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Town of North Hempstead villages revisit laws regulating trees

Plandome Mayor M. Lloyd Williams said the village

Plandome Mayor M. Lloyd Williams said the village felt compelled to put laws in place after multiple trees were removed last year at residential redevelopment projects. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Several villages in the Town of North Hempstead have recently moved to toughen restrictions on tree maintenance and removal, with some imposing fines up to $25,000 against violators.

Over the past few months, the boards of trustees for the villages of Plandome, Munsey Park and Baxter Estates have all begun revisiting tree laws, with discussion about removal limits and whether village-owned trees should be maintained by residents.

The village of Plandome passed a tree law on Oct. 10, after the close of a nearly nine-month-long moratorium banning residents from removing more than two trees in excess of 10 inches in diameter. Mayor M. Lloyd Williams said the village felt compelled to put laws in place after multiple trees were removed last year at residential redevelopment projects.

“We were one of the few villages that did not have a tree law, and that’s why people took advantage of it,” Williams said Tuesday. “The village would like to preserve trees, especially large ones that take 80-odd years for them to grow.”

Under the new law, it is illegal to remove or substantially alter a tree without an approved permit from the village. In an emergency situation, such as a life- or property-threatening event, a tree can be removed or altered if authorized by a village official. Violators are subject to a fine not to exceed $25,000, according to the measure.

After experiencing “wanton disregard of the village’s tree regulations,” the village of Baxter Estates passed a law in 2006 prohibiting the destruction or alteration of a tree without a permit, subject to a fine not to exceed $5,000 for a first-time offense. The village may require residents to replant an identical or similar type of tree, according to the code.

The village board of trustees is now seeking to broaden the language in the tree code and “make it a more clear document,” said village trustee Chris Ficalora. A public hearing on a proposed law was held on Oct. 5 and adjourned for further review. Ficalora said the law could not be made available because it was subject to change, but noted that proposed changes include potentially adding a tree committee to approve permits, initiating a replanting program and establishing clearer descriptions of “what a tree actually is.” He declined to provide further details on the proposed law’s contents. The village mayor and the village attorney were not made available for comment.

The village of Munsey Park is also conducting a review of its tree policy and is taking a closer look at illegal tree pruning, according to recent village meeting minutes. There is now discussion about who is responsible for maintaining trees in the village’s right of way areas, which are between the roadway and a resident’s property line. Village officials did not respond to requests for comment.

VIOLATORS BEWARE

Penalties for illegal tree removal within the Town of North Hempstead:

MUNSEY PARK

Upon conviction, a fine of between $750 and $10,000

PLANDOME

A fine not to exceed $25,000; each tree constitutes a separate violation

BAXTER ESTATES

A fine not to exceed $5,000 for a first-time offense

LAKE SUCCESS

Upon conviction, a fine between $750 and $5,000 per tree, imprisonment for not more than 15 days, or both

EAST HILLS AND EAST WILLISTON

A fine of $1,000 per tree

SANDS POINT

A fine of $5,000 per tree

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