Re: drivable emergency access. was RE: "Cohousing Overlay" asZoning Regulation
From: Wayne Tyson (
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2011 19:16:35 -0700 (PDT)
As a one-time park planner in addition to several years of education and experience in landscape design, park construction plan review, construction inspection, and ten years of the Subdivision Advisory Committee (worked closely with the Fire Marshal) for a major US city, I might be able to assist with specific issues of this kind.

This post seems sensible from a distance, but specifics are necessary to minimize error and jumping to conclusions. All "seems to me" statements should be based on facts, as Kay points out. The best way to handle the issue of emergency vehicle access is to contact your local Fire Marshal for advice, preferably in the early stages of the planning process; trees and pavement are not the only issues, and most fire departments do not charge fees for this advice. Some might not enter the project property if access/egress is poor.

Another issue that the Fire Marshal is likely to bring up is turn-around space for emergency vehicles and the entire public safety issue including the safety of firefighters. Lives have been lost when emergency vehicles have become trapped. As Kay points out, it is not necessarily adequate to provide width just enough for emergency vehicles to squeeze through. Tree placement and minimum limb height should always provide clearance for worst-case scenarios. Any landscape architect who does not provide for this should probably be dis-barred or at least barred from practice, or at least sued for malpractice if they do not both plan for this issue and provide a long term management and maintenance plan that schedules tree-training well in advance of the trees from becoming an obstruction while avoiding "lion-tailing," and other absurdities. Proper tree maintenance should nearly always be done with nothing larger than lopping shears; that this practice is rarely followed is not an invalidating argument, however. Trees should be planted where they will never cause a problem of any kind in their useful life. Tree removal should be a part of any good management plan/budget.

Porous pavement is a good idea, but it should be laid on a base that will support the heaviest potential load, and sub-drain provisions should be considered in the planning process. Under some conditions, a Fire Marshal might consider a plan which would provide for off-pavement operations, but this option is dependent upon several factors such as the potential for getting equipment stuck, etc. If this option is reasonable, repair and replanting might be cheaper than large areas of pavement.

Each case requires professional evaluation and familiarity with the site; no general description such as this should ever be relied upon. Just use care in selecting seasoned professionals for all work; even then you might consider outside professional review of proposals, plans, and specifications. While this might seem like an unnecessary additional expense, it should be far cheaper than correcting mistakes later, especially when you least expect them.


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