Angels Camp now has protections in place for its heritage oak trees after the Angels Camp City Council gave unanimous approval to an ordinance at its Dec. 16 meeting that requires new developments to preserve old oak and other heritage trees.
Earlier versions of the law had included current developments, but after comments from the public and input from the city’s planning commissioners, those provisions were removed.
The move to preserve the trees in future developments came in response to the Angels Townhome project at Angels Oak Drive and Stockton Road. The city said 69 oaks were removed to clear the way for the construction project. But the project was never built, so new trees were never planted.
Other projects have also resulted in the removal of trees including the Classics on the Ridge (Galley at Greenhorn), which stripped the whole property of trees. Cal Fire also cut down 100 trees for a construction project, but the state fire agency did replant to mitigate the loss, according to the city.
Councilman Jack Lynch applauded the work of City Planning Director David Hanham and his staff for doing “a good job” in recognizing the “esthetic value” of the old trees that “benefit everyone (and) … need to be preserved.”
Councilman Scott Kelly echoed the sentiments, saying, “I like it. I’m in support of it.”
However, Gary Hinman, one of the owners of Altaville Village, questioned whether a permit would be needed from the City of Angels to cut down a dying heritage oak or trim broken or overhanging branches.
The consensus of City Attorney Derek Cole and staff was that as long as the resulting wood was used by the homeowner, no permit would be needed. However, a homeowner cannot sell or give away the wood.
“It doesn’t matter what the purpose is,” Cole clarified, as long as the wood is for the owner’s personal use.
Councilman Bert Sobon suggested that a copy of the new ordinance be provided to residents “to make it more clear.”
Or as Councilman-elect Scott Behiel said, so residents “aren’t scared to death!”
Hanham said his department would create a “cheat sheet,” so residents could determine if a permit was needed to cut down a heritage tree on their property.
In support of the ordinance, Mayor Elaine Morris pointed out that this law was “a reasonable solution to the removal of trees on private property.”
And fellow Councilman Wes Kulm called the ordinance “a good example of participatory government.”
“The document was refined and refined,” he said about the process. “It is not overly restricted or punitive.”
In other council action, the council:
• Recognized the contributions to the city by Utica Water and Power General Manager Vern Pyle, who has kept the agency running for 15 years. Allan Vallow will take over in January as Pyle is retiring.
• Called for volunteers to fill two positions that are open on the Angels Camp Planning Commission.
• Set the next regularly scheduled meeting for 6 p.m. on Jan. 6.