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COUNCILMAN WANTS TO AXE TREE ORDINANCE

bob-marcheseBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Is Fair Haven Councilman Bob Marchese barking up the wrong tree?

The second-year councilman, shown right, told his counterparts Monday night that he wants to see the borough’s tree ordinance repealed, and intends to take it to a vote in the near future.

The ordinance, designed to protect trees of a certain size from the saw, was at issue last year when the borough code enforcement officer refused to let a home builder cut down a dozen trees and the council overruled the decision.

That set off a series of contentious debates, initiated by a teenager, over property rights and environmental concerns, and it didn’t die down until recently.

So when Marchese resurrected the topic, Mayor Mike Halfacre dispensed a bit of advice.

“I said, ‘buckle up,'” Halfacre told redbankgreen.

Marchese said he isn’t looking to start a fight, though.

The ordinance, in his view, is an example of overreaching local government and an infringement on property owners’ rights.

The law, passed in 2007, says property owners must get permission from code enforcement to cut down trees of a certain diameter. If permission is denied — as it was to Spencer Foxworth, who was building two new homes on Poplar Street last year — it is open to an appeal before the council. And the council, Marchese said, has been “extremely flexible” in appeals.

“My fear is that the ordinance, how it’s written now, is an affront to property rights,” he said, “and there’s no guarantee the council will be so flexible as it is now.”

So Marchese wants to scrap the ordinance altogether and find another way to preserve both the trees and rights of property owners, he said. Whatever that may entail is for future discussions, he said, although he’s formulated a couple of alternatives that might accomplish that end.

“I want to see it repealed, but I want to replace it with something less restrictive,” Marchese said.

Halfacre said considering the council’s mixed response to Marchese’s proposal Monday night, he’s not sure if a repeal would even pass a vote.

“He seems to think he has the votes to do it,” Halfacre said. “I don’t think he does, based on the reaction last night.”

But Marchese said he wants to at least open a dialogue to find a compromise to an ordinance he says can be a “ridiculous requirement” for a property owner.

He expects to draw a backlash from his proposal, but hopes more than anything that there’ll be substantive discussions to find a solution, he said.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I could’ve made the motion (Monday night). I wanted to first get it out there, broach the topic. I want public input.

“I could make the motion and the motion might not pass and that’s it,” he continued. “It could be very close.”

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