The Northfield Planning Board recommended, in a 7-2 vote, against a proposed tree ordinance that would eliminate the cutting limits for single-family lots in the city.
The topic will be discussed at the Nov. 20 City Council meeting.
In a Nov. 1 meeting, just days after Hurricane Sandy hit, the Planning Board recommended denial of the ordinance, citing negative financial, environmental and quality-of-life effects if it were to pass.
Currently, as many as three trees between 8 and 12 inches in caliper, or the diameter of the trunk, can be removed within the boundaries of a lot over a two-year period.
A permit from the building department is needed for any trees being cut down, but there is no permit fee.
Mayor Vince Mazzeo, who proposed the ordinance, said that after the storms at the end of June, many residents were afraid to cut down potentially harmful trees in order to stay in line with the law. He then proposed the ordinance in October.
That was before Hurricane Sandy and Wednesday’s northeaster.
“I think, with all the storms and people losing electricity, it’s a bad time to be tree in Northfield,” Planning Board Chairman Richard Levitt said.
A concern expressed at the Planning Board meeting was that passing the proposal would eliminate much of the hard work that had been put into creating the current limits in the 2008 ordinance, which is currently in effect, and would amend the city’s original land-use ordinance, from 1986. A similar concern was expressed at the first reading of the proposal at an Oct. 9 City Council meeting.
The board said, in the formal opinion that will be sent to City Council, that removal and cutting of trees causes increased drainage-control costs, increased soil erosion and sedimentation, degradation of water resources, decreased groundwater recharge, increased buildup of carbon dioxide and increased dust tending to affect the character and aesthetic value of the city.
Commercial businesses make up a small ratio of the total landscaping and tree density in the city, so making an exception for single-family lots would have a large impact on the city, said board secretary Robin Atlas, explaining the concerns from the meeting.
The topic caused lengthy discussion at the Planning Board meeting, she said, but the board finally agreed to recommend that council table the issue.
Levitt said there is likely a way to compromise and loosen up the rules but also make sure that if people feel threatened they can cut down a tree. The ultimate goal is to avoid the clear-cutting that prompted the 2008 ordinance, he said.
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