The City of Billings recognizes trees as an important part of the community. Tree ordinances or laws are established to help protect and promote the natural resource for future generations. City of Billings Tree ordinances.
Sec. 25-201. – Definitions.
For the purpose of this article, the following terms, phrases, words and their derivations shall have the meaning given herein:
Boulevard means that part of a street or highway not covered by a sidewalk or other paving, lying between the property line and that portion of the street or highway usually used for vehicular traffic.
Commercial tree trimming includes the trimming, removal or cutting above ground, for another person, for hire or other valuable consideration.
Property line means the outer edge of a street right-of-way.
Property owner means the person owning such property as is shown by the records of the county.
Public nuisance means any dangerous or unsafe tree or portions thereof on streets, in parks, on other public places, or posing a hazard thereto; the Dutch elm disease causal fungus Ceratocystis ulmi, or the elm bark beetles Scolytus multistriatus or Hyluropinus rufipes, or both, or any dead or dying elm tree or portions thereof, including logs, branches, stumps, firewood or other elm materials from which the bark has not been removed, or which has not been removed and chipped, burned or buried in a landfill.
Public places means all lands owned, leased or occupied by the city.
Street or highway means the entire width of every public right-of-way.
Trees are all shade and ornamental trees and all shrubs and other beautification or landscape plantings, now or hereafter planted or growing on any street, or other public place, except where otherwise indicated.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.010)
Cross reference— Definitions and rules of construction generally, § 1-102.
Sec. 25-202. – Implementation.
The city administrator shall direct the appropriate city department to direct, regulate and control the planting, pruning and removal of all trees growing now or hereafter in any street or city park, city cemetery or other public place in the city.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.020)
Sec. 25-203. – Powers of city.
The city shall regulate and control trees within the following areas:
Regulate the planting, pruning and removal of all trees on streets and other public places, to ensure safety, or preserve the aesthetics or both;
Promulgate specifications and standards of practice governing the planting, pruning and removal of trees on the street rights-of-way and public areas of the city;
Supervise and inspect all work done under any permit, license or certificate issued under the terms of this article or rules and regulations promulgated hereunder;
Establish reasonable conditions to the granting of permits and certificates in accord with the terms of this article;
During or following an emergency created by man or natural phenomena, the city may take all necessary steps and procedures to remove trees or tree parts or residue that might impede traffic movement or endanger persons or property without being responsible for continued maintenance or care.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.030)
Sec. 25-204. – Responsibility for trees and vegetative care.
In addition to caring for trees and vegetative growth on owned property, the person in control of the property is charged with care, maintenance and full responsibility for trees and all vegetative growth on adjacent streets, alleys, boulevards and public ways; provided, that to maintain rights-of-way, clear vision zones and unobstructed view, traffic-control signs and devices, the city may in its discretion prune and remove trees and other vegetative growth.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.070)
Sec. 25-205. – Trees and other vegetative growth projecting over public ways.
It is unlawful for any person who is the owner or person in control or management of any lot, block or parcel of land within the city to permit or allow to be kept or allow to grow upon such lot, block or parcel of land or within the curb of the street, alley, boulevard or public way adjacent thereto, any tree or other vegetative growth whose limbs or branches shall extend over the sidewalk along the property within eleven (11) feet above the surface of the sidewalk or any tree whose limbs or branches shall extend over the street along the property within fourteen (14) feet above the surface of the street or shall extend into the alley more than one (1) foot from the property line for a distance of fourteen (14) feet above the alley surface.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.080)
Sec. 25-206. – Permits required for planting on city property.
No person shall plant any tree in any city park, or in any other city property, including streets, alleys, boulevards or other public ways, without first filing an application and obtaining a permit from the city. The person receiving the permit shall abide by the city specifications and standards of practices. Any permit shall be void if its terms are violated.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.090)
Sec. 25-207. – Improper planting.
Whenever any tree shall be planted or set out in conflict with the provisions of this article, the same may be removed or caused to be removed and the cost thereof shall be assessed to the owner as provided by article 25-300.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.100)
Sec. 25-208. – Specific types of prohibited trees.
Carolina poplar, Canadian poplar, elms, lombardy poplar, silver leaf poplar, weeping willow, and box elder trees shall not be planted in streets, avenues, boulevards or alleys or other public ways of the city.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.110)
Sec. 25-209. – Removal of dangerous or unsafe trees.
If any part or the whole of any tree growing on private premises, streets, alleys, boulevards, or other public ways shall be found after inspection to be dangerous or unsafe or to otherwise constitute a public hazard or nuisance, the city may declare such tree or portion thereof a public nuisance, order the property owner to abate the nuisance or cause such nuisance to be abated in accordance with the provisions of section 25-210. In addition to the costs of removal the property owner or person in control of the property shall pay to the city an administrative cost equal to an additional twenty-five (25) percent of the actual costs and expenses of removing the nuisance.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.130)
Sec. 25-210. – Prevention and control of Dutch elm disease.
To control the spread of Dutch elm disease within the city, the following is enacted:
Prohibition. It is unlawful for any person to wilfully permit any public nuisance as defined herein to remain on any premises owned or controlled by him or her within the city. Such nuisance shall be abated in the manner prescribed by this article.
Inspection and investigation. Inspection and investigation for the purpose of detecting Dutch elm disease shall be conducted as follows:
The city employees or agents shall inspect all premises and places within the city as often as practicable to determine whether any condition described herein exists thereon.
Upon finding a suspect Dutch elm disease tree, appropriate specimens or samples shall be taken and sent to a qualified plant disease diagnostician. If visual symptoms indicate a strong probability of infection with Dutch elm disease, action will be commenced immediately to abate the nuisance.
