Tree planting permits - Planting in the right-of-way

The area between the sidewalk and the street is called the City right-of-way and is public property. It may also be referred to as the parking or the tree lawn. While the area serves many purposes, it is principally used as a space for underground or overhead utilities. Trees may be planted there, but care must be taken to understand and follow sound planting practices. Inappropriate plant species or an improper planting location can create slight obstructions for pedestrians and motorists, or interfere with overhead or underground utilities.

For these reasons and others, persons wishing to plant in the right-of-way should contact the City Forester at the Parks and Recreation office for a tree planting permit at 319-356-5100 before they purchase or plant.

Street tree planting program

The Forestry Division has planted hundreds of trees in the right-of-way over the years. If you would rather have Forestry look into planting a tree in front of your residence, they would be glad to do so. There will be no charge for the service, but you may have to be patient, as the budget is limited and many citizens contact us every year for this service. You will be placed on the planting list and a Forestry staff person will contact you about your request. Always remember that not every location is appropriate for a tree, and every aspect of promoting the health of a tree at any given location will be considered before planting.

It is unfortunate, but always possible, if a tree is planted close to underground utilities, they may have to be removed in order to repair or replace a utility service. Of course, this is only done as a last resort, but it is a possibility, if only a remote one.

Hazardous and diseased trees 

The City Code of Iowa City considers trees fitting the description below to be a public nuisance:

Section 6-1-2. Public Nuisances

B. Diseased Or Damaged Trees Or Plant Materials: Any dead, diseased or damaged trees or plant materials which may harbor serious insect or disease pests or disease injurious to other trees or plant materials, or any healthy tree in such a state of deterioration that any part of such tree is likely to fall and damage property or cause injury to persons.

Any trees fitting the above description, whether on public or private property, should be reported to:

  • Forestry: 318-356-5100 ext. 2067

For trees located on private property, contact Neighborhood and Development Services at 319-356-5132.

Trees removal

The Forestry Division, acting in the best interest of the trees and the public, determines whether a tree on City-owned property must be removed.

Reasons for tree removal from City-owned property may include:

  • Disease
  • Dead and/or declining
  • Structurally hazardous
  • Undesirable species
  • Threat to the health and well being of the public and or urban forest
  • Improper placement
Notice of tree removal from City-owned property

The immediately adjacent property owner(s) will be notified by written or personal contact.

The Forestry Division will explain the rationale behind the decision to remove a tree. The final decision as to whether a tree is removed rests with the Forestry Division.

Who pays for the tree removal?

The City of Iowa City is responsible for costs associated with tree removal for trees growing:

  • On boulevards
  • In the public right of way of streets or alleys
  • On easements behind sidewalks
  • On City-owned parkland
  • On other municipal public property