Council to try again on tree-removal law


Staff Writer

FONT size=9HOWELL — Another attempt to introduce a woodlands management or so-called tree ordinance was scheduled for the Township Council’s meeting Nov. 23.

FONT size=9If the ordinance is eventually adopted by the governing body it will institute a permit and revenue policy for the removal of trees from private property.

FONT size=9At a previous meeting, Township Attorney Thomas Gannon told council members he had received a memo from the Shade Tree Commission regarding the ordinance. Gannon said the memo requested that the woodlands management ordinance not be under the auspices of municipal land use law.

FONT size=9Gannon said he disagreed with that request. He said the ordinance should remain in land use so that the Planning Board can address any appeals that may arise of its enforcement.

FONT size=9According to the ordinance, there would be a $15 application fee for a permit to cut down trees.

FONT size=9A tree ordinance has been under discussion since the spring when Howell’s certified tree expert Zig Panek developed a first draft which was met with some criticism. The draft was sent back for modifications. One modification dropped the permit fee from $25 to $15.

FONT size=9Not surprisingly, the supporters of the ordinance include the members of Shade Tree Commission, who agree that the ordinance is needed in order to protect Howell from residents who would indiscriminately cut trees down and builders who would clear-cut lots.

FONT size=9However, the ordinance has its opponents.

FONT size=9Former Mayor Suzanne Veitengruber has opposed the law and said the issue should be decided by voters through a nonbinding public referendum.

FONT size=9The ordinance states that the law is being developed to deal with increasing incidents within the township of the “indiscriminate cutting and removal of trees.”

FONT size=9It goes on to note that “a continuation of this practice will result in the degradation of the environment of the township as well as creating problems of increased water run-off, soil instability and erosion on particular lots upon which unplanned tree removal takes place and upon the lands which adjoin them.”

FONT size=9The ordinance states that the ordinance’s intention is to “protect the property, health and general welfare of the citizens of the township by requiring the careful planning of any tree removal to take place in a managed manner.”

FONT size=9The ordinance does provide exemptions. They include residential home site lots of 1 acre or less.

FONT size=9The residential exemption is subject to any easements or buffer restrictions affecting the lot. Also exempted are commercial nurseries, Christmas tree plantings and farms, fruit orchards and fruit farms.

FONT size=9The ordinance also provides exemptions for the removal of trees which are dead, dying or diseased, or trees that have suffered severe damage, or any tree whose angle or growth makes it a hazard to structures or human life.

FONT size=9Violators of the ordinance could face fines of not more than $1,000 per violation and/or imprisonment in the county jail for no more than 90 days.

FONT size=9If the woodlands management ordinance was introduced as scheduled on Nov. 23, a public hearing and possible adoption of the new law will take place at the council’s Dec. 21 meeting.