Pennington officials change code on shade tree ordinance

Pennington Borough officials made changes to the Shade Tree ordinance to clarify the procedures and the role of the municipality regarding shade trees on public property.

During a Pennington Borough Council meeting, Council President Glen Griffiths, Councilman Charles Marciante, Councilwoman Elizabeth Semple, Councilwoman Catherine Chandler, Councilwoman Beverly Mills and Councilwoman Deborah Gnatt voted “yes” to approve the amended ordinance.

“We got a grant to do a tree plating program from the state forestry council. We planted 28 street trees. As we were executing this, we realized the ordinance that had been written basically required us to get permission from the adjacent property owners before we planted a borough street tree in the right of way,” explained Pennington Borough Mayor Joseph Lawver. “So basically, we came to the realization that this was not the appropriate thing to do, giving a borough homeowner veto power over how we choose to manage the borough’s right of ways. The change in the ordinance was to clean that up.”

The changes include the elimination of any question concerning the borough council’s exclusive discretion over the types, sizes and locations of the trees to be planted, making clear the prohibition against removal of a public tree by a private person, and removing the requirement that the Shade Tree Committee develop a master plan for planting trees, clarifying instead the Shade Tree Committee’s responsibility for advising Pennington Borough in crafting and implementing the Community Forestry Management Plan, according to documents.

“Prior to the changes, the analogy would be if we were doing a road crossing where we are adding sidewalks to a street that doesn’t have sidewalks in the right of way, and we gave the adjacent homeowners the right to veto that sidewalk for that road repair,” Mayor Lawver said. “We would not let them veto the sidewalks or road repair, why would we let them veto the borough putting in a shading tree in a right of way or taking down a tree in the right of way, so this was a clean up from the previous language.”

He said once this ordinance was clarified, there were no issues raised by either the council or the public.

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