The way Richard Morantz sees it, you need a city permit to tear down your garage in Lawrence, so maybe you also should need a permit to cut down the big old tree in your backyard.
After all, the general public probably receives greater benefit from your tree than your garage.
"A big tree affects your neighbors too," Morantz said. "It provides shade to their property also. Plus, Lawrence is a beautiful city, and part of the beauty is the mature trees that we have. We just want to help protect that."
The idea, which Morantz started building support for in late 2005, is beginning to work its way through City Hall. The city's Recycling and Resource Conservation Advisory Board has endorsed the idea of creating a city advisory board that would be responsible for protecting trees.
The recycling board stopped short of endorsing a system that would require a permit for people to cut down trees on private property, but said those types of details should be worked out by the new tree board.
City commissioners haven't taken any action. Instead, they're waiting on a review by the Parks and Recreation Department of existing city ordinances regarding trees.
A new permit system might cut against the grain with some folks concerned about private property rights.
"My gut reaction is it is something the city ought to stay out of," said Newton Mulford, owner of Lawrence-based Mulford's Tree Service. "I don't see why the city should have the authority to tell a property owner what they can or can't do with their tree."
Morantz - who is a rural Baldwin resident but serves as an organizer for a citizens group called the Tree Conservancy of Lawrence - said the ordinance might not include private property.
Instead, the city could choose to have an ordinance that protects trees only on public property, such as in parks or on road rights of way.
Morantz, though, said he thought it would be good to have an ordinance that encourages developers to leave mature trees on property that they're preparing for construction.
Fred DeVictor, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said a new tree ordinance also could address what methods utility companies must use when trimming trees in their easements.
DeVictor said he is having his staff members examine the department's standards for deciding when a tree at a park or on city property should be removed. But DeVictor said his department tried to avoid cutting down trees.
"We think we're pretty careful in assessing the condition of a tree," DeVictor said. "We don't want to take down a tree if we can help it."
The city also plants about 1,000 trees per year through several programs. Earlier this week the city was recognized for the 29th consecutive year as a Tree City USA community by the National Arbor Day Foundation.