(Washington, DC) Applying for a Special Tree Permit is now easier than ever in the District of Columbia. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is now issuing the permits through the agency’s TOPS online permitting system. The benefits include faster permitting, a simplified application process, automatic fee calculation, reduced paperwork and increased transparency.
The Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) partnered with DDOT’s Office of Information Technology and Innovation (OITI) to incorporate the special tree permitting into the TOPS system. It gives an applicant the ability to apply for a permit online, make any required contributions to the Tree Fund, and print the permit themselves.
“Considering the overwhelming majority of applications for Special Tree Removal Permits are for dead or hazardous trees, it is quite likely that most applicants will never even need to set foot in the permit office,” said John Thomas, DDOT’s Chief Forester. “This will save them a tremendous amount of time.”
The new system also has many internal benefits as well, including:
- It makes it easier for UFA to better and more seamlessly manage all of the vital aspects associated with the permitting of tree removal in the District
- It allows UFA's arborists to record the inspection details associated with an application review while in the field, shortening the length of time between application and issuance.
- It will automatically calculate the tree fund amount from the information entered by UFA Arborists.
- Like occupancy permits handled through TOPS, UFA arborists will be able to enter notes for applicant, send the application back to the applicant for revisions, and can require them to upload a planting plan before approval.
DDOT will continue to accept paper applications for Special Tree Permits for two more weeks. After March 23, 2012 all applications will be processed through the TOPS system.
A Special Tree Permit is needed to remove trees over 55" in circumference on private property in the District of Columbia under the Urban Forest Preservation Act.
Another TOPS Upgrade
DDOT is also working on another upgrade to the TOPS system that will give developers the ability to request a Development Plan Review (DPR) meeting with DDOT's planners, arborists, inspectors and engineers to review proposed development plans in public space for large scale projects. At these review meetings they will have an opportunity to discuss the installations of driveways, trees, streetlights, etc., and DDOT staff will be available to provide guidance and standards in advance of the permit application.
The system, which is expected to go live in approximately 2 months, will provide the tools to facilitate the meetings and expedite the permit process once all recommendations and guidelines are agreed upon. The system will become a central repository for documents, comments, and recommendation made at these meetings.