FAIR HAVEN — Anyone waiting for a borough council decision on a long-debated tree preservation ordinance will have to wait a little while longer.
Although the matter was on the agenda at their regular meeting last Monday, only four of the six-member council members were present and with Mayor Michael Halfacre absent as well, the consensus was to hold off until the entire governing body was available to participate in the discussion.
One of the two ordinances being proposed would repeal the existing ordinance, explained Borough Attorney Salvatore Alfieri Monday night. The other ordinance, scheduled to be discussed at a future date, would establish a procedure by which someone who is seeking to remove trees from a property could appeal a denial from the planning or zoning boards. The intention of that ordinance would be to allow the council “to look at (the issue) not in a vacuum but look at it as a whole,” Alfieri said.
The existing ordinance allows the boards to require a property owner to replace trees that are cut down. “Obviously, we have a public application that came before the planning board that brought this to a head,” said Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande in explanation of what prompted the council’s debate on what should be done about tree regulations.
The application that sparked the discussion goes back about two years, when the owner of a property at 46 Poplar Avenue sought approval for a three-lot subdivision to develop the site for two additional residential lots. That plan called for the removal of 12 trees from the property. The planning board denied the owner’s request and the owner then took the matter to the council seeking to have the decision overturned.
Controversy erupted between those who saw the tree ordinance as a means of maintaining control over development in the borough and those who felt it infringed on property rights.
Councilman Robert Marchese is firmly on the side of property owners, and he called for the ordinances to be tabled, in part to ensure the ordinance that allows the council to override board decisions didn’t go too far. “I want to make sure (the proposed ordinance) can’t do it retroactively,” he said. “My concern is the principle of the law at the time.”
The language of the proposed ordinance would be reviewed and then brought back for discussion at a later meeting, Alfieri said.