Tree Protection Ordinance Update

On March 13, 2023, the City Council adopted an ordinance update amending the Municipal Code related to tree protection and preservation. The revised ordinance can be found at For an overview, please view the summary of ordinance changes.


After a series of community meetings, public outreach initiatives, and public meeting discussions, the City Council approved an ordinance amending chapters of the Town’s Municipal Code related to tree protection and preservation. 

The process began in late 2021 as Town staff developed short and long-term work plans for the updates. In February 2022, the City Council formally authorized the Town to enter into a contract with environmental consultant Dudek to oversee the ordinance review process, which included facilitating community engagement, recommending updates in coordination with industry best practices, and analyzing and recommending innovative ways to protect and increase the sustainability benefits of trees in Town. 

For most of 2022, the Town and Dudek engaged in public outreach initiatives: 

  • Interviews with Town staff in key departments
  • Interviews with community stakeholders from Firewise, Hillsborough Beautification Foundation, City Council, and the broader community 
  • A community survey resulting in 240 respondents
  • A public listening session
  • A focus group session

The final amendments are the result of a combination of subject matter expertise and community feedback. Some major changes of note include: 

  • A Town-qualified arborist shall be the authorized officer to determine whether a tree is dead, diseased, infested, or dying and therefore constitutes a nuisance or danger 
  • All species with a diameter of 18” or more, measured at 4 feet, 6 inches above grade shall be defined as a protected tree 
  • New penalties for violation include when a tree is unable to be restored to its former condition, a penalty will be assessed of either $150 per inch of trunk diameter of the removed tree, or the appraised value of the removed tree as determined by the 10th Edition International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Guide for Plan Appraisal, whichever is greater
  • A replacement tree of a species approved by the Town with a box size of 36” will be required to be planted within 6 months, if a Town-qualified arborist determines the damaged tree cannot be restored to its original condition

During the recent storm activity, over fifty trees came down in Hillsborough. Any resident concerned that a tree on their property constitutes a safety threat should have their tree evaluated.

To see the ordinance and the full list of changes, go to


Arborist Report Template

Neighbor Noticing Template

Summary of Ordinance Changes

Tree Removal Guidelines

Find an Arborist