[HISTORY: Adopted by the Municipal Council of the Municipality of Norristown 12-1-2009 by Ord. No. 09-17. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 82, Shade Tree Commission, adopted 5-2-2006 by Ord. No. 06-06.
For the purpose of this chapter, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
- The Municipal Administrator of the Municipality or his/her designee.
- The arborist/horticulturist supervised by the Municipal Administrator or his/her designee.
- The Shade Tree Commission of the Municipality of Norristown.
- The Municipal Council of Norristown.
- HEAVY PRUNING
- The cutting back or removal of branches or limbs of a shade tree such that 25% or more of the branches or limbs of the shade tree are cut back or removed.
- The Municipality of Norristown.
- A written permit or authorization issued by the Administrator.
- Any individual, firm, partnership, association, corporation, company or organization of any kind, including the plural of each.
- PUBLIC AREA
- Any public right-of-way, park, easement or other area under the control of the Municipality, including the cartway and sidewalk located within the public right-of-way of streets, highways, alleys, and other public ways.
- SHADE TREE
- Any tree in or upon any public area in the Municipality of Norristown and also in or upon property owned by the Municipality of Norristown.
Creation and membership.
A Shade Tree Commission is hereby created which shall consist of five members, the majority of whom shall be residents of the Municipality. Members of the Commission shall be appointed by Council for staggered terms of three years. The first member shall be appointed to serve one year. The second and third members appointed shall serve two years, and the fourth and fifth members appointed shall serve three years. Thereafter, each member appointed shall serve three years and may, at Council's sole discretion, be reappointed.
The members of the Commission shall serve without pay but they may be reimbursed for actual authorized expenses within the funds budgeted for such activities by Council.
Council may, in its sole discretion, appoint one alternate member to the Commission who shall serve as a member of the Commission if a regular member is unable to attend a meeting, and who may vote on any matters for which the alternate member sits as a regular member. An alternate member, if appointed, shall serve a term of one year and may, at Council's sole discretion, be reappointed.
A vacancy on the Commission which occurs for reasons other than the expiration of a term shall be filled by Council for the unexpired portion of the term.
Organization, records and meetings. At their first meeting of each calendar year, the members of the Shade Tree Commission shall elect a Chairman, Vice Chairman, and such other officers as they may determine necessary. All officers shall serve as such for one year. All officers shall be eligible for reelection. The Commission shall keep a written record of its meetings in accordance with law. For the purpose of taking action, a quorum of the Commission must be present.
Meetings. The Shade Tree Commission shall hold an advertised public meeting once each month to perform its responsibilities as set forth below. The Chairman or, in the Chairman's absence, the Vice Chairman, may cancel any monthly meeting, but only for lack of business for the Commission to conduct.
Responsibilities. The Commission shall have exclusive custody and control of shade trees in the Municipality and is authorized to plant, maintain and protect shade trees and to enforce the provisions of this chapter. To that end, the Commission shall have the following responsibilities:
The Commission shall review and approve permit applications for planting, removing, heavy pruning, transplanting or otherwise disturbing shade trees. The Commission shall hear appeals by property owners of notifications by the Administrator regarding the regulation of shade trees, including denied and revoked permits and notifications to remove dead trees.
The Commission shall prepare, for Council's approval, a plan for street trees in the Municipality. The plan should include an inventory of existing trees (including species and location). The plan should also include suggested policies for the planting of trees (including suitable species for various environments and spacing of trees). The plan may also identify locations for new plantings, desirable specie changes, etc. In developing the plan, the Commission should consult with the Administrator and may consult with other municipal authorities, boards and commissions. The plan should recognize the benefits of a public tree program and the need to control expenses (both in the short and long term) of planting, maintenance, removals, cleanup and all other costs associated with a tree program. The Commission shall review the plan annually and/or at other times as necessary in furtherance of this intent and purpose of this chapter.
The Commission may, with the approval of Council, solicit and accept grants and contributions on behalf of the Municipality. All funds obtained by the Commission shall be expended for the specific purpose(s) or under the stipulations set by the contributor or the Commission and shall be approved by Council prior to being expended.
The Commission shall review all land development plans to determine the impact of such plans on shade trees and to make recommendations to the Norristown Planning Commission on steps needed to mitigate said impacts.
The Commission may adopt policies, rules and regulations as required to control tree trimming, cabling, spraying, root cutting, and other work on shade trees by contractors, property owners, and/or others; regulate the species of shade trees; and provide recommendations to the Administrator regarding diseases and pest damage, tree maintenance, and public education.
The Commission may, with the approval of Council, provide advocacy and education on best management practices that promote tree health and a sustainable urban forest.
Prior to undertaking any of the following actions, a person shall apply for and obtain a permit therefor from the Administrator and shall pay a fee, which shall be set forth by resolution of Municipal Council, except that no fee shall be required for Municipality-sponsored activities; neighborhood or community organized activities, and tree planting or other activities associated with an approved land development plan or building permit:
Permits shall be in writing and shall specify the work permitted and the time period for completion, not exceeding 90 days. Failure to complete work within 90 days of the date of the issuance of the permit shall render the permit null and void. All work shall be performed in accordance with any rules and regulations that may be adopted from time to time by the Commission. Such permits may be revoked by the Municipality if the terms and conditions of the permit or the rules and regulations are violated. Revocations may be appealed, in writing, to the Commission within 10 business days of the notice of revocation.
