[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Supervisors of the Township of Whitpain 4-16-2013 by Ord. No. 112-1. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Subdivision and land development — See Ch. 129.
Weeds and vegetation — See Ch. 155.
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 53, Shade Tree Commission, adopted 7-21-1978 by Ord. No. 112.
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Shade Tree Commission Ordinance of the Township of Whitpain."
The Township recognizes that trees improve air and water quality, reduce soil erosion, noise and glare, provide habitat for desirable wildlife, moderate the climate, and enhance community image and property values. The purpose of this chapter is to provide regulations for the planting, maintenance, and removal of trees, shrubs, and other plants within Whitpain Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and to encourage the protection of trees through sound land practices. The goals of this chapter are to:
Preserve, protect, and maintain existing trees in Whitpain Township and increase the overall tree canopy and understory of both public and private lands therein.
Ensure that all applications for land development respect existing trees as a natural and community resource and that all such areas are laid out in a manner so as to preserve the healthy trees on the site, whenever possible.
Preserve and protect all individual (and groups of) heritage trees as defined herein.
Prohibit any clear cutting of trees.
Encourage the planting of native vegetation (trees, shrubs, and perennials) in Whitpain Township.
Educate the public on the value of trees.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- CLEAR CUTTING
- The indiscriminate and broad removal of trees, shrubs, or undergrowth with the intention of preparing real property for developmental purposes. Clear cutting shall not include the selected removal of nonnative trees and shrubs when the soil is left relatively undisturbed, or the removal of dead or diseased trees and those trees which pose an imminent danger to the public health and safety.
- HERITAGE TREE
- A tree located on public or private land which is specifically identified and considered worthy of preservation by the Shade Tree Commission because of its species, age, size, rarity, or historical importance.
- INVASIVE SPECIES
- A species that has become a weed pest. One that grows aggressively, spreads, and displaces other plants. Most invasive plants are introduced from other continents leaving behind pests, diseases, predators, and other natural controls.
- LARGE TREE
- A tree that will grow to over 50 feet in height at maturity.
- MEDIUM TREE
- A tree that will grow to between 25 feet and 50 feet in height at maturity.
- NATIVE SPECIES
- All plant species (trees, shrubs, perennials) native to Pennsylvania and the Northeastern United States prior to European settlement.
- PUBLIC NUISANCE
- Any tree with an infectious disease or insect infestation; dead or dying trees; a tree or limb(s) that obstruct streetlights, traffic signs, the free passage of pedestrians or vehicles; a tree that poses a threat to public safety.
- ROOT PROTECTION ZONE
- The area within a tree's temporary fencing, which is erected to provide protection and must be maintained throughout the entire period of any construction. The protective fencing shall be placed to the outer edge of the tree's dripline.
- SHADE TREE COMMISSION
- The Township's Shade Tree Commission or, upon approval of the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township, its designee.
- SMALL TREE
- A tree that will grow to less than 25 feet in height at maturity.
[Amended 1-3-2017 by Ord. No. 352]
The Shade Tree Commission, first created by ordinance adopted on July 21, 1978, is hereby reaffirmed by the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township. The Shade Tree Commission shall consist of five members who are residents of the Township of Whitpain and shall serve without compensation. The members of the Shade Tree Commission shall be appointed by the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township for a term of five years or until their successors are appointed. Member terms shall be staggered so that no more than one member's term shall expire in any given year. In the event that a vacancy shall occur during the term of any member, his or her successor shall be appointed by the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township for the unexpired portion of the term.
[Added 6-18-2019 by Ord. No. 375]
The Township Board of Supervisors may appoint, by resolution, up to three Township residents to serve as alternate Shade Tree Commission members. Such alternate member appointments are subject to the following:
The term of office of an alternate member is designated as four years.
Alternate members may be appointed to substitute for any absent, recused, or disqualified Shade Tree Commission member.
Alternate members may be designated to cases as needed on a rotating basis according to declining seniority among the alternates.
Alternate members are entitled to participate in all proceedings and discussions of the Shade Tree Commission to the same and full extent as provided by law for Shade Tree Commission members, including specifically the right to cast a vote as a voting member during the proceedings, and shall have all the powers and duties as otherwise provided by law.
