By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
In Fair Haven’s great tree debate, the borough council has gone back and forth for months, trying to find middle ground on revisions that would satisfy advocates of both property rights and environmental concerns.
Now, the shade tree commission has weighed with a set of proposed revisions to the ordinance. The planning board has chimed in, too, recommending the law be uprooted altogether and re-seeded with a fresh perspective.
Where does a governing body go from here? Back to the negotiating table, apparently.
Though it appeared set to vote on final revisions to its oft-debated tree preservation ordinance Monday night, the council again wound up pausing the process order to talk with fellow officials who’ve recently rendered opinions on the document.
“It’s not going anywhere in the near future,” Mayor Mike Halfacre said.
That’s because the council, since breaking from its last meeting on the topic, has gotten feedback from the two other bodies, each of which proposed changes that may find their way into yet another round of revisions.
Since the spring, council members have butted heads on specifics of the ordinance, which controls which and how many trees a property owner may cut down. The governing body has failed to agree on where to draw the line between property rights and the better good of the borough and environment.
A number of changes, when they went up for an initial vote in May, split the council, leaving Halfacre to cast the deciding but not definite vote.
Councilman Bob Marchese, who initiated an overhaul to the local law in April, wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the changes the other bodies proposed. But he said the planning board minus member Ralph Wyndrum, who submitted a number of suggestions which the shade tree commission accepted is of the position that the contentious law should be repealed, reworked and reintroduced.
Marchese noted that was his aim in March, when, beating the drum for property rights, he suggested the ordinance be axed.
“It’s pulling me back to my original point,” the first-term councilman said. “And I may end up there.”
A public hearing on the revised ordinance was rescheduled for the council’s September 12 meeting. Between now and then, council members will meet with representatives from the planning board and shade tree commission to see if a compromise is possible, Halfacre said.
“Some new product will probably come out of that,” he said.