Fear for their own safety forced many residents in Northfield to break the rules and cut down potentially dangerous damaged trees after the June storms.

An ordinance that was introduced at the City Council meeting last Tuesday addresses the city’s restrictions on tree-cutting on single family home lots.

In a situation like those storms, it was nearly impossible to enforce the ordinance that existed to limit tree-cutting in the city, so Mayor Vince Mazzeo introduced the ordinance, saying it was unfair to residents to have the rule and not enforce it.

“Some residents were scared of some of the damaged trees. If we get a good wind, their branches could come down and damage their properties,” he said in a phone interview this week.

The proposed ordinance would do away with rules that say only three trees are allowed to be removed within a span of two years, and that the zoning department must be alerted each time, he said.

The new ordinance would reverse a 2008 amendment to the 1986 Land Use and Development Ordinance. The 2008 ordinance had been created after incidents of clear-cutting lots at that time, Mazzeo explained.

Councilman Tom Polistina said at the meeting the current proposal was a way to resolve residents being afraid to cut down trees on their own property, and that government should not be telling the residents what they can or cannot do on their own property.

“Residents will not have to worry about getting a permit to cut down their own tree,” Mazzeo said.

Other council members raised concern over potential abuse of the law.

“I hope there is common sense when we are talking about trees, because it is a part of our community,” Mazzeo said. “The derecho was a storm that damaged the community, and some neighborhoods looked like a war zone.”

The ordinance will need to be reviewed by the Planning Board to determine how to enforce it while simultaneously discouraging abuse. It will be considered again by City Council at a meeting in November.

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