The Northern Westchester Examiner

Yorktown Town Board Repeals Tree Law Despite Public Concerns

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The Yorktown Town Board voted last week to repeal the town’s tree ordinance following a lengthy public hearing where many residents expressed concerns and made detailed suggestions.


“I think the law does what it is intended to do,” Supervisor Michael Grace said before making a motion to adopt the new law, which was supported by his three fellow Republican councilmen. “This law as written simplifies the old law.”


Councilman Vishnu Patel disagreed, siding with several residents who contended the new law offers less protection to the town’s trees and forests.


“We are making the new law weaker than the current one now,” Patel said.


One of the criticisms levied throughout the hearing was the law adopted in 2010 protected trees and forests on both private and town-owned property but the new law exempts the approximately 4,000 acres of town-owned property located in neighborhoods throughout the town.


“The town should not be exempt from its own regulations,” said longtime Yorktown resident Paul Moskowitz.


“The town should be an example for the rest of the community,” said John Schroeder, a founding member of the Yorktown Land Trust, who urged the board not to adopt the new ordinance without discussing the recommendations made by the public.


Added 40-year resident Dale Saltzman, “The town should require permits when public land is to be changed. Transparency is excellent in government.”


Janice Turner, a resident of Mohegan Lake, said she was representing “Mother Earth” when she accused the board of changing the tree ordinance to benefit developers.


“We have to speak up for Mother Nature because there are some people hell bent on destroying it worldwide,” Turner remarked. “Your idea really isn’t about conservation. It’s about development, bringing in businesses and destroying the trees and the different ecological systems. If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. I’ll leave you with the hope that there really is something new under the sun.”


Planning Board member John Flynn, who has served three terms as a planner following three terms on the Zoning Board of Appeals, said he was concerned about a provision in the new ordinance that would allow the Town Board the authority to review any Planning Board decision regarding tree removal, arguing that could “politicize the planning process.”


“More important it’s the perception of corruption,” he said.


Councilman Gregory Bernard said that wasn’t the Town Board’s intent, commenting, “I don’t believe this board wants to politicize the process. That’s not what we’re trying to do.”


Grace explained the two ordinances have the same provision where the Town Board would be the government body to listen to any appeal filed against a Planning Board ruling, which he said is required under law.


Ann Kutter, a former Planning Board member, and Geri Schwalb, a former town clerk, stressed the tree ordinance means nothing unless it is enforced by the town.


“The most important point of any ordinance is enforcement. Once the trees are cut, they’re gone,” Schwalb said. “Otherwise, it doesn’t mean a damn thing.”











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