The City of Novi values its natural resources, including its forests and large trees. For this reason, it adopted a Woodland Protection Ordinance (Section 37) which outlines what people can and can’t do with the trees and woodlands on their land. While many of the rules pertain to developments, not individual homeowners, there are a few rules that are important for residents to know.
How large does a tree have to be in order to be protected?
Within regulated woodlands, all trees 8” diameter at breast height (dbh) – about 4 feet above the ground, are protected. Outside of a regulated woodland, if a tree has 36” dbh it is also protected. If a tree is a designated historic or specimen tree, it is also protected.
If a tree is not considered to be protected based on those three factors, you may remove it without a permit, and do not have to plant any replacements. You can contact the city Forestry Asset Manager or Landscape Architect for confirmation on whether a tree is protected or not.
What does it mean to be protected? Can I not cut it down?
If a tree is protected, it can still be removed, but it must be replaced with one or more trees, depending on its size. Up to 4 trees may be required per tree removed. If there is not room on your lot to plant the required number of replacement trees, a contribution to the City’s Tree Fund can be made for those trees not planted. The Tree Fund is used to plant street trees and trees and shrubs in parks and other city properties, as well as to maintain the City’s urban forest.
What if the tree threatens my house?
If you are concerned that a tree may pose a hazard to people or property, you can ask the city Forestry Asset Manager to come out to evaluate the tree. If the Manager, or a designated alternate, agrees that the tree, or tree part, is hazardous, a letter allowing you to remove it will be provided to you so you can have it removed. In that case, replacement trees would not be required.
Would the city pay for the removal?
Only if the tree is a city tree (in a public right-of-way, park, etc) would the city pay for the tree’s removal.
The City Woodlands Map shows a Regulated Woodland on part of my lot. What does that mean?
Regulated woodlands are forests that are deemed to have important ecological value. As such, they are to be maintained in a natural condition that promotes a healthy habitat. The trees and undergrowth needs to remain (including shrubs, branches, wildflowers and leaves), not cleared for lawn or play areas, and they’re not to be used for dumping yard waste or other rubbish. If an area of regulated woodland is found to be disturbed or encroached upon, the resident will be responsible for ceasing the activity, such as mowing, and will be required to restore the area to a natural condition. This may include planting replacements in the disturbed area, at the property owner’s expense. (Woodlands Map location: https://tinyurl.com/jmh7dbz)
If no Woodlands are shown on the Regulated Woodlands map, may I cut down any tree on my property?
The Woodland map was created based on aerial photos, and is intended as a starting point for woodlands investigations. An on-site inspection conducted by our environmental consultant will make the final determination, based on the trees, groundcover and overall habitat of an area, of whether an area is considered a regulated woodland.
If I want to cut down one or more trees in my yard, what should I do?
Please contact the City’s Forestry Asset Manager or Landscape Architect before you do anything. One of them can come out to take a look at your situation and the trees involved. If the trees are found to be healthy and low risk of failing and are considered protected by the rules described above, you will need to get a Woodland Use Permit to do the removal. They can walk you through the process in greater detail. Along with your permit application, you will need to provide a plot plan showing the location and identification of the trees on your lot to be removed as well as the trees to be saved. Tree characteristics including their size (dbh) and identity (red oak, sugar maple, etc.) must be included. Our environmental consultant would evaluate your permit request and determine how many replacements may be required.
If I do get a permit for removing trees, can I plant anything that I want?
No, per Section 37, which was designed to protect our native woodlands, replacements must be native to Michigan. There is a list in Section 37 called the Woodland Replacement Chart, which includes the different species of trees you could plant as replacements.
I see my neighbor cutting down trees in his back yard. Should I do anything?
Yes, you should report the cutting to your Homeowners Association if you have one and the city Community Development Department. If they had gotten a permit for the removals, we would have that on record and could confirm that for you. If they hadn’t, we would work with them to make the proper replacements, which could include restoration of the area, plantings of replacement trees and/or contributions to the tree fund to compensate for the trees and area removed. It is important that we all work together to protect the woodlands that remain in the city after development.
Can I clean up the wooded area of leaves and sticks, to make it look neater?
An important part of woodlands is the groundcover. Leaves break down to enrich the soil which can help acorns or other seeds become new trees and support native wildflowers. Logs and branches offer cover for small animals and insects, and those small animals and insects may be food for birds and other small animals. The leaves and natural soil beneath them also soak up rain water, lessening the runoff into nearby streams. By “neatening up” a natural woods floor, you are sharply reducing the ecological health and diversity of that area. For these reasons, woodlands are required to remain in a natural condition.
Can I remove invasive plants like buckthorn, honeysuckle or autumn olive?
We encourage the removal of such invasives as they cause damage to the natural habitats they occupy. Before doing any removals, however, please contact the Forestry Asset Manager or Landscape Architect to request a visit to verify the material being removed, and record your plans in case we receive notice from others about removals underway. If we have it on record, and you are only removing the invasive plants, there will be no penalty or requirements for replacement.