HOPEWELL: Committee introduces tree removal ordinance that sets guarantees

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By Frank Mustac, Correspondent
An ordinance establishing new tree removal and forest management guidelines in Hopewell Township was recently discussed by officials during the latest committee meeting.
The changes, which were introduced during the Aug. 22 meeting, deals primarily with utility-line construction. Included in the ordinance are new provisions to address performance and maintenance guarantees, according to Township Administrator Paul Pogorzelski.
“With this particular ordinance, we went through the environmental commission,” Mr. Pogorzelski said. “They made some changes, and (the administration) made some new changes¼to help us manage our forests going forward.”
When Township Committeewoman Julie Blake asked if there was anything else about the ordinance that the general public should be aware of, Mr. Pogorzelski said the impetus behind the ordinance stemmed from past issues with easements.
“What we’ve seen is a situation where we had a 280-foot wide power line easement, and it’s only half cleared, so we have all this other wooded area,” he said. “Whether it’s new electric power lines or new pipelines or whatever, it makes sense when you are going through major forested (areas) that there be a protective measure for that.”
According to the proposed ordinance, the township will require that “when a tree replacement plan is proposed as part of residential construction, compliance with the tree replacement plan shall be required prior to release of the final certificate of occupancy.”
When a non-residential or utility construction project requires that trees be removed, the township could required that “a performance bond guaranteeing compliance with the tree replacement plan” be provided to the municipality.
How a performance bond would be issued and for what cost would be determined by existing Municipal Land Use Law.
There is also section within the proposed ordinance governing maintenance guarantees.
“I think one thing that we may want to consider, as we continue to look at this ordinance, is that trees have a value in and of themselves,” Mayor Kevin Kuchinski said. “But they also are an important protector of our water and our wetlands.”
With a second hearing and potential final vote slated for the Sept. 12 committee meeting, Mr. Kuchinski said he wanted to open up the discussion before officials move to make a final determination.
“I think there may be some additional thoughts we may have going forward from both the public and our partners in the environmental (community) to perhaps even strengthen this further,” the mayor said.