LAFAYETTE -- With Mayor Don Tatzin and Vice Mayor Brandt Andersson on excused absences at the Monday meeting, a three-member City Council discussed safeguards related to trees, bees, chicken coops, mandated reporters, and heard residents' ongoing concerns about the supplemental environmental report for The Terraces' project.
A city-initiated "tree protection" zoning amendment to the municipal code received attention in light of what planning technician Anthony T. Arrivas said were "recent proposed (tree removal) projects throughout Contra Costa County."
He said the city was compelled to create a new definition for "major tree removal," upon determining that such projects were inconsistent with the city's general and downtown plans.
The city staff proposed the council modify the city code to define "major tree removal" as any proposal including the removal of more than 25 trees. After studying 250 applications the city has received since they began tracking tree removal permits, most involved less than 10 trees; six requests involved more than 25 trees.
Council members asked if other cities were setting equally strict ordinances, if residents denied a permit had an available appeal process, and questioned a section of the ordinance charging applicants with "double" mitigation: replacing the lost trees and also paying a fee based on the value of the removed trees.
Planning technician Megan Canales said Redwood City, Hayward, Dublin and several other cities had set similar standards and an appeal process was in the ordinance.
Councilman Mike Anderson suggested the double cost of fees in the application process exceeded the "less onerous" penalty of simply not applying and paying restitution for a violation.
The council directed the staff to re-examine the number to define "major tree removal" -- considering value in addition to how many -- and to ensure that application fees were not set so high that people were encouraged to pay a penalty instead of obtaining permitting for tree removal. The amendment will be reintroduced with changes at the Aug. 11 meeting.
Regarding the keeping of chickens, bees and other small farm animals in backyards, senior planner Greg Wolff explained revisions about beekeeping stemming from public and council concerns.
Added clarifications and standards defined permitting, setbacks, neighbor notification, the size of and orientation of beehives, required water, flyaway barriers and administration action if standards are not met.
In public comment, Jeff Peacock asked if the dimensions of self-build beehive kits, which are typically a trough-style design and wider than commercial beehives, could be accommodated. The height restriction at six feet is reasonable for vertical structures, he said, but suggested changing the width to four feet.
Aleya Jansky was concerned about chickens, not bees. She played an audio recording, demonstrating the noise from a neighbor's backyard coop that she said caused her to consider selling her "beautiful Burton Valley home."
The council, picking up a theme of "nuisance" and applying it to noise from coops and concerns about beehive setbacks and allowable dimensions, voted 3-0, to continue the discussion with a revised version of the ordinance sent to the council at the Sept. 8 meeting.
The council accepted City Manager Steve Falks' response to a grand jury report on training mandated reporters with one recommended change.
After discussion of requirements for independent contractors the city engages -- which currently include an obligation to inform them that they are mandated reporters, but not to provide or require proof of training -- the city changed its response to, "the recommendation requires further analysis."
Within the next six months, a recommendation will be made to change the city policy to include that proof of mandated reporter training be required from independent contractors.
Regular city employees who have daily or significant contact with children, including holiday, summer and part-time counselors in the parks and recreation programs, are already required to receive training.
The Terraces supplemental environmental report, which had been scheduled for discussion Aug. 11, was moved to Sept. 8, to avoid a time when residents and council members were likely to be on vacation.