LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Lewisboro officials are revising the town’s tree ordinance, which they have deemed antiquated, in hopes of curtailing overly exuberant clear cutting on the part of property owners.
The Lewisboro Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) expressed concerned about the issue in a recent letter to the town board.
“The CAC has observed situations where Lewisboro’s environment has been affected by extensive tree cutting,” the letter said. “People have cut trees on and off their property without suitable review or restriction.”
Supervisor Peter Parsons said the town’s tree ordinance is very old and weak and in dire need of revising. It was written in 1976 and hasn’t been changed since. He said the new law would be modeled heavily after the Town of Bedford's ordinance.
The CAC has constructed a proposed revision of the law that it believes is more in line with current environmental standards and concerns.
The first draft of the revised ordinance allows for cutting trees that endanger homes and offices, roads and utilities. It also allows for property owners to remove up to three trees per acre owned on an annual basis.
“The proposal balances the rights of landowners with the important ecological needs of tree preservation,” the CAC said.
The proposed revised ordinance would require permits for homeowners to remove trees that are in wetlands or wetland buffers, located on a slope exceeding a grade of 25 degrees due to erosion issues, for cutting more than three trees per acre in any given year, or cutting a tree greater than 18 inches diameter at breast height.
Violation of the proposed revised ordinance would call for up to $400 in fines, up to six months in prison, the replacement of removed trees, or a combination of those penalties.
Parson said the town board was in agreement that clear cutting needs to be regulated and a revision of the ordinance is in order. He lauded the CAC for its research on the matter.
There’s still much more work to be done before any revision of the ordinance comes to fruition, Parsons said.
“The CAC will work with the town lawyers and then do any rewrites that are needed,” he said. “Then they will go to the town planning board for input and then the county planning board for approval.”
After that, the town will hold a public hearing on the matter to receive input from residents.
“We could actually have several public hearings,” Parsons said. “This is not a slam bang issue. It’s more complex than changing the speed limit on Chapel Road.”
Part of the CAC’s proposed revision calls for the creation of a tree officer, who would be charged with administrating the new law. Parson said those responsibilities would be given to an existing town employee and would not call for any extra taxpayer money.