Abatement of nuisances. Whenever the city finds with reasonable certainty that Dutch elm disease exists in any tree or wood situated on private property, or on any adjacent street, alley, boulevard or public way, the city shall notify the owner or person in control of the property. The diseased tree or trees shall be removed and effectively treated in a manner approved by the city within twenty-one (21) days after receipt of such notice. If the tree is not so removed or treated as specified within twenty-one (21) days after posting of the notice, the city shall remove or treat the tree and the cost thereof shall be assessed to the owner or person in control and shall become a lien on the property.
Transporting elm wood prohibited. It is unlawful for any person to transport within the city any bark-bearing elm wood without having obtained a permit therefor. The city shall grant such permits only when the purpose of this section shall be served thereby.
Interference prohibited. It is unlawful for any person to prevent, delay or interfere with its employees or agents while they are engaged in the performance of duties imposed by this section.
Costs. Costs of abatement of nuisance described herein and in section 25-209 shall be as follows:
On private property including adjacent streets, alleys, boulevards and other public ways shall be borne by the private owner; provided, that if the owner-occupant of the property has a gross annual family income less than the following:
1 person …..$7,100.00
2 persons …..9,300.00
3 persons …..10,500.00
4 persons …..11,650.00
5 persons …..12,400.00
6 persons …..13,100.00
the owner-occupant shall have the right to allow a noninterest-bearing lien to attach to his or her property which the owner-occupant shall not be required to pay until such time as the property shall be sold or transferred. The property of all other persons shall be subject to an interest-bearing lien, if not paid within thirty (30) days of removal; provided, that the assessment may, at the election of the person owning the affected property, be spread over a five (5) year period. The unpaid liens, other than the exclusion provided for herein, shall bear interest at the rate of eight (8) percent per year.
Replacement of trees on public property will be in accordance with tree planting regulations and programs of the city.
The city shall not be liable for the replacement of diseased trees on private property, or adjacent streets, alleys, boulevards and other public places removed to prevent the spread of Dutch elm disease. However, the private property owner will be allowed to replace the diseased tree under the tree replacement program of the city, the cost to be borne by the private property owner.
Method of assessment and collection. The city administrator shall cause to be certified to the taxing authority the outstanding liens for the removal annually, which amount shall be assessed and collected in the same manner as other special assessments.
Proof of income. In order to qualify for the exemption as provided in subsection (6)a, of this section, the head of the household shall produce proof as required by the city administrator.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.140)
State law reference— Control of Dutch Elm disease, MCA 7-22-101 et seq.
Sec. 25-211. – Abuse or mutilation of public trees and shrubs.
Unless specifically authorized by the city, no person shall intentionally damage, cut, carve, transplant or remove any tree or shrub, attach any wire, nails or other contrivance, allow any gaseous liquid or solid substance which is harmful to trees or shrubs to come in contact with them, or set fire or permit any fire to burn when such a fire or the heat thereof will injure the portion of any tree or shrub in any city park, cemetery, or on other public property.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.220)
Sec. 25-212. – Employees.
City employees or agents may enter upon private premises at any reasonable time for the purpose of carrying out any of the duties assigned to them under this article. The inspector shall, if practicable, advise the occupants, if any, of the premises of the purpose of his or her visit before making the inspection. Upon finding any violation of this article the employee or agent may issue a citation for the violation found.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.230)
Sec. 25-213. – Protection of trees.
All trees on any public property near any excavation or construction of any building, structure or street work, shall be guarded with a good substantial fence, frame or box not less than four (4) feet high and eight (8) feet square, and all building material, soil and other debris shall be kept outside the barrier, except where otherwise specified by the city in writing. No person shall excavate any ditches, tunnels, trenches or lay any drive within a radius of four (4) feet from any public or park tree without first obtaining written permission from the city.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.240)
Sec. 25-214. – Inspect pests and diseases.
Any and all inspect pests and diseases known to be injurious to fruit, shade and ornamental trees and shrubs, and all trees, shrubs and vegetable growth infested or infected therewith constitute a menace, and are hereby declared to be a common nuisance for all purposes within the meaning of this article.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.250)
Sec. 25-215. – Stumps.
All stumps on public property shall be cut off flush with the ground.
Sec. 25-216. – Spraying.
Every person who is the owner or in possession, control or management of any lot, block or parcel of land upon which there are any fruit, shade or ornamental trees or shrubs which are infested or infected with any insect pests or diseases known to be injurious to such fruit, shade or ornamental trees or shrubs shall, upon written order of the city spray or cause the same to be sprayed with insecticide.
The spraying shall be done within three (3) days of the order therefor in such manner and with such insecticide as may be designated by the city.
Any person failing to comply with any order issued pursuant to this section shall be guilty of maintaining a nuisance under this article. Each day that such condition is permitted to remain shall be considered as the commission of a separate offense.
All trees, shrubs and vegetable growth referred to in this section inside of the property line or in the adjacent street, alley, boulevard or other public way shall be sprayed as herein required at the expense of the owner. The city, upon the request of the person owning or in possession, control or management of such property, may spray such trees, shrubs or vegetable growth upon a deposit by such person of a sum of money sufficient in amount to pay the costs of all labor and material used in the spraying.
(Code 1967, §§ 14.01.260—14.01.290)
Sec. 25-217. – Placing materials on public property.
No person shall deposit, place, store or maintain upon any park or public place of the city any stone, brick, sand, concrete or other materials which may impede the free passage of air, water and nutrients to the roots of any tree growing therein, except by written permit from the city.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.300)
Sec. 25-218. – Violation and penalty.
Any person violating or failing to comply with any of the provisions of this article shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished as provided in section 1-110. This provision shall be in addition to all other assessments and liens that may be imposed pursuant to this article.
(Code 1967, § 14.01.310)