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Local Codes Block Storm Wary Residents From Removing Trees

1-7-13

By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

Superstorm Sandy left numerous downed trees. They blocked roadways, fell on power lines and homes and, in some cases, they caused injuries and deaths. In light of this, some officials and residents question how safe and stable the trees are in their community. Among them is Ernesto Rodriguez. He wants to remove two municipal-owned trees located on his front lawn because he’s fearful the 60-foot oak trees could topple over in a storm. That’s what happened to several trees in his neighborhood during superstorm Sandy.

“That tree fell … another oak tree over here fell and I think one crushed the mayor’s car,” said Ernesto Rodriguez. No one was hurt but Rodriguez is worried the next downed tree could potentially kill someone. Despite his concerns, he said the Ho-Ho-Kus Shade Tree Commission denied his request to cut down the trees on his front lawn because an inspector determined the trees were healthy.

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Ho-Ho-Kus Mayor Thomas Randall said preserving healthy trees is one of the goals of the Shade Tree Commission. But he points out that safety is also a priority. That’s why trees were inspected along a pathway leading to a local school. In light of the recent storms, the mayor said the town may reexamine its tree removal policies. But he believes there should be a legitimate reason to cut a tree down, not simply because a resident thinks a tree is too tall or old.

The rules dictating when a tree can be removed vary from town to town. Some municipalities base the criteria on the diameter and height of the tree. Others limit the total number of trees that can be cut down per year without a permit. Attorney Kenneth Porro recommends residents check local codes before attempting to fell any tree because the penalties can be costly. “In the days of old you could easily remove a tree … Now what’s happened, through the evolution of development, local government has established ordinances … that regulate the removal of trees.”