Trustees Ask for More Revisions to Proposed Clear-Cutting Code

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clearcuttingScarsdale Trustees considered, but failed to agree on new provisions to prevent the clear cutting of trees on Scarsdale properties at their meeting on September 12. Members of the Conservation Advisory Council recommended new rules governing tree removal, but after considerable discussion, Law Committee Chair Carl Finger asked Village staff to make several changes and clarifications to the recommended code and schedule another committee meeting to review it.

Last spring, Trustees passed some new tree provisions but stopped short of passing new laws involving the removal – or clear cutting – of clusters of trees. At their meeting on April 24, 2018, Trustees passed the following laws regarding tree removal:

Replacement Trees: A replacement tree is required for a removed tree that is 24'' diameter (reduced from 36'' diameter). Replacement trees need to be 3'' in diameter and a native species.

As of Right Removal: Homeowners can continue to remove 2 trees as of right per year (under 24'' diameter).

Dead, Dying, Hazardous or Diseases Trees: Trees in any of these conditions (of any size) can be removed without the need for a replacement tree

Tree Permits: A permit is required to remove six small caliper trees above 3'' in diameter. Permits for all other trees remain at 6'' diameter. Trees, aside from the six small caliper ones listed in the code, do not require a permit to remove if under 6'' diameter.

Protected Trees: They updated the list of protected trees to align with endangered native trees.

On Wednesday September 12, 2018 the trustees discussed an "aggregate test" provision to the tree code which look at the Total DBH (diameter at breast height) of any tree that requires a permit (for example 2'' trees are not included in the total of DBH since they wouldn't require a permit to remove) to determine the number of replacement trees required.

Specifically, they agreed that they favored Option A which reads as follows:

Permitted trees removed having an aggregate DBH of 48 inches or greater:

• A 2 inch DBH replacement tree of a genus and species expected to grow to a maturity at a similar size to the removed tree or trees shall be planted for every 24 inches of DBH removed up to 120 inches of aggregate DBH;

• Two 2 inch DBH replacement tree of a genus and species expected to grow to a maturity at a similar size to the removed tree or trees shall be planted for every 24 inches of DBH removed above 120 inches and less than 240.1 inches aggregate DBH and if payment to the Tree Preservation Fund in lieu of replacement tree is utilized, then the payment shall be double the amount set by the Village Board in its annual fees and charges schedule;

• No trees shall be removed above 240 inches aggregate DBH.

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Opening the discussion Trustee Carl Finger who heads the Law Committee explaned the intent of the new code, saying, “This is targeted to the 6-10% of most significant tree removers … the people who remove the most trees will be affected the most.”

In the discussion at the meeting, Trustee Lena Crandall said, “We need our trees…. this is an incremental step.” Matt Callaghan said, “this is a good start though it my need to be tweaked again.” Mayor Dan Hochvert explained that he replaced a diseased 40 inch oak with a new two inch oak that he hopes will be on the property for several generations. Trustee Ross said, “Having this codified leads to greater predictability.”

However Trustees Justin Arest and Jane Veron were not on board. Arest said, “ I hoped we could do this through the land use process. Should we focus on the higher end at the beginning?”

Veron said, “I don’t believe that this legislation gets at our goal. Our goal gets at replacement. I prefer attacking this through the land use process. Applications come through the boards. At the land use board we can ask whether we can we change the footprint of the house and save the trees? I don’t think this will solve the problem. It will raise funds to plant trees.”

She continued, “I am a gradual change person. We just changed legislation and we don’t know the consequences. I would rather proceed more modestly.”

Carl Finger responded, saying, “I don’t understand why the discussion you’re talking about can’t still happen – even with this law?” He commented later, “I sat on the BAR and was in the room for those discussions. Jane was on the Planning Board they had more leverage to negotiate. It’s hard to have a one size fits all solution. The greater impact will be on the big lots. It is not simply that you can pay instead of planting replacement trees.”

Mayor Hochvert said, “The Board of Architectural Review says they don’t have the uumph that they would have if we passed this code. The BAR is having difficulty.”

In comments from the public, Claudine Gecel of Kent Road spoke passionately about tree removal. Arguing for the regulations she told the trustees, “You go to the BAR meeting and you duke it out there.”

Bob Berg objected to the new code calling it a “hyrda” that keeps on expanding. He said, “It is more complicated than the IRS code – no one can get through it. This is based on a back of the napkin analysis. This is not the basis to enact a new law. You enacted a new law in April over considerable opposition. Address clear cutting through a land use board. The developers don’t care how much they have to pay to replace the trees. It’s pocket change to them. It offends people on smaller properties ho want to remove 5 or 6 trees.”

Trustee Justin Arest responded to Berg, saying “I thought you were upset about a property owner who removed a lot of trees a few months ago – and we couldn’t prevent it because we had no clear cutting code.” To which Berg said, “I am sure this wouldn’t address that!”

Ron Schulhof said, “I worked on this as part of the CAC. My personal view is that many changes to land use laws need to be made. This does not preclude that. You need underlying code – in addition to the negotiations at the land use boards. Dead, diseased dying trees are not included. You can’t take every tree and put it into the tree preservation fund. If a developer wants to take down 40 trees, many will need to get replaced. If you were to use the tree preservation fund – what is that amount?
Maybe I can save this tree so I don’t pay? Penalties for illegal tree removal should be adjusted so they are higher than the tree removal fees. I would do 3 inch replacements – rather than 2 inch replacements. Current code was 3 inches. In terms of timing, I think it should be longer than a 12 month period.”

As the meeting concluded, Finger asked Village staff to revise the proposed code and consider the aggregate number of 48 inches, saying we might need different aggregates for each zone. He asked them to look at the time span for the tree removal regulations, to outline the penalties and to make a recommendation about the size of the replacement trees – either 2” or 3” DBH.

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