Members of Advocates for a Better Yorktown (ABY) met with the Town Board at the February 27th work session to discuss the need to strengthen the 2016 Tree Law. According to Linda Miller, the group’s spokesperson, as written, the current law is not effective in protecting the town’s endangered trees, woodlands and forests.
The purpose of the work session discussion, Miller explained, was to start the process of revising the law by bringing several key problematical policy issues that form the basis of the law to the Board’s attention.
To facilitate the discussion, ABY provided board members with a one-page summary that highlighted eight major policy issues in need of further discussion. The issues ranged from whether trees on town owned land should be covered by the law to whether permit applications to cut down trees should always be referred to the Conservation Board and the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission for review and recommendations.
Other key policy issues included the need for protections for woodlands and stronger standards and guidelines for mitigation when there is no alternative to cutting down trees. As pointed out by Miller, the focus of the current law is protecting individual trees; there are no provisions for protecting woodlands that are critical for absorbing storm water runoff, preventing erosion, providing wildlife habitat and preserving the town’s visual character.
In addition to the “highlights” one pager, ABY provided the board with a redlined version of the current law that provides greater detail on each key policy issue as well as suggested language for strengthening specific provisions of the law.
“Amending the current Tree Law will take time but (the) meeting was the start of a lengthy and careful process,” Miller said. “Additional work sessions will be needed before the Board can come to consensus on the key policy issues. Once that is done, the town attorney can draft appropriate language, and before a public hearing is held, the draft should be referred out to various town departments and advisory boards for review and comment. Residents and property owners should also be able to provide feedback on the initial draft.”
Members of ABY began reviewing the 2016 Tree Law in April 2017 and spoke at the June public hearing on a proposed amendment to the law that would have eliminated the exemption for town owned land. (The 2016 law replaced the 2010 Tree Law that covered town owned land.) In their comments, ABY members supported the amendment being proposed by the Town Board but also pointed out the need to strengthen other provisions in the law. The Town Board closed the hearing, took no action, not even on the amendment it had proposed, and refused to meet with ABY members to discuss other amendments that would have strengthened the Law.
Advocates for a Better Yorktown is a nonpartisan group of residents concerned about quality of life and good government issues that affect Yorktown. In addition to its work on the Tree Law, the group is currently looking into the need to update the town’s antiquated sign law.
A PhD with a specialization in ecology, Linda Miller is a former environmental consultant to Westchester municipalities and a former member of Yorktown’s Conservation Board. She was the co-author of the 2010 Tree Law.
For more information about ABY’s efforts to strengthen the current Tree law, email firstname.lastname@example.org.