In emergency situations that require the immediate removal or other treatment of a shade tree, the work may proceed without a permit, provided that the person shall apply for a permit within 24 hours following the removal or treatment of the shade tree.
Public utilities shall not be subject to the terms of this chapter where the public utility is performing tree trimming and other vegetation maintenance activities where such activities are deemed to be a "utility service" pursuant to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code; however, public utilities shall be subject to the terms of this chapter where they are performing activities that are not deemed to be a utility service pursuant to the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Code.
When a shade tree is removed, the stump shall contemporaneously be removed below the surface of the ground so that the top of the stump shall not project above the surface of the ground.
[Added 7-19-2011 by Ord. No. 11-09]
Persons who own shade trees that create, in the opinion of the Commission or the Administrator, a potential safety hazard shall be ordered to remove, prune, or treat as necessary so as to eliminate the hazard. The Municipality shall issue the owner a written notice of the hazard and provide a time frame for correction.
In the case of a shade tree that poses an imminent safety hazard, the Municipality may immediately remove the tree, or portion thereof, and take any other reasonable measures in order to eliminate the hazard. All costs of such work shall be assessed against the owner of the tree or person otherwise responsible for the tree and, if not paid, shall be a lien against the tree owner's or other responsible person's property.
Persons wishing to appeal before the Commission shall complete an appeal form available in the office of the Administrator. Appeals shall be heard at the first available regular meeting of the Commission.
It shall be unlawful for any person to carry out any of the following activities:
Planting, transplanting, heavy pruning, removing, or otherwise disturbing any shade tree or portion thereof without a permit as required in § 82-3.
Cutting or breaking limbs or trunks; climbing a shade tree with spikes; injuring or destroying a shade tree, or authorizing such actions.
Causing or authorizing a wire or other conductor charged with electricity to come into contact with any shade tree in a manner that may injure or kill it.
Causing or authorizing any oil, gasoline, paint, hot water, steam or other gas, liquid or solid substance deleterious to a shade tree to contact any shade tree or to enter the soil about the base or root system of a shade tree in any manner that may injure or kill it.
Interfering or causing or authorizing interference with the Municipality or any of its agents or employees while they are engaged in planting, inspecting, maintaining or removing shade trees.
Supervising or authorizing construction, alterations, repairs or demolition activities in the vicinity of any shade tree without first placing sufficient guards or protectors that will prevent injury or destruction of said shade tree arising out of such activities. The placement of guards or protectors shall be in accordance with any rules and regulations adopted by the Commission or with written authorization of the Arborist or the Administrator.
Placing or maintaining upon the ground any asphalt, cement, stone or other material or substance in such manner as may obstruct or further obstruct free access of light, air and water to the roots of any shade tree.
Fastening any rope, wire, nail, sign, electric attachment, poster or similar man-made object to any shade tree or to any guard about a shade tree.
Removing or tampering with any object or device set for the protection or treatment of any shade tree.
Placing or storing any building or construction materials or making any mortar or cement within six feet of any shade tree.
Hitching or fastening any animal, bicycle or vehicle to any shade tree.
Constructing site access, whether permanent or temporary, within five feet of any shade tree.
Constructing a curb cut and/or driveway within six feet of any shade tree.
Damaging, disturbing, pruning or cutting the roots of a shade tree by tunneling, trenching, digging or otherwise within six feet of a shade tree for the purpose of installing or repairing sidewalk, curb, pipe, conduit, electric wire, or the like, without a permit as required in § 82-3.
Compacting soil within six feet of a shade tree.
Any person violating the provisions of this chapter shall, upon being found liable therefor in a civil action before a Magisterial District Judge of appropriate jurisdiction, be liable to pay a fine as follows:
For willfully removing, injuring or killing a living shade tree in any public area by cutting, debarking or breaking, or by the use of herbicides, use of a vehicle, or in any other manner wherein it is determined by the Magisterial District Judge that such damage or destruction was intentionally inflicted, a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $600 plus the costs of filing and serving the action, plus the cost of replacing the destroyed or damaged shade tree and/or the cost of repair of the shade tree. The Municipality may repair or replace the shade tree and the cost of repair or replacing the damaged shade tree shall be assessed against the owner of the property or person responsible for the shade tree and, if not paid, shall be a lien against the property. Nothing shall prevent the Municipality, in its sole discretion, from applying the replacement costs to another location if deemed in the best interests of the Municipality.
For failure of a property owner or other person responsible for a shade tree(s) to remove, partially remove or treat a shade tree, as ordered in accordance with this chapter, a fine of not more than $100 per day. Each day that the property owner or other person responsible for a shade tree(s) remains in violation shall constitute a separate offense. The Municipality may repair or replace the shade tree, and the cost of repair or replacing the damaged shade tree shall be assessed against the property and, if not paid, shall be a lien against the property.
For all other violations, including failure to obtain the proper permits, where it is determined by the Magisterial District Judge that such damage or destruction was not intentionally or willfully inflicted, a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $100 plus the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged shade tree shall be levied. The Municipality may repair or replace a shade tree, and the cost of repair or replacing the damaged tree shall be assessed against the property and, if not paid, shall be a lien against the property.
In addition to the fines specified above, any person found liable for violation of this chapter shall pay all costs and reasonable attorneys' fees incurred by the Municipality in bringing and trying the action.