Solution For Tree Ordinance Dispute Suggested

By John Burton

FAIR HAVEN – The Bor­ough Council seems to be making its way to another round on the future of a long-argued tree preservation ordinance.

Borough Councilman Robert Marchese initiated a conversation during the council meeting Monday, May 14, and offered an amended version of the ordinance that has been the source of debate for more than a year.

As Marchese explained it, the proposal would change the existing ordinance and allow property owners to get tree removal permits for certain types of trees with a certain diameter without having to appear before the planning board.

“It would essentially be the same,” as the existing ordinance, Marchese said, “but now it would be done administratively.”

The change would put the ordinance under the purview of code enforcement and property maintenance, rather than its current designation as a planning and zoning ordinance.

If the council adopts the proposal, property owners would have to apply for a permit and have it evaluated by the local code enforcement officer and borough’s arborist.

Property owners would appear before the planning or zoning board for approval only if the property was part of an application for development.

Property owners would continue to be able to go to the council if their applications are denied.

As it currently stands, the boards grant applications to remove trees and determine what trees need to be planted to replace them.

The existing ordinance has been on the books for about five years. It was enacted to preserve especially mature full-grown specimen trees and to prevent clear-cutting of properties, which had occurred in the past.

The ordinance became the source of much volleying among the council members more than a year ago when a developer appeared before the governing body to appeal the planning board’s denial of an application to remove 12 trees from a Poplar Avenue property.

The council was divided; some members said preservation was for the public good and others thought the law went too far.

Marchese was very vocal in his opposition to the ordinance during those debates. He called his new propsal “an improvement over what we currently have.”

“We understand there are deficiencies in our tree ordinance,” Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli said Tuesday. “I think this is a first step,” to remedy those concerns.

The proposal is only in the discussion stage, The borough council is reviewing the language, Borough Attorney Salvatore Alfieri said.

Officials may look at other municipalities’ laws as a model for the borough ordinance, Lucarelli said.

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