Millburn Township Committee Ponders Tree Preservation Ordinance

Forrester Tom Doty Discusses Tree Ordinance Credits: Liz Keill

MILLBURN, NJ – A potential Tree Preservation Ordinance generated considerable discussion at the township committee’s Tuesday, May 19, meeting.

“This ordinance has been coming for some time,” Attorney Christopher Falcon said.  He referred to a case in Jackson Township, NJ, that went before the Superior Court which rejected a complaint issue.  “The complaint has to come for every tree, not for all trees,” he said.  

Township Forrester Tom Doty said the Environmental Commission had determined a donation or fee of $250 if a tree is taken down and not replaced, either on the owner’s property or on township property.  He said Millburn does not have a Shade Tree Appeal Board and that the Advisory Committee could not take the appropriate action.  The township had a list several years ago, Doty said, but some of those trees have died, are diseased or have been removed.  He asked the committee to consider the question: How would you feel if you had an historic tree on your property? How would your family or heirs feel about it?

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He said the original listing was “a feel good list” while today there are concerns about impinging on property rights. “We can’t verify that owners were even notified about this list,” he said. He also questioned, if it is historic, does the township maintain the tree?  Of the 21 trees listed in the original inventory, he found seven that are on township property.

Committee member Sandra Haimoff asked how other communities address the issue.  “Not a lot of towns do,” Doty said.  Haimoff said she thought the original intent was not aimed at homeowners, but at builders coming into the community.

The committee discussed the diameters of trees and that at least 10 inches in diameter and up to 18 inches would need a permit to remove the tree. “There are hundreds of different scenarios,” Doty said and that each situation had to be treated individually.  Falcon said some of these issues become major problems and those decisions should be made “at the discretion of the forester.”  No action was taken and the ordinance will continue to be revised.

In other matters, Committeeman W. Theodore Bourke presented a proclamation to Dr. Lisa Jacobs for Down the Block Month in June. “This organization really took off in 2007,” he said. “Its major focus is to help people out of a bind. It’s not a long term solution.” He said people don’t have to ask, but short term assistance is available and “helps neighbors in need to pay for basic goods and services.”  Down the Block was formed during the financial crisis a few years ago and raises funds to help neighbors who have come on hard times.

Ed Mazur of Greenwood Drive asked about the spill at the former Exxon Station, located at Essex and Main streets.  He said he understood there were disagreements on the spill, since the township owned the land. Committee member Ian Mount said extensive soil remediation has taken place and that ground water contamination is very limited. An injection process is used in three intervals. “After the series of injections, we will close out the site,” he said, although the process could take six months to two years.

Mazur asked about the cost, which Mayor Robert Tillotson said was $135,000. An earlier settlement in 2002 involved Exxon Mobil, the owner of the station and the township insurance company.

Tillotson also addressed the bear sightings which occurred over the weekend.  “People are frustrated by the lack of action, but we are constrained by the Department of Fish and Wildlife,” he said.  He added there had been a lack of communication regarding a Code Red alert through the Police Department and that any bear captured would be tranquilized and taken to a less congested area.

The next township committee meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, in the Town Hall.


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