A moratorium on chopping down trees has cut a sharp divide in the Village of Plandome, but the Board of Trustees unanimously passed the measure last Tuesday at its meeting.
For the duration of the six-month moratorium, residents will not be allowed to remove more than two trees of 10 inches in diameter or greater from their property.
“We’re trying to stop development and homeowners building to the maximum capacity of a lot,” said Mayor M. Lloyd Williams, who pointed out that the moratorium would preserve the status quo while discussions are held on whether a permanent solution is necessary.
“It changes the character of a block when it has mature trees and then they’re clear cut,” Deputy Mayor Ray Herbert added.
Approximately 15 people attended the spirited trustees meeting, which opened with a public hearing on the proposal.
Attorney David Moss and other residents expressed frustration about the removal of trees at 1020 Plandome Road and 1029 Plandome Road.
The village has received an application to subdivide the property at 1020 Plandome from the homeowner. No application has yet to be made at 1029 Plandome.
Williams said the board “doesn’t want to become Big Brother” in its potential regulation of trees, but was concerned about the aesthetics of the village.
Unlike surrounding villages, Plandome does not have any ordinances pertaining to tree maintenance or removal, Williams said.
One resident, Deirdre Denihan, strongly opposed the moratorium.
“If they are clear cutting to develop their property then they probably have a landscaping plan in place,” she said of the owners at 1020 and 1029 Plandome.
She also said “the amount of dead or diseased wood on a property can be significant” and may necessitate removal, regardless of whether an owner intends to develop his property.
“If someone is paying high taxes on their property, they get to take care of their property,” said Deniham, who said she has lived in Plandome for 25 years.
Trustee Andrew Bartels proposed a modification to the moratorium that would have allowed residents to remove four trees, instead of two, and would have shortened the moratorium from six months to three months.
Plandome Heights Mayor Kenneth C. Riscica, who was in attendance, said that a modification to the proposal may necessitate an additional period of public comment, depending on whether such a modification was deemed significant.
Herbert said he felt the limit of “two trees [was] reasonable.”
“If the moratorium causes undue hardship, residents can come to the village” for an exemption, he added.
Bartels later rescinded his modification and the moratorium went to a vote, which was 4-0 in favor of the measure.
Trustee Katie Saville did not vote, as she was not present.
The trustees said the moratorium marks the beginning of an extended public discussion.
“Voice your concerns positive or negative,” Trustee Donald Richardson said. “ We would like to hear from residents.”
Since the vote, the village has published an announcement about the moratorium on its website.
“Over the next few months, the board will be studying legislation and holding public hearings so all may be heard on this important matter,” it said.