Tree Preservation Ordinance

On June 27, 2019, the Somerville City Council passed a Tree Preservation Ordinance (Ord. #2019-15) with new requirements for the removal of trees on private property. The ordinance went into effect on August 1, 2019, and incorporates and updates the prior City of Somerville Tree Ordinance, which set requirements only for the removal of public trees.

 

*Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) = trunk diameter measured 4 ½ feet from the ground. For details of how to measure, see FAQs below.

  • For Owner-Occupied 1- to 3-Family Homes

  • For All Other Properties

  • Exemptions and Emergencies

  • Invasive Species

  • FAQ

  • Background Information

Homeowners who live in the property are required to apply for a permit, but are not required to replant trees or pay into the City’s Tree Fund, as long as the home is not more than three units. Owner-occupants of 1-, 2-, and 3-Family homes must apply for a waiver and provide plans regarding the proposed removal(s). The ordinance provides exemptions for emergency situations that do not require permits, such as dead or dying trees, or trees that are deemed hazardous, but removal of this type of tree requires written or verbal authorization from the City’s Tree Warden. Permits are not needed for the removal of small trees of less than 8 inches diameter at breast height (DBH) or for an invasive tree species regardless of the size or condition.

What to Know

  • To remove a dead, dying, or hazardous tree:
    Any tree that is determined to be a hazard because it is a danger to public health or safety, a threat to life or property, or any tree that is severely damaged or poses a threat during an emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, etc., does not require a permit for removal. However, verbal or written authorization from the Tree Warden is required for this type of tree removal. You may contact the Tree Warden at [email protected] or by calling 311 for authorization of removal. Call 3-1-1 (or from a cell phone, call 617-666-3311).

    In the case of an imminent hazard requiring immediate removal to protect safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

    If a tree is not dead, dying, or hazardous before removal, you will need to submit an application for a tree removal permit with waiver. 

  • To Remove A Non-Hazardous, Living Tree:
    If you plan to remove a non-hazardous, living, noninvasive tree on private property that measures more than eight inches DBH, in most cases, you must submit an application for a permit (with a waiver exempting you from replanting or paying fees) to the City’s Tree Warden to obtain approval to do so. Exceptions are noted farther below.
    • To apply for a permit with waiver, you must apply for a permit and submit plans for proposed tree removal(s) and all other required documentation. The application must include a plan showing the location, DBH, and species of all trees on the property, and the trees to be removed must be specified. If the waiver is granted, you will not be required to replace the tree(s) or make a payment to the Tree Fund.
    • Waivers may be granted for reasons including but not limited to:
      • Owner-occupied 1-, 2-, and 3-family properties. (Proof of owner-occupancy will be confirmed by issuance of or good faith application for the City’s Residential Tax Exemption via the City Assessor’s Office.)
      • Property owners with financial or other hardship.
         
  • Tree Removals that Do Not Require Permits include:
    • Any tree that is determined to be a hazard because it is a danger to public health or safety, a threat to life or property, or any tree that is severely damaged or poses a threat during an emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, etc. Authorization from the Tree Warden is required for this type of tree removal. See above.
    • Any tree less than 8 inches diameter at breast height is exempt from this ordinance and can be removed without a permit, waiver, or authorization.
    • Any tree that is considered an invasive species according to the City’s Senior Urban Forestry and Landscape Planner, regardless of size, is exempt from this ordinance and can be removed without a permit, waiver, or authorization.

Applying for a Waiver

You can apply for a permit with REQUEST FOR WAIVER for any of the following reasons, or if you have another reason for which you believe you should not be required to either replant or pay into the Tree Fund. Please note that the Tree Warden has up to 30 business days to review your request once a complete application for a waiver is received.

