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N. Hempstead amends tree code, creates preservation fund 

North Hempstead Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, who spearheaded the

North Hempstead Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, who spearheaded the efforts to amend the town tree code, at Manhasset Valley Park on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

In an effort to preserve and restore trees in North Hempstead, the town board recently approved changes to the tree code, including the creation of a preservation fund that ensures removed trees are replaced.

The amendments, approved 6-1 at a Nov. 18 meeting, would also establish a tree advisory board and a preservation fund, which will be funded by payments in lieu of planting for residents who cannot replace trees on their property. If plantings cannot occur within 90 days of the tree removal, the town will require the permit applicant to deposit a performance bond or a cash deposit for the planting of trees. All forfeited bonds will go to the preservation fund, according to the new tree code.

Councilman Angelo Ferrara, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said at the meeting he supported all of the changes except the payment in lieu of planting trees. Ferrara — whose district incorporates Garden City Park, Mineola, Williston Park, Garden City and parts of New Hyde Park — said his district’s property lines may be too tight for some of the requirements. He noted the new law would require three smaller trees to be planted if a larger tree with a diameter greater than 30 inches was removed. Residents would have to deposit about $300 per tree to the preservation fund, if they cannot meet the requirements.

A third resolution was unanimously approved, which amends the local law regarding the removal of trees from a public right of way and town-owned public places.

Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, who spearheaded the efforts, said the process took nearly a year after gathering feedback from local stakeholders and drafting several versions of the tree code.

"I’m really proud to say we were able to enact a tree code that really works in several different ways … It works to preserve, to maintain and to remove trees when they have to be removed in an environmentally responsible manner," Lurvey said.

The advisory committee will now include residents, town employees and an arborist, Lurvey said. The committee will help give input on a tree master plan, offer recommendations on types of trees to be planted and provide input on a new town tree inventory.

For the last 10 years, North Hempstead has been recognized as a Tree City USA Community by the Arbor Day Foundation. The designation demonstrates a community’s commitment to the environment, according to the foundation.

Westbury resident Peter Gaffney lauded the new amendments and the collaborative effort to bring the legislation to fruition.

The preservation fund, he added, is vital because it will replace trees, but not at the expense of the taxpayer.

"The idea of having people who are knocking them down and not replacing [trees] pay for it, that makes perfect sense to me," he said.

Margaret Galbraith, facilitator for the nonprofit Transition Town Port Washington, an organization committed to building a sustainable community, said the new law aligns with the organization's mission.

"We see our trees as fundamental in helping us have a more sustainable Port Washington and community," Galbraith said. "I think this is the beginning of many needed changes."

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