Village of Nyack Tree Committee
Attending: Marcy Denker, Chrissy Place, Seth Kestenbaum, Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, Don Yacopino
1. TREE REMOVAL APPLICATION FORM
The draft tree removal permit application form that Marcy developed and circulated to the Building Inspector, Planning Board and Tree Committee on October 2 was discussed. The draft attempts to address problems that arise due to lack of clarity both in the code and the format of the application, and it raises substantive questions about the current provisions in the Code.
Debate regarding individual property rights. Nyack’s code, like many others in the region and elsewhere, restricts tree removals on private property. Seth asked whether the question of the constitutionality of this has been settled, elsewhere. Limiting the removal of trees on private property is based on protecting a common good, since trees contribute to the environmental health, quality of life and property values in the community. Elijah raised the example of historic perseveration restrictions. (The Natural Resources Protection Chapter in Nyack’s Code, where the Tree Protection standards are found, also contains provisions to limit private property owner’s rights to protect viewsheds.) The committee agreed that it would be useful to bring forward examples of how this has been addressed elsewhere.
Replacement Trees There was general agreement that approval of the removal of a healthy tree should include a replacement requirement of some kind and that payment of a fee into a tree fund instead of requiring on-site planting would simplify the process. The draft application shows both options.
There was debate about how large a fee or tree to require. But the majority believed that the fee would need to be set fairly low ($150? Not $450). Elijah disagreed. Don said that the higher fee would be unlikely to have approval by the Village Board.
Penalties Fines for illegal removals are set high but are not imposed. We need to include the judge in this discussion and bring forward examples from other communities. Marcy will check with Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and others.
Tree Canopy and Forest Health as the Goal
The overarching goal of the rules and process should be to protect and enhance the tree canopy and maximize the health and function of the “village forest” overall. With this goal in mind, the village can develop a flexible set of responses that acknowledge the variety of reasons people want to remove trees and the problems that come up.
An approach that provides for planting of replacement trees in the many vacant tree planting sites on public property and that encourages and enables planting on private property, especially along the streets, should be developed. The Tree Committee has already started working on these things and could work on changes to the application to make it into a package that includes the permit application and information about the planting program.
Which tree removals are denied?
We need to understand better which trees removals the Planning Board currently deny.
Required Information from the Arborist
The draft application introduces a form that a certified arborist would be required to submit. This is meant to ensure more standardized reporting and avoid submissions that don’t give enough detail or describe alternatives to removal. We need to have comments on this additions to the application.
What will be required to set up a tree fund for fees? The Parks Conservancy will be setting up a tree donation program. Can they be the same?
Definition of Significant Tree
There is general agreement that the definition of Significant tree should be changed to the common standard measuring the diameter of the tree at breast height, or 4.5’ above ground rather than 6” about the ground as it currently reads.
Other questions: Is 8” appropriate? Should the definition exclude invasive species if they are under a certain size that is larger than 8”? Would another category of protected tree be useful, such as Heritage Tree, which some codes include to protect certain trees with specific qualities other than just size?
2. TREE PLANTING PROGRAM
(Marcy, Chrissy and Elijah stayed to discussed this)
We can start now to develop a planting program with two parts – municipal and community.
For the municipal part, we will discuss with Jim Politi and Doug Foster to identify the key sites for planting and develop a budget proposal. The tree planting could possibly be in the capital budget (and we need to look at the inventory data to see what maintenance to budget for).
We can develop a plan for outreach to community members who would like to buy trees in a range of sizes to plant in designated street tree locations and/or on their properties. Marcy sent a short list of trees selected from our new list of trees recommended for urban/streetscape to a nursery for prices very small to medium sized trees. We would like property owners who have some room to buy some small trees to cultivate in small home nurseries until they are ready to plant out. Chrissy may be able to set this up at the elementary school too.
The NYS Urban Forestry grants for planting should be announced soon. We will apply and plan for a planting next fall using those funds.
Chrissy has joined the Parks Conservancy and will be working on the donations website. It will include information about how to donate to a tree fund along the model used in many other places. The conservancy can use this funding for street trees as well as park trees.
3. POSTPONED DISCUSSIONS
• Maintenance grant
• DPW Pruning Workshop
• Keeping Inventory up to date