  • Owner-Occupant: If you can prove that you own and live in the house and it is a 1-, 2-, or 3-family property, you are not required to replace the tree(s) removed or to pay into the City’s Tree Fund. You are still required to apply for a permit and submit a plan for the proposed tree removal(s). Proof of owner-occupancy will be confirmed by issuance of or good faith application for the City’s Residential Tax Exemption via the City Assessor’s Office.)
    • If you move from the property within 18 months of receiving the waiver but still own the property, the waiver will be revoked and you are required to replace the tree(s) or pay into the city’s Tree Fund within 30 business days.
    • If you sell the property within 18 months, the new owner will be responsible within 30 business days for obtaining a new permit with waiver or permit without waiver for replanting or payment or they will be fined $300 per day until a complete application is submitted.
  • Caring for the tree(s) is creating a financial hardship.
  • There is an unreasonably high requirement for replacement or repayment.
  • There is an ongoing, or reasonable, foreseen risk from the tree(s).
  • Other reason. (Please specify in detail why you are applying for a waiver.)

Steps for applying:

  1. Visit the City’s permitting website at www.somervillema.gov/citizenserve
  2. Click on the “Citizenserve” icon.
  3. Click “Apply for a Permit” under the “Permitting by Building Department and Engineering Department” option.
  4. If this is your first time visiting the website you will need to create an account for yourself. Once you have an account, login and proceed to step 5.
  5. From the “Application Menu” select “Tree Removal Permit”
  6. All fields that have a red line next to them are required fields and must be filled out before the application is submitted.
  7. Enter text in “work description.”
  8. Enter text in “address of parcel #” and click “find address. Please note, addresses in Citizenserve are based on Parcel ID’s of Map/Block/Lot, so the address that you submit might be incorrect, but we can correct internally after submission.
  9. Upload all documents that are required for the Tree Removal permit. You can always skip this and return back to the permit after submittal to upload them.
  10. Click “Submit,” and you are done. You will be notified via email if City staff have any questions, and/or once your permit is issued.

Frequently Asked Questions and Additional Information

1. What is DBH?

Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) is the diameter of the tree trunk at 4 ½ feet above the ground. This is a standard forestry measurement.

2. How do I measure DBH?

Foresters and arborists have various types of equipment to measure tree diameter directly, including DBH tape or d-tape, Biltmore stick, and calipers. If you don’t have this equipment handy, you can use a flexible tape measure or a string to measure the circumference of the tree in inches. Then divide circumference by pi (3.14). Diameter (inches) = Circumference (inches) / 3.14.

Learn how to measure DBH here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLc4UjOpC0s\

3. When will the permit application be online?

You can apply for the permit as of September 1, 2019.

4. I already set up an arborist to remove my tree. What can I do now?

If the tree is under 8 inches DBH or an invasive tree species, you do not need a permit and can proceed with the removal. If the tree has been designated as dead, dying, or a hazard to people or property, you may contact the Tree Warden at [email protected] or by calling 311 for authorization of removal. If there is an immediate risk to public safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

If the tree is not dead, dying, or hazardous, you will need to submit an application for the tree removal as of September 1, 2019.

5. Can a landscaper or arborist apply on my behalf?

No. The property owner must submit the application for a permit or waiver.

6. I don’t know the species of the tree(s), what do I do?

The contractor or arborist who is conducting the removal on your property should be able

to help identify the species of the tree(s). To see a list of trees considered to be an “Invasive Species,” visit https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/tm/invasive-plant-list.pdf

7. How long does the permit process take?

Once a complete application is received by the Tree Warden, the Tree Warden has 30 business days to render a decision on whether the tree removal is permissible, as long as a waiver is not requested.

8. I have a tree that is creating a hazardous situation. What do I do?

Any tree that is determined to be in a hazardous condition because it is a danger to public health or safety, a threat to life or property, is severely damaged, or poses a threat during an emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, etc. is exempt from the replanting/payment requirements and you do not need to apply for a permit in order to remove the tree. However, written or verbal authorization from the Tree Warden is required for this type of tree removal. Email [email protected] or call 311 with details about the situation to acquire approval. If there is an immediate risk to public safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

9. How long is the permit valid for once it is issued? Is there a timeline by which I must remove the tree(s)?

Once acquired, a tree removal permit is valid for 6 months.

If you own a property in Somerville that you do not live in, or if you own and occupy a property larger with four or more units, you must apply for a permit to remove any tree larger than eight inches diameter at breast height (DBH)*, per the Tree Preservation Ordinance (unless the tree is an invasive species, as designated by the Senior Urban Forestry and Landscape Planner).

