BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Mayor Dan Hayes has responded to a letter from local children regarding the removal of trees along Route 202/206 at the insMED property, and said more trees are being planted to replace those that were lost.

In a letter to the families who expressed concern about the loss of trees, Hayes said the developer on the property has to abide by certain laws locally and statewide, but that it is his property to work with, not the township's. Hayes said decisions about the property were made by planning and zoning board members, and the yard in front of the building is being landscaped with a berm, with new trees to be planted.

In addition, Hayes said, the township is requiring the developer to plant even more trees and shrubs on the sides and back of the property to replace those that were lost.

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Below is Hayes's letter in its entirety:

Dear Children,

Thank you for your letter concerning the current property improvement project on state highway 202-206. Your letter is remarkably well-written. Your teachers would be proud. That you would collectively take time to write me on this topic is also uniquely impressive. Your deep concern for the environment is encouraging to us all at Town Hall.

Be assured, I and everyone at Town Hall, share your appreciation for trees and their environmental benefits. In fact, the Township has over 2500 acres of protected land and parks. In just the past two years alone, I helped secure the preservation through purchase of over 100 acres of property throughout the Township. Purchasing property for preservation is very important. Once the Township owns the property, the Township can determine how it is to be protected.

For property the Township does not own (private property), such as the project site you wrote about, other buildings, farms, as well as our own homes and yards, there are many laws protecting our environment. These laws require protecting endangered  species, replacing removed trees and many other  items.   There are also laws that protect the rights of  people  who own property-  owners like your  family if  you live in  a home with a yard. Whether for an office building or a home for  a family, if someone owns land and they wish  to make changes within the law, it is their right.

Granting a request for property changes, again whether it is for an office building or a house or a pool, is not made by one person but involves many people from the federal, state and local government who make laws about building, pollution and the environment. It also involves volunteers from our town -your neighbors, who serve on the planning and zoning boards. Whenever a property owner wishes to make a change that requires a decision from a planning or zoning board, everyone has a chance to share their ideas. For the building improvement on Route 202/206 that you wrote about, residents reviewed and gave suggestions to the plan. The yard in front of the building is being landscaped with a hill (called a berm). Unfortunately, to add the berm, existing trees had to be removed. New ones will be planted when the hill is built. As part of the plan, we required even more trees and shrubs be planted on the sides and back of th e property which will give neighbors more privacy and provide additional places for wildlife to live. I assure you that everyone involved in this project and every other throughout the town is working as hard as th ey can within the law to keep Bridgewater the beautiful town that it is today!

Arbor Day has come and gone. Perhaps I saw you at our Township celebration. If not, I hope you had a special day, possibly joining in one of the many other celebrations in our area or having one of your own. In any event, I thank you again for your letter. I wish you all the best as the school year comes to a close and summer arrives.

Sincerely,

Mayor Dan Hayes