Any alternate member may participate in any proceeding or discussion of the Shade Tree Commission but shall not be entitled to vote as a member of the Shade Tree Commission unless designated as a voting alternate member in accord with applicable law.
Alternate members will continue to serve on the Shade Tree Commission for any proceeding in which they were originally appointed until the Shade Tree Commission reaches a decision on the matter.
Alternate members may not serve as members of the Township's Zoning Hearing Board or as a Township's Zoning Officer.
The members of the Shade Tree Commission shall elect a Chair and any other officer deemed necessary by the Shade Tree Commission to serve for a period of one year. The Shade Tree Commission shall have the power to adopt rules for the conduct of its meetings.
The Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township hereby delegates to the Shade Tree Commission the following powers and duties:
Custody and control of shade trees located on public property in Whitpain Township.
Authority to plant, remove, maintain, and protect shade trees located on public streets, highways, and other public property in Whitpain Township; provided, however, that no trees shall be planted in the right-of-way of any street or road in the Township.
Promotion of the protection and maintenance of heritage trees, as defined herein.
Maintenance and updating of the Heritage Tree Registry.
Conducting educational programs to increase awareness of the value of trees and provide information for their proper care and maintenance.
Promotion of the use of native vegetation (trees, shrubs, and perennials) in the Township, including new developments, and at all Township-sponsored tree events (e.g., Arbor Day Beautification Program).
Working with other Township boards, departments and commissions to ensure that the shade tree and landscaping components of proposed land development plans comply with this and other applicable Township ordinances.
Subject to the prior approval of the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township, the Shade Tree Commission may:
Promulgate rules, regulations, specifications and standards to carry out its responsibilities.
Make, publish and from time to time amend recommended guidelines for the care and protection of all shade trees located in Whitpain Township.
Publish a listing of all diseases which threaten to injure or destroy shade trees in Whitpain Township.
No regulation promulgated by the Shade Tree Commission shall be enforced until it has been approved by the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township and until it has been published at least twice in not more than two newspapers of general circulation in Whitpain Township, and, if no newspapers are published within Whitpain Township, then in such newspapers circulating in Whitpain Township.
If the Shade Tree Commission determines that it is necessary for the Township to employ any engineer, forester, tree warden or other assistants in order for it to perform the duties delegated to it under this chapter, the Shade Tree Commission shall request that the Board of Supervisors direct Township employees to perform such tasks or that the Township employ such other persons as are necessary to perform such tasks. If the Board of Supervisors approves such request, such employees shall perform such tasks under the direction and control of the Township Manager.
The Shade Tree Commission shall develop and maintain, and may amend from time to time, a list of recommended trees for planting along public streets in Whitpain Township and shall provide a copy of the list and any amendments thereto to the Township Engineer and the Township Planning Commission. Recommended trees shall be classified in three size categories: small, medium, and large.
The Shade Tree Commission shall annually report to the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township its transactions and expenses for the last fiscal year of the Township.
The Shade Tree Commission shall annually submit a budget request to the Board of Supervisors identifying its projected spending by program and initiative for the next fiscal year of the Township. Upon approval by the Board of Supervisors, the Shade Tree Commission shall be authorized to expend these funds to support its programs and initiatives. Unless the appropriation is amended by the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township during the ensuing year, the Shade Tree Commission shall not expend any sum of money or incur any debt during such ensuing year which would be in excess of the sum appropriated by the Board of Supervisors for the work of the Shade Tree Commission.
When a preliminary land development plan is submitted to the Township for review in accordance with the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinances of Whitpain Township, if requested by the Township/Shade Tree Commission, a copy of relevant portions of the landscaping sheets of the preliminary land development plan shall be provided by the applicant to the Shade Tree Commission for its review and recommendations. The Shade Tree Commission shall have the opportunity, but shall not be required, to review the preliminary plan submission in accordance with the guidelines set forth below and provide its recommendations in writing to the Township Planning Commission and the Township Engineer for their consideration as part of the preliminary plan review process. The Shade Tree Commission will conduct its review in accordance with the following guidelines:
Planting street trees along each of the streets, parking lots, parks and other public places abutting the lands to be developed and/or subdivided is encouraged.