Exemptions may be granted for trees that are dead, dying, or considered in hazardous conditions, but you must obtain written or verbal authorization from the Tree Warden for this type of tree removal.

If you plan to remove any tree(s) on your property that is (are) eight inches DBH, you must replant tree(s) that equal the total caliper inches as the diameter of tree(s) removed, or pay to the City’s Tree Fund in the amount of $450 per caliper inch (as of August 2019). You may be eligible for a waiver of the replanting or repayment requirements if you present information of financial or other hardship to the City’s Tree Warden.

If you plan to remove noninvasive trees on your property that are eight inches DBH or larger, please apply for a permit.

If you would like to apply for a waiver to be allowed to remove a tree eight inches DBH or larger without replanting or paying into the City’s Tree Fund and you meet one of the exemption criteria below, please apply for a waiver in your permit application. You must still submit plans for the proposed tree removals along with your application. Please note: if your waiver application is denied, you will be required to replant trees or pay into the City’s Tree Fund.

*Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) = trunk diameter measured at 4 ½ feet from the ground.

What to Know

  • To remove a dead, dying, or hazardous tree:
    Any tree that is determined to be a hazard because it is a danger to public health or safety, a threat to life or property, or any tree that is severely damaged or poses a threat during an emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, etc., does not require a permit for removal. However, verbal or written authorization from the Tree Warden is required for this type of tree removal. You may contact the Tree Warden at [email protected] or by calling 311 for authorization of removal. Call 3-1-1 (or from a cell phone, call 617-666-3311).

    In the case of an imminent hazard requiring immediate removal to protect safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.
     

  • If a tree is not dead, dying, or hazardous before removal, you will need to submit an application for a tree removal permit with waiver.
     
  • If you plan to remove a tree on private property, you must submit an application to the City’s Tree Warden to obtain approval to do so.
  • If you plan to remove any noninvasive tree(s) measuring eight or more inches diameter at breast height (DBH), you will be required to either:
     
    • Replace the tree(s) within 18 months of removal
      • The combined caliper of the replacement tree(s) must be equal to the combined DBH of the tree(s) removed. More than one tree may be planted, as long as the total caliper is at least equal to the diameter of the tree(s) removed.
      • If you require more than 18 months to replace the tree(s), you must submit an extension request to receive approval by the Tree Warden.
      • Plans for replacing trees must be submitted at the time of tree removal application, and any subsequent change in plans must be approved by the Tree Warden.
      • Replacement trees are required to survive for at least 18 months after planting. Any trees that do not survive must be replaced, and the date of replacement must be provided to the Tree Warden.

        OR
         

    • Make a payment to the City’s Tree Fund
      • Instead of replacing the caliper inches, you may make a payment into the Tree Fund. The fee is based on the current replacement cost to the City in accordance with the most recent planting contracts, including purchasing, planting, watering and maintaining trees for a period of not less than two years. As of August 2019, the current cost of planting trees is $450 per caliper inch. A check should be made payable to The City of Somerville, with “Somerville Tree Fund” in the check memo. Mail the check to Vanessa Boukili, Senior Urban Forestry & Landscape Planner, 93 Highland Ave., Somerville, MA 02143.

        OR
         

    • A combination of replanting and payment to the Tree Fund
      • For removals of larger trees, replanting numerous saplings equal to the total diameter of the removed tree may not be possible or desirable. Property owners also have the option to propose a combination of replanting some trees and making a payment to the Tree Fund for the remainder of the fee / cost of the replacement tree(s).
         
  • Tree Removals that Do Not Require Permits include:
    • Any tree that is determined to be a hazard because it is a danger to public health or safety, a threat to life or property, or any tree that is severely damaged or poses a threat during an emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, etc. Authorization from the Tree Warden is required for this type of tree removal. In the case of an imminent hazard requiring immediate removal to protect safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.
    • Any tree less than 8 inches DBH is exempt from this ordinance and can be removed without a permit or authorization.
    • Any tree that is considered an invasive species according to the City’s Senior Urban Forestry and Landscape Planner, regardless of size, is exempt from this ordinance and can be removed without a permit or authorization.

