Hows The Water

8.22.12 TOB Tree Ordinance

Concerned residents and organizations appeared at the Town Board Hearing on Tuesday, August 14 to express their opposition to the repeal of the Town Ordinance requiring a permit for tree removal.  Supervisor Venditto expressed his concern for balancing the need to protect our tree cover with balancing individual property owner’s right to maintain their property without excessive intrusion.  Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs reminded the board that the original ordinance was created in 1973, as a reaction to a developer’s clear cutting of 15 acres when his zoning appeal was denied.

In her remarks at the Town Board, Patricia Aitken, Executive Director of Friends of the Bay said that many of the speakers in the audience were members of the Tree Committee who worked to amend the ordinance in 2007.  They, as well as people who were not part of that committee offered to work with the Town to devise an amendment to the ordinance that would protect trees, as well as homeowners.  She said “the Town Board has many fine people on it, and concerned citizens and organizations have offered to render their assistance.  When people of good will come together, solutions can be found.”  A proposal will be worked one before the matter is considered again at the next Town Board meeting on September 4.

Trees provide a valuable environmental benefit.  The following information is excerpted from Friends of the Bay’s Watershed Action Plan:  “The Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor watershed contains a relatively high percentage of forested land (approximately 45%) compared to other nearby coastal watersheds on Long Island. These lands consist of deciduous and coniferous forest cover, which is associated with open space and wooded portions of low-density residential properties. Forest cover provides numerous benefits at both the site and watershed scales. In addition to providing habitat for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, watershed forest cover also reduces storm water runoff and flooding, improves regional air quality, reduces stream and channel erosion, improves soil and water quality, and reduces summer air and water temperatures (USDA Forest Service, 2005).

Despite the healthy forest cover that exists in the watershed and existing land clearing and tree protection ordinances of several of the watershed municipalities, homeowner clearing of residential properties and land development/redevelopment activities continue to threaten forests and watershed tree canopy. The following actions are recommended to protect and enhance forested areas and tree canopy within the watershed.

Action 5-1: Refine Watershed Tree Canopy Analysis

Tree canopy is defined as the layer of tree leaves, branches, and stems that cover the ground

when viewed from above. Tree canopy is a useful parameter because it provides such benefits

as rainfall interception, pollutant removal, and reduced temperatures due to shading of streams

and impervious surfaces, and can be measured using remote sensing and/or field techniques.

Many communities across the United States have assessed the tree canopy in their community

and developed tree canopy goals as numerical targets to guide urban watershed forestry

planning efforts.

A planning-level watershed tree canopy analysis was conducted for the development of the

State of the Watershed Report. Forest cover was estimated based on relatively coarse-resolution

satellite land cover data for the watershed, which is limited in its ability to capture individual

trees or stands of trees which are common in developed areas. A refined tree canopy analysis

should be conducted using high-resolution aerial imagery and GIS analysis techniques to refine

the existing tree canopy estimates for the watershed and individual subwatersheds. The results

of the refined analysis can assist in targeting target priority areas for additional tree protection

and reforestation efforts.

Action 5-2: Establish Tree Canopy Goals and Protection Strategies

Quantitative tree canopy goals should be established for the watershed and individual subwatersheds based on the findings of the refined analysis described in Action 5-1. A plan to achieve those goals should be developed and could include:

• Land acquisition, conservation easements

• Revisions to site development regulations and zoning to encourage tree retention and maintenance, restrict tree removal, and require landscaping and parking lot shading

• Reforestation of public lands, beginning with priority sites

• Encouraging large trees wherever possible

• Encouraging reforestation of private land by developing education, stewardship and incentive programs. For larger parcels, work with a forester to developing specific goals and objectives specific to the subject property.

• Review existing municipal land clearing regulations and ordinances. Municipalities that do not currently have regulatory requirements for tree protection should amend their regulations for consistency with those that have specific requirements for removal permits, protection during construction, and eplacement requirements. Model codes and regulations should be developed for this purpose (see Sustainable Land Use and Open Space goal).

• Encourage maintaining and improving native tree cover.

Action 5-3: Implement Reforestation Projects

Identify priority parcels for reforestation based on watershed field inventories and refined tree canopy analysis results. Work with the municipalities and property owners to implement priority reforestation projects in the watershed, which can demonstrate the importance of trees and vegetation for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat and as a critical component of green infrastructure and related water quality benefits.

Action 5-4: Encourage Native Tree Species

Encourage native rather than non-native species, such as the Norway Maple and Ailanthus, and educate the public, municipalities, and landowners about the importance and identification of native tree species. Work with the municipalities to require the use of native tree species in land development and redevelopment projects and to use native tree species in municipal projects. The Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Nassau County can recommend native species for use in the watershed.