Oyster Bay to change tree ordinance

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An Oyster Bay Town ordinance requiring permits for tree removal won't be struck outright from the town code, but rather modified or replaced with another measure protecting trees, Supervisor John Venditto said Tuesday.

He called trees "a symbol of our suburban lifestyle" among testimony by civic and political leaders who opposed the proposed repeal of the ordinance.

"For those who were frightened by the word 'repeal,' don't be frightened," Venditto said.

Town officials Tuesday held the second of two public hearings on a bundle of code change proposals. Venditto said he was weighing adjusting the tree ordinance because permit fees, as much as $75 per tree, are a burden on homeowners and the permit and inspection requirements amount to "government intrusion."

Since 2008, nearly 6,000 tree removal permits have been granted and about $272,000 in fees collected, officials said.

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No vote was taken Tuesday on the ordinance. Venditto said a decision could be months away.

"There's a very thin line between burden on the citizens and public welfare," Sea Cliff Village resident James Foote said. "I encourage tweaking the ordinance . . . but not opening the flood gates for wanton development or destruction."

Anthony Losquadro, also of Sea Cliff, said governments shouldn't "dictate" what homeowners do with their properties, backing Venditto's argument.

Nassau County Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), who'd advocated for the original tree ordinance as a civic leader, said destruction such as the retaliatory 1973 bulldozing of 15 wooded Woodbury acres by a developer must be avoided. She urged that "good heads get together" to craft a modification or replacement law. Several environmentalists, including representatives of Friends of the Bay and Save the Jewel by the Bay, Tuesday offered their services.

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