Only small street trees should be planted under power or utility lines or within 25 lateral feet of any utility power pole, or over or within five lateral feet (but preferably within 10 lateral feet) of any underground waterline, sewer line, transmission line or other utility.
Shade trees should be planted at a sufficient distance from curbs or sidewalks in accordance with the three species size classes identified in § 53-6E above, and no shade trees should be planted closer to any curb or sidewalk than the following: for small trees, two feet; for medium trees, three feet; and for large trees, four feet.
Topping on private property is highly discouraged. Topping is defined as the severe cutting back of limbs to stubs within the tree's crown to such a degree so as to remove the normal canopy and disfigure the tree.
Clear cutting on private property is highly discouraged.
All applications for subdivision or land development should be prepared in such a manner as to preserve the healthy trees and shrubs on the site.
To promote an ecologically healthy environment and support state and federal actions concerning invasive plant species in the United States, the planting of native vegetation is highly recommended. A suggested list of approved plant species is set forth in Appendix A to this chapter. A current list of local nurseries that carry native vegetation is set forth in Appendix B to this chapter.
Prior to construction, protective fencing should be placed around the root protection zone of trees to minimize damage to root systems. The fencing should be highly visible (orange), at least four feet high, and staked with posts every 10 feet. Nothing should be stored, stockpiled, temporarily placed or allowed in the root protection zone. The protective fencing should be installed prior to the commencement of any and all work and monitored by the Township Engineer.
No private person or entity shall plant, remove, cut above the ground, top, clear cut or disturb any tree on any street, park, or other public lands without the prior written approval of the Township. The Township may seek the recommendations of the Shade Tree Commission prior to approving or denying such request. If approval is granted, the person receiving such permission shall comply with all conditions set forth in such written approval and the standards set forth in this chapter. The Shade Tree Commission will work collaboratively with the Department of Public Works to monitor and enforce this provision.
Upon the discovery of any tree condition, whether through disease, pestilence or otherwise, which unreasonably affects or interferes with the health, safety or welfare of the public or the right of the public to the unobstructed use of public roads or property in the Township, including any condition that constitutes a public nuisance, the Shade Tree Commission shall cause written notice to be served upon the owner of the property upon which such diseased or infested tree is situated, by certified mail, return receipt requested, and the notice shall require such property owner to eradicate, remove or otherwise control such condition within 30 days or such greater period of time as may be specified in such notice.
Upon the failure of any such owner of private property to comply with such notice, the Shade Tree Commission may request the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township to authorize the removal of such trees by Township personnel and the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township shall have the authority to order such work to be done. The Township may collect the cost of such work from the owner of the property. The cost of such work shall be a lien against the tract of ground upon which said work has been performed from the time of commencement of that work. The Township Engineer shall file with the Township Manager a certificate indicating the date of the commencement of the work. Any such lien may be collected by an action in assumpsit or by lien filed in the manner provided by law for the filing and collection of municipal claims.
Upon the filing of the certificate provided for in § 53-10B above with the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township, the Township Manager shall cause written notice to be given to the person against whose property an assessment has been made. The notice shall state the amount of the assessment and the time and the place of payment, which time shall not be less than 30 days from the date of the written notice, and shall be accompanied by a copy of the certificate filed with the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township. The amount assessed against said real property shall be a lien from the time of the filing of the certificate with the Township's Manager as provided for in § 53-10B above, and, if not paid within the time designated in the notice, a claim may be filed and collected by the Township in the same manner as municipal claims are filed and collected.
The Shade Tree Commission may provide in its regulations for the assessment of penalties for the violation of such regulations. The amount of such penalty shall not be in excess of the amount allowed to be assessed for violation of Township ordinances by the Second Class Township Code. Any penalties so assessed shall be a lien upon the real estate of the offender and may be collected in the same manner as municipal claims are filed and collected.
Editor's Note: See 53 P.S. § 65101 et seq.
All penalties or assessments imposed under this chapter shall be paid to the Township Treasurer and shall be placed to the credit of the appropriations made by the Board of Supervisors of Whitpain Township for the work of the Shade Tree Commission.