Berkeley Heights Proposes Tree Protection Revisions Amid Flooding Concerns

In a recent Berkeley Heights Town Council meeting, a comprehensive revision of the tree protection chapter of the township code was the primary focus. The council discussed proposed changes, including a graduated fee structure for tree removal permits and a tree fund for township reforestation efforts.

The revision of the tree protection ordinance, initiated by the Environmental Commission several years prior, is designed to mitigate the increase in storm water runoff and flooding correlated with the reduction of the tree canopy in Berkeley Heights. The proposed graduated fee structure ranges from $25 for the removal of up to three trees to $250 for more than ten trees. The fee revisions also account for tree replacement based on size, with larger trees necessitating more replacements to maintain the existing canopy.

The proposal introduces exemptions for emergency removal, dead and dying trees, and invasive species to alleviate homeowner burdens. Moreover, a dedicated email address for tree-related inquiries was established to streamline communication. The council discussed the creation of a tree fund designated for the replacement and maintenance of trees within the township, underlining a commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation.

During the meeting, the necessity to update the tree ordinance to align with state legislation was underscored by the council. The ordinance update is crucial in addressing concerns about developer clear-cutting and the town’s water management issues, with trees playing a role in storm water management. The council recognized the effort and collaboration involved in updating the ordinance and acknowledged individual contributions.

Public comments revealed a need for clarity on tree replacement requirements and exemptions, with one resident inquiring about the replacement of large trees and another questioning the exemption criteria of one tree per quarter acre. There was also a comparison made to the state’s model ordinance to ensure Berkeley Heights’ ordinance was consistent with state standards. The process for obtaining approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was discussed, highlighting the council’s focus on balancing environmental concerns with the interests of residents and builders.

Additionally, a proposed ordinance aimed at prohibiting trespassing for the purpose of tampering with or committing theft of motor vehicles was brought to the table. A public hearing on the ordinance addressed minor technical issues but closed with no significant opposition.

The council also discussed updates from various committees, including economic development, senior committee, planning board, grants, and the mayor’s wellness committee. Federal funding updates for sewer and storm water improvements were shared, and initiatives for Mental Health Awareness Month, including the “Paint The Town Green” campaign, were discussed. The library, police department, and youth academy provided updates on programs, and the Highlanders hockey team was congratulated for their state championship performance.

Further discussions involved the annual spring chipping program, construction updates, and a Grant application for the New Jersey historic trust Grant. The Sherman Avenue revitalization project was a topic of conversation, with discussions on expediting the completion of peppertown Park. Women’s History Month celebrations and the nomination of local “shiros” were also on the agenda. Citizens voiced concerns over the delayed wall and sewer plan issues, prompting the council to address financial constraints and the prioritization of urgent capital improvements.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Angie Devanney
City Council Officials:
Susan Poage, Manuel Couto, Bill Machado, Paul Donnelly, Margaret Illis, John Foster

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