[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Independence as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 11-12-2014 by Ord. No. 2014-06]
The Township recognizes the necessity of conserving forest resources in order to protect against the clear-cutting of parcels of land in general and to protect against soil erosion. Maintaining trees in a natural state is an important element of promoting an adequate, acceptable visual environment and rural character and in maintaining soil stability. However, such desire on the part of the Township should not interfere with agricultural and other forest management activities.
The Township Committee finds that clear-cutting of trees will often result in environmental degradation and harm to the visual environment within the Township that will take many years to correct and to return to the viewscape present before the land is "clear-cut." "Clear-cutting" (for the purposes of this article) is defined as the practice of nonselective cutting of trees from a parcel of land that denudes or partially denudes the parcel, or any portion thereof consisting of at least 80,000 square feet, from existing trees. This article requires that persons intending to clear-cut trees follow the recommended practices prescribed in the Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual prepared by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry specifying the practices to be used during tree clear-cutting, unless exempt pursuant to § 365-5 hereinafter.
Clear-cutting shall not be used as a timber harvesting technique in Independence Township, whether or not it is intended to qualify the land for farmland assessment, except that the cutting of timber or trees in accordance with accepted agricultural practices, a forest management plan, a soil removal permit or the cutting of trees within an area of less than 3,000 square feet, shall be exempt from the provisions of this article, if falling within one of the exceptions contained in § 365-5 of this article.
Unless otherwise exempt from the provisions of this article pursuant to § 365-5 hereinafter, before any person shall cut, remove, harvest or log trees where heavy equipment, such as skidders and heavy logging trucks that require a commercial driver's license (CDL) are used, the person shall apply to the Zoning Officer to obtain a permit at a cost of $25, or such other amount as the Township Committee may determine from time to time by ordinance. Applicants shall provide a plan that includes and describes the location, acreage, block, lot, ownership, type, and quantity of timber to be harvested. If the area on a single tax lot (or upon adjoining tax lots that are part of a single development project) to be cut and cleared shall be greater than 30,000 square feet, the plan shall be prepared by a state-approved forester and which plan shall be implemented under the guidance and supervision of the forester. Upon completion, the forester shall certify compliance with the plan. The permit shall be issued by the Zoning Officer if the foregoing information is provided. The permit holder shall give five business days' notice to the Zoning Officer when the work is to begin and also give notice to the Zoning Officer when the work is completed. All work shall be subject to final inspection by the Zoning Officer (unless the work has been completed in accordance with a forest management plan and certified as completed in accordance with such plan, or, unless the work has been completed in accordance with any other agency-approved plan, such as a soil removal or other Township, county or state issued permit) and a final certificate of compliance with soil erosion and sediment control practices shall be issued by the Warren County Soil Conservation District, upon application for same by the person seeking to cut trees. A permit shall be obtained for each such timber harvest (other than exempt activities as set forth in § 365-5 of this article) and shall be clearly posted during the operation at the entrance to the job site and visible from the road.
Permits are not required for the following activities:
Existing or new dwelling: tree harvesting and other clearing of trees upon a single tax parcel, provided that preexisting and newly cleared areas shall include no more than a cumulative total of 80,000 square feet for construction of a single-family dwelling and its appurtenances.
Any cutting of trees within an area not to exceed four acres on farms of 20 acres or more if related to increasing field size, improving drainage or other farm improvements.
Any tree growing on property used as a nursery, garden center, Christmas tree farm or orchard, only if such use complies with zoning laws.
Any logging or harvesting of less than 30,000 cumulative square feet of trees performed as part of an ongoing timber stand improvement work prescribed by a forest management plan prepared by a state-approved forester.
Cutting of trees deemed to be in accordance with an agricultural management practice and approved as such by the Warren County Agricultural Development Board or the State Agricultural Development Committee.
Any cutting of trees in an area that is the subject to an approved, issued and valid soil removal permit or site plan approved by the Independence Township Planning Board.
Any person violating this article shall be subject to one or more of the following: a fine not to exceed $1,000, remediation of the site through replacement of the appropriate number of trees as determined by the Zoning Officer, a term of imprisonment of not to exceed 90 days, or a period of community service not to exceed 90 days.