How to Apply for a Permit

You can apply for a permit here. The application for a permit must include a plan showing the following:

  1. Location of the tree(s) to be removed
  2. Species of the tree(s) to be removed
  3. DBH and species for each tree on the property, clearly showing which trees will be removed.

If there are replacement trees proposed to be planted, also include a plan that shows:

  1. Location of the tree(s) to be planted
  2. Species of the tree(s) to be planted
  3. Size of the proposed tree(s) being planted

The tree removal plan and the replacement tree plan may be on the same page or on separate pages. If they are on the same page, you must clearly identify existing trees, trees proposed for removal, and trees proposed to be planted.

Steps for applying:

  1. Visit the City’s permitting website at somervillema.gov/citizenserve
  2. Click on the “Citizenserve” icon.
  3. Click “Apply for a Permit” under the “Permitting by Building Department and Engineering Department” option.
  4. If this is your first time visiting the website you will need to create an account for yourself. Once you have an account, login and proceed to step 5.
  5. From the “Application Menu” select “Tree Removal Permit”
  6. All fields that have a red line next to them are required fields and must be filled out before the application is submitted.
  7. Enter text in “work description.”
  8. Enter text in “address of parcel #” and click “find address.”
    1. Addresses in Citizenserve are based on Parcel ID’s of Map/Block/Lot, so the address that you submit might be incorrect, but we can correct internally after submission.
  9. Upload all documents that are required for the Tree Removal permit. You can always skip this and return back to the permit after submittal to upload them.
  10. Click “Submit,” and you are done. You will be notified via email if City staff have any questions, and/or once your permit is issued.

Applying for a Waiver

You can apply for a REQUEST FOR WAIVER for any of the following reasons, or if you have another reason for which you believe you should not be required to either replant or pay into the Tree Fund. Please note that the Tree Warden has up to 30 business days to review your request.

  • Owner-Occupant: If you can prove that you own and live in the house and it is has three or fewer units, you are not required to replace the tree(s) removed or to pay into the City’s Tree Fund. You are still required to apply for a permit and submit a plan for the proposed tree removal(s). Proof of owner-occupancy will be confirmed by issuance of or good faith application for the City’s Residential Tax Exemption via the City Assessor’s Office.)
    • If you move from the property within 18 months of receiving the waiver but still own the property, the waiver will be revoked and you are required to replace the tree(s) or pay into the city’s Tree Fund within 30 business days.
    • If you sell the property within 18 months, the new owner will be responsible for obtaining a permit for replanting or payment within 30 business days or they will be fined $300 per day until a complete application is submitted.
  • Caring for the tree(s) is creating a financial hardship.
  • There is an unreasonably high requirement for replacement or repayment.
  • There is an ongoing, or reasonable, foreseen risk from the tree(s).
  • Other reason. (Please specify in detail why you are applying for a waiver.)

Timelines and Guidelines

Applications or waivers may be submitted as of September 1, 2019 by clicking here.

Once a completed application has been submitted, the City’s Tree Warden has 30 business days to review the application and render a decision on whether the tree removal is permissible. If a waiver request is submitted for anything other than an owner-occupant, the Tree Warden will schedule a Hearing of Request for Waiver within 60 days of the date the completed application was received. 

If a permit is granted for tree removal, unless a waiver is approved, the tree(s) must be replaced within 18 months of the removal, or a fee must be paid to the city’s Tree Fund (or a combination of the two). Failure to comply with these requirements will result in a fine to the property owner.

Frequently Asked Questions and Additional Information

1. What is DBH?

Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) is the diameter of the tree trunk at 4 ½ feet above the ground. This is a standard forestry measurement.

2. How do I measure DBH?

Foresters and arborists have various types of equipment to measure tree diameter directly, including DBH tape or d-tape, Biltmore stick, and calipers. If you don’t have this equipment handy, you can use a flexible tape measure or a string to measure the circumference of the tree in inches. Then divide circumference by pi (3.14). Diameter (inches) = Circumference (inches) / 3.14.

Learn how to measure DBH here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLc4UjOpC0s\

3. When will the permit application be online?

You can apply for the permit as of September 1, 2019.

