Southampton Village Board Considers Requiring Permits To Cut Down Trees On Residential Lots

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Legislation meant to protect trees in Southampton Village—by requiring homeowners to obtain a permit from the village’s Building Department to cut down any tree with a trunk more than 7 inches in diameter—is being considered by the Village Board.

The Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment, or SAVE, a committee formed by Mayor Mark Epley, formulated the proposed legislation and presented it to the board at a meeting last Thursday.

“There are hundred-year-old trees being aggressively cut down, loss of our greenbelt to maximize building square footage, and not too much concern for the existing landscape, specifically trees,” committee member Linda Stabler-Talty told Village Board members.

Committee members including Ms. Stabler-Talty, Mackie Finnerty, Sue Dubner and Roger Blaugh put together the legislation after studying several municipalities on Long Island for more than a year.

“We came to understand how they handled clear-cutting, and then used their laws for a beginning template,” Ms. Stabler-Talty said.

Permits would not be needed in every instance, however.

“Anybody in the village could take down two trees without a permit on their own property,” Ms. Finnerty said. “We all know that some people have what they call a dirty tree where things just drop all over the sidewalk and your patio and everything. It annoys people and it’s dangerous. You would have the right to take that down.”

She also said homeowners would be able to remove a tree that is dying, without a permit. Other than that, a permit would be needed.

SAVE’s argument is that preserving and planting trees have a direct correlation to the health, safety and welfare of village residents.

“Trees and vegetation reduce noise, they provide shade, preserve oxygen in the air, help with drainage and they also filtrate to the water table,” Ms. Stabler-Talty said. “They also help to retain the bucolic rural atmosphere of our village.”

The purpose of the ordinance is “to regulate the loss of large trees, shrubs and associated vegetation which have been found to promote the goals of the Village Master Plan and the policy of the Village Board of Trustees,” according to the proposed legislation.

Trees would not be able to be cut down until a tree removal permit, building permit, site plan approval or final subdivision approval is received or until the Building Department grants the approval. In nonresidential areas being proposed for development or a subdivision, the amount of trees and vegetation being removed could not exceed 50 percent of the area of the lot.

Not complying could result in fines of up to $2,500 per large tree with a diameter of more than 7 inches, a stop-work order and the denial of a certificate of occupancy.

Applicants may also be required to replace any trees that are removed from the property in a timely fashion.

Village Trustee Richard Yastrzemski said he was not a tree hugger, but believes in common sense solutions. He said he is concerned not only with the clear-cutting of trees during construction, but also concerned about adding more legislative layers to the permitting process.

Board member Michael Irving told SAFE committee members that the board needed to look over the legislation and do some tweaking. He also told the board it has to weigh the rights of property owners before considering the legislation.

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