In a recent move highlighting the Ho-Ho-Kus Borough Council’s commitment to the town’s environmental welfare, new laws concerning the maintenance of trees and bamboo have been passed and other critical decisions were made.
First on the agenda were revisions to Ordinance #2023-81, which raised the municipal budget appropriation limits and set up a cap bank, leading to a budget increase of up to 3.5% over the previous year’s final appropriations, about $262,653, in order to boost residents’ health, safety, and welfare. Despite significant deliberation, the public offered no comments during the hearing.
Secondly, the meeting saw a public acknowledgement of Aiden Berkenbush’s resignation letter as dispatcher and an approval for a new $15 million voting machine. Updates on the Water Filtration System Project, with completion anticipated in May 2024, were also delivered.
However, the meeting’s highlights were the ordinances aimed at preserving and enhancing the borough’s natural surroundings. Ordinance #2023-82 increased the potential total Volunteer Incentive Program amount, while Ordinance #2023-83 now regulates bamboo growth within the borough, prohibiting any new bamboo planting and mandating confinement of existing growth to prevent encroachment.
Ordinance #2023-84, the council’s reaction to unchecked tree destruction, outlined the necessity of Tree Removal Permits and specific regulations for tree removal related to construction, septic system repairs, and solar installations. Some trees, such as dead or diseased ones posing imminent hazards, are exempt from these rules.
Under the revised tree regulation, the Zoning Official can review and approve or deny tree removal plans. Any violation incurs a fine of up to $1,000, possible imprisonment, and potentially a specific performance penalty, including a restoration plan for cut trees. Furthermore, a $100 administrative fee applies upon submission of a tree removal permit application, with all fees being directed to a Tree Bank Trust Account for tree planting and restoration.
The council also passed Ordinance #2023-85 to further amend the Borough’s Code in relation to tree regulation, emphasizing responsibilities for tree planting and improvement costs, tree protection during construction, and wire stringing requirements by utilities around trees.
The Borough Council paid considerable attention to Chapters 76 and 63 of the municipal code, addressing definitions and permit applications related to “shade and ornamental trees and shrubbery” and “soil movement,” respectively. They also discussed the vital role of landscape plans in land subdivision and site plan reviews, prompting the introduction of a street tree planting deposit.
Finally, the Council recognized an issue raised by resident Scott Johnson regarding a potential cost burden on homeowners due to existing borough trees, which they pledged to consider. A range of municipal expenses, including a registration fee for a spring conference for the Municipal Court Officers Association of NJ and costs related to the police department and the Fire Department, were also evaluated.