4. I already set up an arborist to remove my tree. What can I do now?

If the tree has been designated as dead, dying, or a hazard to people or property, you may contact the Tree Warden at [email protected] or call 311 for authorization of removal. If the tree is not dead, dying, or hazardous, you will need to submit an application for the tree removal as of September 1, 2019. In the case of an imminent hazard requiring immediate removal to protect safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

5. Can a landscaper or arborist apply on my behalf?

No. The property owner must submit the application for a permit or waiver.

6. I don’t know the species of the tree(s), what do I do?

The contractor or arborist who is conducting the removal on your property should be able

to help identify the species of the tree(s). To see a list of trees considered to be an “Invasive Species,” visit https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/tm/invasive-plant-list.pdf

7. How long does the permit process take?

Once a complete application is received by the Tree Warden, the Tree Warden has 30 business days to render a decision on whether the tree removal is permissible, as long as a waiver is not requested.

8. I have a tree that is creating a hazardous situation. What do I do?

  • Any tree that is determined to be in a hazardous condition because it is a danger to public health or safety, a threat to life or property, is severely damaged, or poses a threat during an emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, etc. is exempt from the replanting/payment requirements and you do not need to apply for a permit in order to remove the tree. However, written or verbal authorization from the Tree Warden is required for this type of tree removal. Email [email protected] or call 311 with details about the situation to acquire approval.
  • In the case of an imminent hazard requiring immediate removal to protect safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

9. How long is the permit valid for once it is issued? Is there a timeline by which I must remove the tree(s)?

Once acquired, a tree removal permit is valid for 6 months.

In certain situations, you may be exempt from replanting trees or paying into the Tree Fund.

You do not need to apply for a permit for any of the following situations:

  • The tree to be removed measures less than 8 inches diameter at breast height (DBH*)
  • The tree to be removed is one of five invasive species, as defined by the City’s Senior Urban Forestry and Landscape Planner.

In emergency situations where the tree(s) in question poses an immediate threat because it endangers public health or safety, is a threat to life or property, where the tree(s) is severely damaged, or poses a threat during a weather incident such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, etc, the tree may be removed immediately without applying for a permit. However, written or verbal authorization from the Tree Warden is required for this type of tree removal. Contact the Tree Warden at [email protected] or call 311.

  • In the case of an imminent hazard requiring immediate removal to protect safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

You do not need a permit to remove trees that are known invasive species, listed below. These five species are characterized as “Invasive” or “Likely Invasive” by the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/tm/invasive-plant-list.pdf) and are listed on the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List (https://www.mass.gov/service-details/massachusetts-prohibited-plant-list).

In addition to the five species listed above, the following tree species are also on the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List and will not be considered as suitable species for replacement trees:

  • Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
  • European buckthorn, aka glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

1. What is DBH?

Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) is the diameter of the tree trunk at 4 ½ feet above the ground. This is a standard forestry measurement.

2. How do I measure DBH?

Foresters and arborists have various types of equipment to measure tree diameter directly, including DBH tape or d-tape, Biltmore stick, and calipers. If you don’t have this equipment handy, you can use a flexible tape measure or a string to measure the circumference of the tree in inches. Then divide circumference by pi (3.14). Diameter (inches) = Circumference (inches) / 3.14.

Learn how to measure DBH here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLc4UjOpC0s\

3. When will the permit application be online?

You can apply for the permit as of September 1, 2019.

4. I already set up an arborist to remove my tree. What can I do now?

If the tree is under 8 inches DBH or an invasive tree species, you do not need a permit and can proceed with the removal. If the tree has been designated as dead, dying, or a hazard to people or property, you may contact the Tree Warden at [email protected] or by calling 311 for authorization of removal. If there is an immediate risk to public safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

If the tree is not dead, dying, or hazardous, you will need to submit an application for the tree removal as of September 1, 2019.

5. Can a landscaper or arborist apply on my behalf?

No. The property owner must submit the application for a permit or waiver.

6. I don’t know the species of the tree(s), what do I do?

The contractor or arborist who is conducting the removal on your property should be able

to help identify the species of the tree(s). To see a list of trees considered to be an “Invasive Species,” visit https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/tm/invasive-plant-list.pdf

7. How long does the permit process take?

Once a complete application is received by the Tree Warden, the Tree Warden has 30 business days to render a decision on whether the tree removal is permissible, as long as a waiver is not requested.

