree litter is a small price to pay for the many benefits trees offer.

Q. A street tree’s roots are interfering with my lawn or garden; will the City take care of this?

Unfortunately, no. Surface roots are a natural result of a variety of factors. The Forestry Division does not prune roots. If you feel you have a surface root problem please call the Department of Public Works and they will inspect the situation. If anything can be done they will advise you on what is most effective for you and does the least amount of damage to the tree. A permit from the City is needed to cut any part of a City-owned tree.

Q. A street tree’s roots have broken my driveway or the sidewalk or are threatening my foundation; what can be done?

As mentioned previously, the City does not repair root damage. Driveway, sidewalk, and patio slabs are usually just four inches thick with some rock underneath. They are surprisingly vulnerable to root damage. If you’re putting in a new slab in the vicinity of a tree, install a plastic root barrier at the edge to protect the slab. Plastic is better than a concrete barrier because it won’t crack; all a root needs to penetrate concrete is a small crack. Simply cutting the roots won’t work for long; the stub will sprout new roots under the slab. As the roots below a slab grow in diameter, they will lift the slab. The soil displaced by the growing roots has to go somewhere; the pressure exerted outward by a root is considerable. The perimeter foundation under your house is deeper than driveway slabs and usually repels roots by acting as its own root barrier. And remember that a permit is needed before you cut any roots on a City owned tree.

Q. Street trees are blocking the sun; how can I get more sun on my lawn?

Most tree species cannot be thinned enough to affect the lawn without causing damage to the tree. Trees and grass are both plants and need light. Unfortunately both of these needs may not always be able to be met simultaneously.

Q. May I ask for a city tree to be planted in front of my house?

Row of Nursery TreesYou may request the Forestry Division plant a tree by calling 248-735-5640. The Forestry Asset Manager will come out and inspect the site, taking into consideration factors such as site conditions and proximity of underground utilities and will make a determination if the site is suitable for a street tree. The City will also choose what kind of tree will be planted. The Forestry Division will plant the tree during their seasonal planting.

Q. Can I move or remove a City tree for a new driveway, walkway, utility, or streetlight?

First, you must ask the City to evaluate the tree. The City removes trees that are dead, dying, or what they judge to be in a hazardous condition. If a City owned tree seems to be "in your way," try rethinking your design; perhaps you can work around the tree-reverse the locations of the house and driveway, for example. In some cases, the City will allow you to remove a tree if you plant others. However, you must be sure that you have exhausted all alternatives and have a serious issue before approaching the City. A large tree represents a significant investment and provides a canopy that several small trees won’t duplicate for many years.

Q. Can I hire someone to work on a City-owned tree?

It is a possibility, but only if you get a permit first. The permit is free; apply for one by calling the Forestry Division at 248-735-5640. On the application you will be asked to explain why you want to prune the tree and give a detailed description of the work you propose to do. They will inspect the tree and may meet with your contractor to be sure the work is done in a way that doesn’t harm the tree. The City will not permit topping a tree or cutting its limbs back to bare stubs. It is a violation of municipal code to perform or have any work performed on a city owned tree without a Street Tree Permit.
 Street Tree Permit Application