Native plant preservation is becoming a discussion for the Paradise Valley Town Council as it continues to review certain aspects of its code.
Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp offered a brief presentation at the Jan. 23 meeting regarding a section of town code that regulates native plant preservation during the construction of single-family homes. Ultimately, the council voiced support on deepening the discussion with more background.
Councilmember Scott Moore said this discussion arose after town staff received concerns from a resident about what they believed to be the clearing of plants on lots for redevelopments.
“Based on my own knowledge of this, it probably is a good area, if there’s council support, to move forward,” he said. “I’m looking at tidying up our regulation to make sure that protected plants are in fact protected.”
Town code for preservation kicks in during the demolition and construction phases of new homes. Mr. Knapp said any new home or remodel/addition greater than $500,000 requires a native plant preservation plan.
These plans include an aerial photo and/or site plan showing all the protected plants within the construction zone. Plans must also include number, species, size and condition of plant; and a relocation narrative.
The town’s building division must review the plan and there must be an inspection once the construction is complete.
The town protects six types of trees and four types of cacti. Trees over four inches in caliper include White Thorn Acacia, Catclaw Acacia, Foothill Palo Verde, Blue Palo Verde, Ironwood and Mesquite. Cacti 3 feet or higher include Saguaro, Barrel, Ocotillo and Desert Night Blooming Cereus.
Potential penalties for violating this part of the Town Code include immediate suspension of all inspection activity, a class 1 misdemeanor, a fine of no more than $2,500 and imprisonment of up to six months. Mr. Knapp did note each day the violation continues is a separate offense.
Mr. Knapp said town staff was recommending newer language in the code. A potential change Mr. Knapp presented included requiring a preservation for any grading activity on the site with a pre-inspection prior to grading.
Other possibilities included the town having a list of approved contractors who can provide preservation-type services; expand the list of protected plants to better match the county list; and lower the $500,000 threshold, though Mr. Knapp had other thoughts on that option.
“I think it makes more sense to link it to a grading plan because that’s commonly where most of this would be disturbed,” he said.
“Lowering that number might get more into the situation where ... somebody is doing an interior remodel and it wouldn’t even be necessary but the grading has a greater impact.”
Mr. Moore said he sees a potential tweak of the code bringing more oversight into an area that has previously been self-regulated. Councilmember Paul Dembow expressed concern over the idea of when a resident files for a permit being what prevents someone from removing plants from their yards.
“If we’re going to do it, I would like to do it in a way that is encouraging as opposed to mandating or putting a false mandate to start ... I would rather find a way, if we’re going to do it, to be intellectually honest through the whole process so we allow people to put in what landscaping they feel looks best for their homes as opposed to what the government thinks looks best for their home,” he said.
Councilmember Anna Thommasson requested further information on the topic with examples from what other municipalities with similar values as Paradise Vally have done. Several councilmembers agreed with the request.