8. I have a tree that is creating a hazardous situation. What do I do?

Any tree that is determined to be in a hazardous condition because it is a danger to public health or safety, a threat to life or property, is severely damaged, or poses a threat during an emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, etc. is exempt from the replanting/payment requirements and you do not need to apply for a permit in order to remove the tree. However, written or verbal authorization from the Tree Warden is required for this type of tree removal. Email [email protected] or call 311 with details about the situation to acquire approval. If there is an immediate risk to public safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

9. How long is the permit valid for once it is issued? Is there a timeline by which I must remove the tree(s)?

Once acquired, a tree removal permit is valid for 6 months.

1. What is DBH?

Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) is the diameter of the tree trunk at 4 ½ feet above the ground. This is a standard forestry measurement.

2. How do I measure DBH?

Foresters and arborists have various types of equipment to measure tree diameter directly, including DBH tape or d-tape, Biltmore stick, and calipers. If you don’t have this equipment handy, you can use a flexible tape measure or a string to measure the circumference of the tree in inches. Then divide circumference by pi (3.14). Diameter (inches) = Circumference (inches) / 3.14.

Learn how to measure DBH here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLc4UjOpC0s\

3. When will the permit application be online?

You can apply for the permit as of September 1, 2019.

4. I already set up an arborist to remove my tree. What can I do now?

If the tree has been designated as dead, dying, or a hazard to people or property, you may contact the Tree Warden at [email protected] or call 311 for authorization of removal. If the tree is not dead, dying, or hazardous, you will need to submit an application for the tree removal as of September 1, 2019. In the case of an imminent hazard requiring immediate removal to protect safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

5. Can a landscaper or arborist apply on my behalf?

No. The property owner must submit the application for a permit or waiver.

6. I don’t know the species of the tree(s), what do I do?

The contractor or arborist who is conducting the removal on your property should be able

to help identify the species of the tree(s). To see a list of trees considered to be an “Invasive Species,” visit https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/tm/invasive-plant-list.pdf

7. How long does the permit process take?

Once a complete application is received by the Tree Warden, the Tree Warden has 30 business days to render a decision on whether the tree removal is permissible, as long as a waiver is not requested.

8. I have a tree that is creating a hazardous situation. What do I do?

  • Any tree that is determined to be in a hazardous condition because it is a danger to public health or safety, a threat to life or property, is severely damaged, or poses a threat during an emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, etc. is exempt from the replanting/payment requirements and you do not need to apply for a permit in order to remove the tree. However, written or verbal authorization from the Tree Warden is required for this type of tree removal. Email [email protected] or call 311 with details about the situation to acquire approval.
  • In the case of an imminent hazard requiring immediate removal to protect safety, always put safety first. The Tree Warden or Deputies are available 24/7, but do not delay removal as you seek approval if it will pose a safety risk. If the Tree Warden cannot be reached swiftly enough to protect safety, begin tree removal and then continue to seek approval from the Tree Warden.

9. How long is the permit valid for once it is issued? Is there a timeline by which I must remove the tree(s)?

Once acquired, a tree removal permit is valid for 6 months.

The new Tree Preservation Ordinance requires that any noninvasive tree on private property that measures greater than eight inches in diameter at breast height (DBH)* be replaced with trees(s) that equal the same caliper inches as the diameter of the tree(s) removed, or that a payment be made to the City’s Tree Fund. Homeowners who live in the property do not need to meet the replanting or payment requirements as long as the home is not more than three units; but they must still apply for a permit and provide plans regarding the proposed tree removal(s). The ordinance also includes exemptions for emergency situations such as dead or dying trees and trees that are deemed hazardous. A permit is not required for the removal of trees under 8 inches DBH or the removal of invasive tree species. 

For the full text of the ordinance, click on the button below. To apply for a tree removal permit (with or without a waiver) click here, or see the “Apply for a Permit” section below. There is no fee to apply for a permit. Tree removal requests and approvals are handled by the City’s Tree Warden. If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

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