After months of arguing that Fair Haven’s tree ordinance is unconstitutional and needs to be put through a chipper, borough Councilman Bob Marchese is now proposing that it be dug up, balled and relocated.
That, he said, would at least begin to address the law’s most problematic elements, as demonstrated by a recent brouhaha over a 100-foot tulip poplar.
At Monday night’s borough council meeting, Marchese proposed removing the controversial tree-preservation law from a land-use ordinance and reconstituting it as a code-enforcement matter.
The effect, he and borough Attorney Sal Alfieri said, would be that homeowners wishing to remove trees protected under the ordinance would no longer be required to obtain a zoning variance. Instead, they would take their cases to the borough council.
The law protects specimen trees and those that exceed specified girths. Builder Bob Susser saw his plan for a three-home subdivision on Woodland Drive, which otherwise required no variances, held up for months as his request to remove an 80-year-old tulip poplar was kicked from one department to another, and later on appeal to the planning board — three times. He succeeded in winning approval to remove the tree on the third try, in March.
Councilman Jerome Koch wondered if the change would “take some of the teeth out” of the existing law. Marchese said the move “doesn’t change how we define protected trees, but reduces the burden” on the planning and zoning arms of the town government.
“I still haven’t changed my opinion of the tree ordinance,” Marchese told redbankgreen afterward. “I will still seek to make it better.”
The amendment is expected to be formally introduced at the next council meeting on May 29.