About the Virginia Tree Ordinance Database

Welcome to the Virginia Tree Ordinance Database (VTOD), a repository of municipal ordinances in Virginia that regulate the use, management, and conservation of trees in urbanized areas.  The purpose of this website is to provide citizens, professionals, and elected officials with information they can use to craft tree ordinances for their communities.  The website is not a tutorial or instruction manual for writing ordinances.  Rather, it provides examples of common tree ordinance terminology and content, which has been excerpted from ordinances of select municipalities across Virginia.

VTOD is a pilot project that is a collaboration between Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation and the Virginia Urban Forest Council.  It is a work in progress.  To date, 37 municipalities have been catalogued for the database.  More will be added in the future.

VTOD has six features, all available on the main search page:

  • Glossary of common tree ordinance terms.  Select a term from the drop-down menu, press submit, and its definition appears below the menu.  Definitions have been excerpted from municipal ordinances, and the name of the source municipality is provided with the definition.  For some terms, definitions from multiple municipalities are provided.  Sometimes these definitions differ depending on the term’s context in the ordinance.  Take a look at critical root zone to see how municipalities differ in its measurement.
  • Key word search engine.  Type a word or phrase in the box, press submit, and VTOD locates the words in its municipal ordinance database.  The search result provides excerpted text for each municipal ordinance in which the term appears.  The search result also identifies the source municipality and groups results by the ordinance type/section.  Try searching canopy cover and see what VTOD finds.
  • Examples of common ordinance types and components.  Click a link to see examples from select municipalities in Virginia.  The link provides excerpted text from municipal ordinances that address the particular component.  Try out Variances and Appeals to see how different municipalities handle this regulatory issue.
  • Tree ordinance library.  Maybe you want to see the whole tree ordinance for our select municipalities.  If so, you can download them in either PDF or Word format.  With a bit of editing, you can quickly craft a draft ordinance for your community using one of the examples as a template.
  • Relevant Commonwealth legislation.  Virginia is a Dillon Rule state.  Therefore, Virginia municipalities have limited power to regulate the activities of their citizens.  Familiarize yourself with these statutes from the Code of Virginia before you start crafting a tree ordinance for your community.

Conceptualization – Dr. Eric Wiseman (primary contact / feedback)
Design and Research – John Peterson (report technical difficulties here) and Won Hoi Hwang

This website is intended for educational purposes only.  No guarantees, written or implied, are made on the accuracy or timeliness of this information.

These pages were last updated March 2017

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